A new report from Consumer Reports, slated to run in the February print edition, examines why quick-service food doesn't look the same in person as it does in marketing materials.

Consumer Reports sent employees to seven QSR chains for the report, which was inspired by readers. Those chains included Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Quiznos, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy's.

According to the publication, those employees visited two or three restaurants per chain, ordered a number of options, took photos of those menu items and then compared them with photos on the brands' websites.

"In our small sampling, Subway sandwiches were the worst offenders," the article said. The sandwich chain did respond to the report, stating: "All Subway menu items portrayed in our commercials and marketing materials are made to the exact specifications as those found at our 26,000+ restaurants."

Consumer Reports also reached out to the Federal Trade Commission, which claimed that truth-in-advertising laws do apply to restaurant menu items. However, no specific regulations govern photos used in marketing campaigns, the story said.

Finally, the publication also reached out to food stylist Donna Lafferty, who said her work is "designed to be viewed and sell products." Some techniques she shared include:

  • Applying a thin layer of Vaseline to wraps to keep them from drying.
  • Adding a mix of a seasoning sauce and Angostura bitters to red meat for "a rich, roasted complexion."
  • Creating an un-meltable fake ice cream using sugar, shortening, coloring and corn syrup.

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