Title text: Asbestos is bad; definitely get the one on the right. Wait -- this one over here has no swine flu! Now I can't decide.
Asbestos is a fibrous material most commonly used for its heat-resistant properties. It was commonly used in housing insulation until its astonishingly destructive effects on human lungs were known. The use of asbestos in housing is now banned, but it is still quite common in laboratory hot pads, as well as in concrete industrial buildings where the risk of it getting into the air is minimal.
The comic depicts a common advertising trick taken to an absurd extreme; quite clearly all of the cereal products depicted are asbestos-free, but most have opted not to advertise the fact because it should be obvious. A more realistic example can be found in confectionery products, wherein the term "fat free" might be applied when it's clear that sugar, gelatin, and other ingredients involved in the product are in no way related to, or contain, fat.
Ironically, the "asbestos-free" disclaimer could also cause a customer to distrust the product on the grounds of "damning by faint praise" - if the best thing they can say about a product is that it doesn't contain a toxic building material, do we really want to know what actually is in this stuff?
The claim in the title text - that the product has no swine flu - is equally superfluous, as any food product containing disease-causing viruses would be subject to recalls, severe fines, and quite a few people losing their jobs; the fact that the product is actually on a supermarket shelf implies that it already has a stellar reputation for not causing serious illness.
- [A shelf holds 3 boxes of cereal. Each box shows a bowl of cereal.]
- GenCo Oat Cereal
- StayPuft Oat Cereal
- RedFarm Oat Cereal (with additional text in a star) Asbestos-free!
- I hate whatever marketer first realized you could do this.
- Impressive-sounding but meaningless advertising claims are revisited in 1096: Clinically Studied Ingredient.