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June 26, 2017

The Fine Print on Vitamin Labels is Wrong!

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

We often caution consumers not to believe the big print in advertising because the fine print may well contradict it. Now we have to say that you can’t always even rely on the fine print either to give you the straight poop.

Case in point: According to ConsumerLab.com, the fine print on the back of vitamin labels is currently wrong and is going to continue to be wrong for possibly the next four years!

*MOUSE PRINT:

vitamin label

Last July, the FDA changed the daily values (DV) recommended for 20 vitamins and minerals. The amount was raised for eight nutrients and lowered for a dozen others. The catch is that food and supplement makers were given until 2018 to change their labels. But in mid-June, the FDA quietly indicated it was going to extend the deadline. The industry had requested a reprieve until 2021.

This obviously leaves consumers in quandary as to whether they are getting enough or too much of the vitamins and minerals the government now says is the correct amount.

In the above example for Centrum Silver for example, the label says you’re getting two and half times the daily amount of vitamin D in every pill. But the daily amount of vitamin D has doubled from 400 IU (10 mcg) to 800 IU (20 mcg). So Centrum’s 1000 IU dose is really only 25% more than the new recommended amount rather than the two and half times that the label claims.

Here are the changes in daily values of vitamins and minerals according to the FDA.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Magnesium has increased from 400 mg to 420 mg

Manganese has increased from 2 mg to 2.3 mg

Phosphorus has increased from 1,000 mg to 1,250 mg

Potassium has increased from 3,500 mg to 4,700 mg

Calcium has increased from 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg

Vitamin C has increased from 60 mg to 90 mg

Vitamin K has increased from 80 mcg to 120 mcg

Vitamin D has increased from 400 IU (10 mcg) to 800 IU (20 mcg)

Chloride has decreased from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg

Chromium has decreased from 120 mg to 35 mg

Copper has decreased from 2 mg to 0.9 mg

Molybdenum has decreased from 75 mcg to 45 mcg

Zinc has decreased from 15 mg to 11 mg

Thiamin has decreased from 1.5 mg to 1.2 mg

Riboflavin has decreased from 1.7 mg to 1.3 mg

Niacin has decreased from 20 mg to 16 mg

Vitamin B-6 has decreased from 2 mg to 1.7 mg

Vitamin B-12 has decreased from 6 mcg to 2.5 mcg

Biotin has decreased from 300 mcg to 30 mcg

Pantothenic acid has decreased from 10 mg to 5 mg

A DV for choline has been established the first time, at 550 mg




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June 19, 2017

Beefers: Where’s the Beef?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:22 am

Clara Peller, the famed octogenarian who squawked “Where’s the Beef?” when confronted with skimpy burgers in Wendy’s commercials of yesteryear, would possibly have suffered a heart attack on camera had she ever seen these beef patties.

They are I&J Beefers, the top-selling frozen hamburger in South Africa.

Beefers

They look like pretty normal frozen beef patties. But there is a secret lurking on the back.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Beefers ingredients

What? They are only 36% beef? Yep! And the rest of it is mostly water and soy flour.

South Africa’s labeling regulation requires food manufacturers that emphasize a key expensive ingredient in the name or description of a product to declare the percentage of that ingredient in bold type on the front of the pack. The company says they comply with the law. While the package above clearly did not, new packages do:

Beefers percentage

I&J, the manufacturer of Beefers, also sells frozen fried fish. We can only imagine what’s under the breading.




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June 12, 2017

Celebs/Companies Warned to Disclose Paid Connections

Filed under: Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

When you see a celebrity using Twitter or Instagram in what looks like a personal post saying how much they love a particular product, you have to be suspicious. Were they paid by the product’s maker to casually say nice things about it, or was the post an honest sharing of the celeb’s favorite things?

Heidi Klum
Does Heidi Klum really like Dunkin’ Donuts, or was she paid to promote them?

 

Victoria Beckham
Does this fashionista really use this makeup, or was she paid to say nice things about it?

 
To help separate the honest opinions from the “paid to say it” posts, the FTC’s Testimonial and Endorsement Guidelines require that there be a conspicuous disclosure of any material connection between the endorser (the celeb) and the company that made the product. How often have you seen such a disclosure? Probably rarely if ever. That’s why we say the worst mouse print is the fine print disclosure that is missing in an advertisement.

This past March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent “warning” letters to close to 100 celebrities and companies “educating” them about the federal rules on disclosing when an endorsement is really a paid advertisement. The FTC could not always tell if there was a financial connection between the celeb and the product manufacturer or not, so the letters were rather gentle. Here are copies of all of them and the names were NOT redacted.

The list of those warned reads like a who’s who in entertainment, including Jennifer Lopez, Lindsay Lohan, Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum, Victoria Beckham, and even Nicole (Snooki) Polizi. And big companies like Dunkin’ Donuts, Puma, Chanel, and Johnson & Johnson also received greetings from the FTC.

The FTC letter sent a strong message to these celebrity influencers, as they are called. The question is whether they will fess up in future posts.




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June 5, 2017

It Looks Like Junk Mail, But Ignoring It Could be Costly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:20 am

[Note: Although this story is about certain Massachusetts towns, the same thing is likely happening around the country.]

Last week, tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents in a couple of cities and towns found letters like this in their mailbox:

Somerville envelope

With a little prior knowledge of what sales pitches from alternative electricity suppliers look like, this appears to be just another one of those letters promising savings if you choose them instead of your regular electric company. Even though it has the name of the city (Somerville) in the return address window, it lists an energy company name (Dynegy) and an address in Illinois, not Massachusetts. So many people might simply toss the letter out as junk mail.

A similar letter from the same company also went out to residents of Brookline, Massachusetts last week. Here is the front page of it:

Brookline electricity letterClick letter to see full size.

Surprisingly, the letter really was sent on behalf of the town. It suggests that the town has bulk buying power when purchasing electricity for thousands of residents and businesses and thus has negotiated a plan “to provide you with competitive choice, longer-term price stability and more renewable energy.”

Good news, right. Not so fast. There are three big catches.

*MOUSE PRINT:

“There is no guarantee of future savings. The primary intent of the program is to provide price stability and savings over the duration [a 30 month fixed price contract] shown above. … Rates may drop below the program rate during any given six-month and three month period.”

So, first strike: no savings are guaranteed.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The details get worse. At the bottom of the page is the first unambiguous statement of what is really going on here.

“As an eligible participant, your account will be automatically enrolled in the program unless you choose to opt out.”

What, you are deciding for me what electric company is going to supply my power? Yep. Every resident and business in town will be automatically switched away from their current electricity supplier, Eversource.

Since when is a negative option plan legal that lets a seller impose its services on you unless you take action to stop it? If this were legal in other commercial contexts, we’d all be getting letters from swimming pool installers saying that next Tuesday a new pool is going to be installed in our backyards unless you call to stop it. Unbelievably, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a law some 20 years ago allowing cities to set up “municipal aggregation plans” like this, and foist it onto their citizenry automatically as long as they allowed people to opt-out. How anti-consumer! These aggregation plans are not limited to Massachusetts, incidentally. Some states have had them for five or more years already and take a similar approach.

We’re not done yet with this bad deal.

*MOUSE PRINT:

rate chart

To add insult to injury, the rate per kilowatt hour that everyone in Brookline is involuntarily being placed into is about 5% higher than the rate currently being charged by the regular electric company.

Dynegy charges $0.11098/kWh, while Eversource’s rate is only $0.10759/kWh. So much for the savings in the short term because the town was buying electricity in bulk. It should be noted that should everyone’s current electricity supplier go up in price during the next 30 months, people on the new plan may indeed save some modest amount of money.

The only way a Brookline consumer can get a lower rate than their current electricity supplier through Dynegy is to affirmatively opt-in to its basic plan rather than the default plan that the town chose for everyone. In that case, people will save just over one-third of one cent per kilowatt hour of power used. Woohoo!

Of course, saving money is not the only reason that cities adopt these aggregation plans. The hope is to force its citizenry into an electric plan that gets a good portion of its power from renewable energy sources like wind or solar power. In the case of Brookline, the default plan gets an additional 25% of its power from renewable sources.

On balance, we think that consumers should be offered these greener electricity plans, but they should be sold based on their merits and residents should not be forced into them involuntarily (even if there is a no-penalty way to opt-out).




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May 29, 2017

Payless Car Rental’s Shady Practices Get National Spotlight

Filed under: Travel,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

Last year, Mouse Print* brought you a story from Consumer World reader Marcie S. alleging that Payless Car Rental engaged in various shady practices that often left customers with much higher bills than they bargained for.

Complainants said they reserved a car at one price, but were charged more at the counter. Others said they declined optional charges like roadside assistance, gas refills, and additional insurance, but were charged for them anyway.

We tipped off our friends at Good Morning America about the issues and they took on the case. ABC News went undercover, hidden cameras and all, and discovered similar things happened to them too. Their story aired last week.



After receiving more than 800 complaints, the Better Business Bureau has now issued a national warning about Payless and given the company an “F” rating. (Text version of ABC story and BBB warning is here.)

The class action lawsuits filed last fall against Payless continue. The question remains, however, what are our state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission doing about Payless?




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