Oscar Mayer’s Numbers Don’t Add Up

This ad for Oscar Mayer Beef Bologna comparies the product with peanut butter and jelly. The idea is to imply that Oscar Mayer Beef Bologna is better for your kids than peanut butter and jelly, although they don’t actually state this.

Most of the claims in the ad aren’t true. They’re not even consistent with each other; it’s as if they picked a different number of slices in each claim.

Let’s take a look at the claims (which can all be found in the small print at the bottom of the ad):

  1. Bologna has just 4 grams of sugar. PB&J has 16. (This is true.)
    In the Nutritional Information found on Kraft’s web site, they state that a serving size of their bologna is one slice, which I confirmed with one of their customer service representatives. A typical bologna sandwich might contain between 4-6 slices of bologna. I’ll be conservative and say four. Four slices of Oscar Mayer’s Beef Bologna does have 4 grams of sugar.
  2. Oscar Mayer Bologna contains 12 grams of fat. PB&J has 18. (This is not true).
    If one slice of bologna contains 8 grams of fat, then four slices contain 32 grams of fat, making it higher in fat than peanut butter & jelly—more than twice as high! In fact, Oscar Mayer Beef Bologna is almost 80% fat. Number of slices to support their claim of 12 grams = 1.5.
  3. Oscar Mayer Beef Bologna contains 800 mg sodium. PB&J contains 490 mg sodium. (This is not true.)
    Again, the math does not support this claim. One slice contains 310 mg of sodium, so 4 slices contain 1,240 mg of sodium, as much sodium as almost 9 bags of Lay’s Potato Chips. Number of slices to support their claim of 800 mg sodium = 2.5.
As you can see, the only way these claims hold up is if they keep switching the number of slices in the sandwich.

Here’s another thing to think about. Oscar Mayer Beef Bologna contains:

  • SODIUM LACTATE: Used in shampoo products and other similar items such as liquid soaps. (source: Wikipdia)
  • SODIUM PHOSPHATES: Adding sodium phosphates to food increases the shelf life, maintaining its texture and appearance. Sodium Phosphate (trisodium phosphate) is also an ingredient of cleaning products. (Source: Wikipdia)
  • SODIUM DIACETATE: Sodium acetate is used in the textile industry to neutralize sulfuric acid waste streams, and as a photoresist while using aniline dyes. It is also a pickling agent in chrome tanning, and it helps to retard vulcanization of chloroprene in synthetic rubber production. It may also be added to foods as a preservative; in this application it is usually written as “sodium diacetate.” (Source: Wikipedia)
  • SODIUM ERYTHORBATE (MADE FROM SUGAR): This compound reduces helps retain the coloring, helps improve flavor stability, and helps prevent the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • SODIUM NITRITE: Another preservative. The dangers of sodium nitrate as a food additive have been researched by scientists. A principal concern is the formation of carcinogenic N-nitrosamines by the reaction of sodium nitrite with amino acids in the presence of heat in an acidic environment. Sodium nitrite has also been linked to triggering migraines. Recent studies have found a link between high processed meat consumption and colon cancer, possibly due to preservatives such as sodium nitrite. Recent studies have also found a link between frequent ingestion of meats cured with nitrites and the COPD form of lung disease. (Source: Wikipedia).
The moral of today’s story is if you’re going to use facts and figures in your ad, they should be accurate and make sense.

2 responses to “Oscar Mayer’s Numbers Don’t Add Up

  1. My husband eats hotdogs almost every day and my sister and I have been trying to get him to quit for this very reason. He uses an off brand, not Oscar Mayer, but when I buy hot dogs or lunch meat I always buy Oscar Myer.. not any more. He’s does not have nitrite whil Oscar Meyer does.. I’m heading to the refrigerator to throw out my package right now. Not only does Oscar Meyer have Sodium Nitrite but it also had Sodium Diacetate.

  2. My mom fed me this stuff when I was a kid. My bag lunch frequently consisted of a bologna sandwich with processed American cheese on Wonder Bread or some other crummy white bread, with mustard. It chills me today to think about what I was unknowingly consuming.

    Since I’m a vegetarian today, I wouldn’t eat this product. I would never feed it to a child, as the ad suggests. However, having said that, if an adult wanted to eat a bologna sandwich every now and then, it probably wouldn’t be harmful.

    If your husband has to eat hot dogs, try to get him to cut down on how often he eats them, for his health’s sake. You could also switch to Hebrew National hot dogs. While Hebrew National also contains sodium nitrate, the fact that it’s kosher means that it is made from the better cuts of meat than non-kosher hot dogs. I also think they taste bettter than other brands of hot dogs.

    Finally, you might experiment with soy-based hot dogs like Smart Dogs or some other brand. If he likes those, you could serve them every now and then instead of beef hot dogs. Some of them aren’t all that good, so you might have to try a few brands until you find one that you like. You could even serve them to your husband without telling him that they’re not real hot dogs and see what happens.

    Morningstar Farms makes vegetarian corn dogs that are pretty good.