Government-run agency First 5 California has begun plastering posters for a new anti-obesity campaign around the state. The image: a smiling, chubby, little girl contentedly sipping out of a straw poking out of a bag of sugar.
The picture isn't that shocking. State-run health campaigns often target obese children — and are often harshly criticized for "fat shaming" kids who are already victimized for their weight.
But San Francisco resident and Facebook user Marilyn Wann found one thing that makes this particular campaign stand out: First 5 Photoshopped the little girl so that she looked overweight.
Wann posted a side-by-side image on Facebook that juxtaposes the "normal"-sized girl happily sipping milk on First 5's website with her poorly-Photoshopped image that appears in the ads.
Wann writes: "How creepy is it to Photoshop this child in this manner? If public health messages lie like this, why should people trust them?"
Here's the original image of the girl drinking milk:
And here she is, altered, over the words: "'Less sugar' still has too much sugar. Sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks and soda can cause obesity. Choose milk and water instead."
First 5 California
There are other versions that target the Asian demographic.
First 5 spokesperson Lindsay VanLaningham acknowledged and defended the Photoshopping to MSM.
"They are just stock images which were Photoshopped," she said. "When you are handing a child soda or a juice box to drink you might as well be handing them a packet of sugar. Because that's what happening."
This isn't the first time an anti-obesity campaigns has been caught using Photoshop.
An aggressive New York City campaign used the image of an overweight man with one leg in a poster that read "Portions have grown. So has type two diabetes, which can lead to amputations."
As Time put it, the leg wasn't amputated by diabetes but rather by an ad agency.
A spokesperson for the campaign didn't apologize for the Photoshop. A statement read: “Sometimes we use individuals who are suffering from the particular disease, other times we have to use actors. We might stop using actors in our ads if the food industry stops using actors in theirs.”
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