Many people who watch television regularly have called my attention to advertisements of “milk supplements” frequently aired at noon and evening prime time hours.
Often, the advertisements are 15-second spots.
Two known milk brands, the trademarks of which have been long associated by consumers with everyday dairy milk, are marketing what appears to be a “milk supplement,” but described as such only by a disclaimer announced at the last few seconds of the commercial.
The disclaimer is mentioned at an extremely fast pace such that even a keen listener can only decipher what seems like the phrase “the use of milk supplements may be dangerous to your child’s health.”
Thus, the advertisements appear to be about familiar-looking dairy milk products bearing familiar brand names, but which are not actually dairy milk, but “milk supplements,” whatever that means.
The two brands have been around for several decades and enjoy an excellent brand recall from many consumers, both local and global.
Both brands, which are older than I am, originate from Switzerland.
From the way the advertisements are presented on television, even well-educated consumers can get the wrong impression the product being advertised is a milk product, and not just a “milk supplement.”
This is because consumers, since time immemorial, have come to associate these trademarks with dairy milk, and not with “milk supplements.”
Undoubtedly, therefore, advertisements like these constitute a serious threat to public health.
What is manifestly disturbing is that the aforesaid disclaimer mentions a hardly discernible warning that the use of “milk supplements can be dangerous to your child’s health.”
Inatay! What we have here are products which “can be dangerous to your child’s health” and yet frequently advertised openly on prime time television, and which can be misinterpreted by many to be dairy milk, and, as such, regularly given to children on that mistaken assumption.
Two questions, therefore, necessarily arise from this situation.
First, what is or what are in those “milk supplements” which, if consumed by a child, can be dangerous to the child’s health? This vital information is not even provided in the advertisement.
Second, why is this product, which the manufacturer openly admits “can be dangerous to your child’s health,” allowed to be advertised on prime time television in the first place?
Republic Act 7394 (The Consumer Act of the Philippines) explictly prohibits the advertising and marketing of hazardous products. There is also the Milk Code of the Philippines to reckon with.
Those laws, and related legislation governing the advertising industry, prohibit misleading advertisements as well.
The interest of public health demands that an investigation into this matter should be conducted immediately by the Department of Health, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Congress should also find this development worth investigating.
Likewise, the attention of non-stock, non-profit public interest and civic organizations such as the Philippine Association of National Advertisers and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas is invited to this controversy.
They, too, should be vigilant against advertisements of hazardous products on television.
Speaking of health issues, I read some scientific materials published online which reveal that an American brand of popular chocolate has been the subject of a health controversy in the United States recently.
According to several American consumers, some of the chocolate bars sold under this particular brand have been discovered to contain some very harmful metallic impurities.
How those health-threatening impurities made it to the chocolate bars is unexplained, but, right now, American consumers are more concerned about the presence of dangerous impurities in what is supposed to be a harmless (with the exception of its sugar content) daily snack item for many people.
This news is very disturbing because that brand of chocolates is extremely popular in the Philippines, not only for personal consumption but more particularly for gift-giving.
Many young Filipinos simply love American chocolates, and this fact should be a cause for concern among parents.
As of now, I have advised many of my friends and acquaintances who are fond of American chocolate bars to refrain from consuming such bars in the meantime.
Consumer groups should take the lead in public health advocacy and urge the DoH, DTI and the FDA to investigate this cause for concern, or even seek relief from the courts of law if these administrative agencies refuse to take action.
Since the chocolate bar in question is imported, the local importer should conduct its own investigation for the benefit of the public.
The pertinent information is available online.
If the officials heading the government agencies mentioned do not act on this public health concern, then they should expect a complaint from the general public, which shall be pursued in the courts of law and, possibly, the Office of the Ombudsman.