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November 13, 2017

It’s Open Season on Befuddled Health Plan Shoppers

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

Once again it is open enrollment time for those choosing a new health insurance plan. In searching around for a new plan for MrConsumer’s friend in New York City, he came up with what looked like a dream plan — a new national plan that tapped into Cigna’s national network of 500,000 providers. (Most individual plans in New York have very limited networks except for Empire Blue — and even Empire is not all-inclusive.)

The plan is from MVP Health Care called “Platinum National Embedded.” It is considered a non-standard plan and therefore is “off-market” — not on the New York “Obamacare” health exchange — and is sold individually directly by the company.

A handy map shows which counties in the New York City region are covered:

MVP  map 1

A quick look makes it appear that all five boroughs of New York City are covered as well as two northern counties. When using MVP’s online plan lookup feature, entering my friend’s Manhattan zip code kept triggering an error. How could that be?

*MOUSE PRINT:

MVP plan map

A closer look at the fine print asterisked footnote reveals that MVP is not licensed to sell these plans in any of the five boroughs of New York City, despite them being listed above as “included.”

We asked the company why it used such misleading representations and whether it would fix the distortions. They have yet to respond.

Finding the right health plan is hard enough without shenanigans like this.




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October 30, 2017

Death Wish Coffee Lives Up to its Name

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

Death Wish CoffeeSometimes companies take a little literary license when naming their product or company to the dismay of consumer protection regulators. For example, is BJ’s Wholesale Club really selling its merchandise at wholesale prices? Similarly, is Poland Spring water really from a spring? (A recent lawsuit against the company suggests otherwise.)

Now we have a company that calls itself “Death Wish Coffee,” with a skull and crossbones right on the label as part of its logo. Are they saying their coffee is poisonous and you might die if you drink it?

Ironically that could be the case because the aptly named company just issued a product recall for its Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew coffee in 11 ounce cans.

*MOUSE PRINT:

According to the recall notice posted on the FDA’s website:

Death Wish in conjunction with an outside Process Authority has determined that the current process [to make its Nitro Brew] could lead to the growth and production of the deadly toxin, botulin, in low acid foods commercialized in reduced oxygen packaging.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distention and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

So, true to its name, this product could kill you. Fortunately, no one has yet died or even gotten sick, according to the company.

And no, this is not a Halloween prank.




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October 9, 2017

FDA to Manufacturer: If You Make a Product with Love, Don’t Advertise It

Filed under: Business,Food/Groceries,Health,Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

Some federal agencies have been subjected to criticism lately that they are not policing the marketplace as much as they did in the past to protect consumers. For example, Bloomberg reported two weeks ago that the Food and Drug Administration was sending 30 percent fewer warning letters to companies about serious health and safety violations than they did every year since 2008.

Now comes news that in September, the FDA sent a warning letter to Nashoba Brook Bakery in Massachusetts alleging serious violations discovered when it spent three days inspecting their manufacturing facility.

FDA warning letter

Besides citing instances of unsanitary conditions that inspectors discovered, it noted a serious labeling violation on packages of Nashoba Granola.

Nashoba granola

*MOUSE PRINT:

Love ingredient

Love ingredient

Yes, dear friends, Nashoba Brook Bakery was charged with selling misbranded products because they creatively made their granola with “love” and included that on the label.

John Gates, the CEO of the bakery, explained to Mouse Print* that while they will remedy the sanitary deficiencies cited by the FDA, “we will continue to put care, attention, passion and LOVE at the center of what we do. That’s who we are and who we want to be.”

We say the FDA should concentrate on real health and safety violations like the other findings in their letter. But, have a little heart (and common sense) when it comes to unofficial ingredients like love.




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September 11, 2017

Brush Your Teeth and Get Vitamins Too?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:16 am

For years, product manufacturers have added vitamins to their products as a marketing tool to boost health conscious consumers’ interest in them. Now comes a new product called Vitaminpaste®. You guessed it — a toothpaste with vitamins (and curiously, no fluoride).

Vitaminpaste

Here’s how it is advertised:

vitaminpastead

The company claims that you “Get extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants every time you brush.” The ad also says the product is safe to swallow.

To us, what’s hard to understand is the claim that this product is going to boost your intake of vitamins. The ad doesn’t list all the vitamins in the paste, and neither it nor their website specifies the amounts of each in the product. So… we found a tube in the store and checked the back.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Vitaminpaste ingredients

An inch of toothpaste delivers just 7% of the daily requirement of eight vitamins and minerals. And maybe if you ate the stuff, you would get that small boost of vitamins. But most people spit out toothpaste. And even the back of the box recommends you spit it out and rinse the residue.

*MOUSE PRINT:

instructions

So the question becomes, can vitamins and minerals be absorbed by the body just by being in your mouth for a minute or less? The company’s answer is actually on the back of the box in small print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

absorb rate

According to them, you only get 10% of the listed daily requirement. That means you get 7/10ths of one percent of each vitamin per brushing.

For about $4.99 for a 4.1 ounce tube, this whole thing is hard to swallow.




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July 17, 2017

Now Here’s a Juicy Story…

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:36 am

There’s an old joke about how cheap chicken soup is actually made. They merely dunk a whole chicken in a pot of water, then immediately remove it and dunk it into the next pot. That’s the feeling we get with Juicy Juice’s 100% juice called Orange Tangerine.

Daniel T. wrote to Mouse Print* saying that he was looking to buy tangerine juice, but the closest he could find was this product:

Juicy Juice

Like any good consumer (who reads Consumer World or Mouse Print*), he checked the ingredients statement and got quite a surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Juicy Juice ingredients

Rather than find orange juice and tangerine juice at the top of the list, he found three other juices comprised a majority of the juices in the bottle: apple, pear, and grape.

So how much actual orange juice and tangerine juice is in the product? We asked the manufacturer, Harvest Hill Beverage Company, which did not respond.

It turns out that the FDA has specific rules about juices where the product name and/or depiction of the fruit shown is not the primary ingredient.

*MOUSE PRINT:

(d) In a diluted multiple-juice beverage or blend of single-strength juices where one or more, but not all, of the juices are named on the label other than in the ingredient statement, and where the named juice is not the predominant juice, the common or usual name for the product shall:

(1) Indicate that the named juice is present as a flavor or flavoring (e.g., “Raspcranberry”; raspberry and cranberry flavored juice drink); or

(2) Include the amount of the named juice, declared in a 5- percent range

In plain English this says that in this case the maker cannot call this product “Orange Tangerine” because they are not the main ingredients, other juices are. The company would have to call it “Orange Tangerine flavored juice” or specifically declare the percentages of orange juice and tangerine juice in the bottle.

What the manufacturer did instead is include a fine print disclosure at the bottom of the front label:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Juicy Juice disclosure

Does that hard to read disclosure meet the requirements of the law? Not in our view, because it was not incorporated into the product name which simply is “Orange Tangerine.” And because “Orange Tangerine” is in close proximity to the words “100% juice,” consumers are likely to believe the bottle only contains orange and tangerine juice.

As it turns out, we are not the only ones to come to this conclusion. Back in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Nestle, the company that manufactured Juicy Juice at the time, making that very point and calling the product “misbranded” as a result:

Additionally, we have reviewed the labeling of your Nestle Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice Orange Tangerine and Nestle Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice Grape products. These products are misbranded under section 403(a)(1) of the Act [21 USC 343(a)(1)] because their labels are misleading. The label of the Orange Tangerine product is designed to imply that the product is 100% orange/tangerine juice, and the label of the Grape product is designed to imply that product is 100% grape juice. The principal display panels identify the products as “Orange Tangerine” and “Grape,” respectively, in large, bold lettering outlined in black; however, neither orange/tangerine juice nor grape juice is the predominant juice in the products.The statements “All Natural-100% Juice” in close proximity to the words “Orange Tangerine”or “Grape” and vignettes of oranges or grapes also may lead consumers to believe that the products are 100% orange/tangerine juice or 100% grape juice when, in fact, they are not. The separate statement at the base of the respective principal display panels, “Flavored juice blend from concentrate with other natural flavors & added ingredients,” appears in a smaller font and white print on a colored background. The manner in which the latter statement is presented makes it less conspicuous and prominent than the other label statements and vignettes and therefore less likely to be read or understood by consumers at the time of purchase.

We don’t know the result of the warning letter, and the current owners of Juicy Juice (Harvest Hill Beverage Company) did not respond to our two inquiries concerning the labeling issue. We do know that the labeling has not changed much since 2009.




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