You've probably read about the difficulties of getting food to look good in still pictures or video for advertising. At least you've noticed that the sandwich you receive doesn't match the enticing picture on the menu. That's where the magic of food stylists come in, to deal with real food and make it look fresh and appetizing despite long photo shoots, hot lights, and human frailty. There are rules governing food advertising, the most important of which is that you cannot misrepresent the food. Professional food stylists know that "misrepresent" is a matter of opinion, and know how far they can go before getting the production into trouble.
For example, let’s say you’re taking a picture of a burrito and the tortilla keeps flopping around. Replacing the tortilla with a piece of stiff fabric is illegal and taking the time to perfectly wrap a burrito so it doesn’t flop is just too much effort for a small crew only getting paid a half a million dollars to do a few day shoot and some pre and post production work. However, gluing the tortilla shut isn’t illegal at all and it’s workarounds like this that are why food stylists get paid the big bucks.
Of course, as bad as spraying four day old meat with oil and gluing burritos together might sound, back in the 1960s the world of food advertising was basically the wild west. Tricks like using motor oil in lieu of syrup were commonplace and completely legal. In fact, in many cases stuff like this was preferable to using the real thing because it lasted longer and was easier to shoot. Another trick is to use mash potatoes covered in resin or Crisco as a stand-in for ice cream. After all, ice cream melts pretty quick, particularly when subjected to being closely lit, and photo shoots sometimes last a long time. Using the real product simply was much harder than faking it, especially when you need a consistent look from shot to shot.
So how did the standards change? That's the story of the marbles in Campbell's soup, specifically chicken and stars. Read about the marbles, the resulting case before the Federal Trade Commission, and the student campaign to end deceptive advertising, at Today I Found Out.