The organization that created the ad said the posters encourage dialogue about healthy eating, but some argue the campaign contributes to the body-shame epidemic in young girls.
The ads are causing an uproar all over California.
"I can definitely see how it would be controversial," said Carrie Sherwood of Clovis.
The image of a pudgy little girl drinking a packet of sugar and smiling. Below her, the ad warns: sugary beverages like sports drinks and soda can cause obesity. It suggests choosing milk and water instead. But the girl in the photo didn't put on pounds from eating too many sweets, but rather too much photo-shopping. The public service ad by First 5 California tacked on extra weight by altering a picture posted on its website.
"They are taking a perfectly healthy little girl and photo shopping her to make her look unhealthily obese. It's no surprise that people are outraged at that," said Adweek reporter Emma Bazilian.
San Francisco author Marilyn Wann took her outrage to the internet and asked her online followers, "How creepy is it to photoshop this child in this manner? If public health messages lie like this, why should people trust them?"
Local affiliate, First 5 Fresno wouldn't respond, but state headquarters in Sacramento defended the ad.
In a statement to Action News, spokesperson Lindsay VanLaningham said, "This campaign serves to educate parents on the realities and dangers of childhood obesity and get them to change their behaviors by buying and offering their children milk and water instead."
She said, The average 4-5 year old consumes 17 tsps. of added sugar a day, or 65 pounds a year and most of it comes from sugary beverages.
Parents we talked with had different opinions on how the agency should go about producing child obesity ads, but one said, in this case, transparency be the answer and suggested showing the two images side-by-side.
"I think it shows the difference between what a child could look like if they're healthier or being outdoors playing in a park or drinking milk, drinking water as opposed to sitting on the couch, playing video games and drinking soda," said Sherwood.
No matter what your position is on the issue, one thing is for sure, people are talking about childhood obesity and that's what First 5 claims the ad is designed to do.