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Rational thinking test: how is this ad misleading?

Saw this banner in a Whole Foods store:

This text:

Our standards prohibit over 100 preservatives, flavors, colors, and other ingredients commonly found in food

Taken by itself, to a rationally and logically thinking individual, that says nothing about standards of quality.

At best, it's a poorly written statement.
At worst, it's a persuasion attempt that might even be manipulative.

Would you guess why it doesn't provide much concrete information?

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Hi Lucio, since you commanded, I'll try to give a guess.

  1. Their statement is vague. They don't let us know what specific ingredients have they tried to prohibit.
  2. Some of the preservatives might do negligible harm to human body, but they still prohibit it.
  3. The FDA standard already ban out more than 100 ingredients.
  4. The type of food made by this company cannot not use all kinds of ingredients: so they could just prohibit the ingredients that they were not going to use anyways.
  5. People are sensitive to round numbers like 100. By using 100 here they are over-advertising by manipulatively exploit human psychology.

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Although it is true that this specific ad line is providing no concrete information and kind of manipulative, I would like to provide some information for us to better judge this advertisement line.

An article about the whole food quality standard that banned out 100+ ingredients can be found:

https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/quality-standards/food-ingredient-standards

Here is a small excerpt:

We ban 100+ ingredients from all food that we sell, including hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.

We believe that the best ingredients belong on your plate. That’s why we’ve banned hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin — along with more than 100 colors, preservatives, flavors and other ingredients from all of the food we sell in our stores. Seriously — from Berry Chantilly Cake in our bakery to the foods in our bulk bins, we want you to feel confident about what goes in your cart. If it doesn’t meet our standards, we won’t sell it......

By providing the link I am providing information for open discussion and adding a few more observations to refine the original theory. The new information authored by whole food could be more honest or more manipulative; I cannot judge.

I think Lucio already noticed this alternative perspective as he explicitly says "Taken by itself". So discussing this alternative perspective could be off-topic.

 

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Quote from selffriend on April 19, 2021, 5:18 am

Hi Lucio, since you commanded, I'll try to give a guess.

  1. Some of the preservatives might do negligible harm to human body, but they still prohibit it.
  2. The FDA standard already ban out more than 100 ingredients.
  3. The type of food made by this company cannot not use all kinds of ingredients: so they could just prohibit the ingredients that they were not going to use anyways.

Exactly.

Plus, there is no comparative metric to judge the "100" against.

For example, you ban 100, but I don't know:

  • Is that even a good thing?

The moment I read "commonly find in food", then I'd first think: if they're common, are you sure they're "bad"?

Or is it just a fad?

Marketing sells on fads, and it doesn't always and necessarily overlap with what's actually healthy or unhealhty.

For example, sulfites in wines are preservatives as far as I know, and one sommelier once explained to me, they are probably more useful than risky.

  • Comparison scale: how many potentially dangerous ingredients are out there?

If there are 1.000.000 potentially "bad" ingredients, then 100 is a mere 0.01%.

Nothing.

So maybe you ban the 100 most dangerous ones?
Or maybe you just ban the 100 that are easiest for you to do without (like you also suggest)?

Without that information, "100" means little.

  • Comparison scale: how many "potentially dangerous" ingredients does the competition ban?

Maybe other or similar chains ban the same?

Maybe some other chains ban even more than 100?

Or maybe if I shop at a farmers' market then I automatically buy products that naturally don't use 1.000 bad ingredients "commonly found in chains"?

Without that comparison, "100" means little.

  • How many potentially dangerous ingredients were already banned?

As you say, if you add a ban on top of official or partial bans, then it's far less significant.

Partial bans: maybe the EU allows it but the US doesn't, or vice versa, so a company that wants to sell on both markets might be doing itself a favor to make the supply chain easier and then uses it as a selling point.

  • How about shades of grey, the concentration?

Maybe it's more about quantity, and concentration, than blanket rules.

Small doses of some preservatives or colorants maybe aren't that bad -or maybe they're rather harmless-.

And on the other hand, high doses of "natural" ingredients can be quite bad.

Like sugar, for example.

Whole Foods is packed with foods high in sugar.
I looked hard in several Whole Foods shops, and couldn't find a single probiotic drink that wasn't full of sugar.


As a final note, this is an exercise in critical thinking, and not a criticism of Whole Foods, a shop that I actually love.

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