Disclaimers on TV commercials are common these days. From car ads warning us “do not attempt,” to a toothpaste spot cautioning consumers to “use as directed,” there's a lot of fine print accompanying the spiels. There's even one for mascara informing us that the lush lashes depicted onscreen are actually the result of false eyelash inserts, not the product being pushed.
But the ad disclaimer that worried us the most is for Cuties, the very popular seedless citrus fruit. No doubt you've seen the current campaign, which uses adorable kids to sell produce. The four spots promote the idea that Cuties are kid-friendly: “Kids love Cuties. Because Cuties are made for kids.” But one of the ads in the series seems to represent a major mistake.
In the commercial, a little girl lies on her back on a couch, peeling and eating a Cuties. Accompanying the image is this disclaimer: “Eating while lying down may be a choking hazard.”
Of course it is, which raises the question — why is this commercial being shown? We're guessing that after a lot of money was spent to create the spot, someone realized, as the New York State Department of Health points out in a page on choking prevention: “Children should sit up straight when eating.”
The health department also warns that small children should never be left unattended while eating. In all of the Cuties ads, kids seem to be eating the fruit without any adults in sight. As for the one with the girl lying on the couch, the disclaimer is meaningless for any children who view the image and might want to copy what they see on TV.
And, while we're on the topic, pediatricians recommend that many foods need to be cut into smaller pieces for young children. For example, grapes should be cut into quarters. Common sense would dictate that while Cuties are easy for little kids to peel, an adult should supervise and cut the segments into smaller pieces.
We emailed Cuties to inquire if, after producing the ad with the girl on the couch, someone in the company then questioned the wisdom of showing a child lying down while eating? Why was the decision made to put a disclaimer on the ad, rather than just pulling it altogether? We also asked if there had been any reported incidents of children choking while eating Cuties.
In response, the company sent this statement:
“We added the disclaimer out of an overabundance of caution when the ad campaign started. We are not aware of any reported incidents. We are proud to offer Cuties to parents and their kids as a delicious healthy snack alternative to junk food.”
According to a 2012 Wall Street Journal article, Cuties is the most profitable citrus crop in the United States: “Across California's citrus belt, farmers are ripping out orange, lemon and grapefruit trees to switch to mandarins.”
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