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June 30, 2014

Don’t Assume the Store Brand is Comparable

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

 Many savvy shoppers automatically grab the store brand even when it comes to health products.

In fact, the store brand often says that it is comparable to XYZ name brand right on the package. For example, this package of CVS “Advanced Eye Health” sits right next to Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision AREDS 2 Formula on store shelves and says in large letters “comparable to ongoing study formula in AREDS 2.”

PreserVision vs. CVS

PreserVision AREDS 2 formula contains all the ingredients from the second of two studies that were shown to be effective in slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a very serious eye condition leading to partial blindness. This particular combination of vitamins and minerals resulted from years of testing sponsored by the federal government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “AREDS 2″ refers to this second and the most recent completed five-year study reported on in May 2013. So, it is very important for any product that is promoted to be a comparable product to mirror the list of ingredients that has proven successful in these tests.

A review of the two ingredients panels reveals some big surprises:

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients comparison

Keep in mind that the Bausch + Lomb product on the left has the exact ingredients that were found to be the most effective in the most recent study. The formula is patented.

The CVS product on the right has only two of the six ingredients that were judged most effective in the most recent study, plus omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids were in fact tested in the AREDS 2 study, but deemed not to improve the efficacy of the product. Bausch + Lomb removed the omega-3 from the current formula because the study found that “Omega-3 fatty acids … clearly do not reduce the risk of progression to advanced AMD.” CVS did not remove it.

So one really has to wonder with only two of the six ingredients that were found to have any effect, what value is there in taking the CVS product? Consumers are likely grabbing this product to save money based on the label claim, and not realizing the formulation is different. In so doing, they are likely under the mistaken belief that it will help slow the progression of macular degeneration.

We asked CVS to comment on the stark differences between PreserVision and the CVS brand. We wanted to know how they could call it “comparable” to the AREDS 2 formulation, since it only had two of the six ingredients found to work.

The packaging of our CVS/pharmacy Advanced Eye Health states that it is comparable to the “ongoing study formula in AREDS2.” No comparison is made to the national brand product.

When this product was launched in July 2012, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) was ongoing. CVS/pharmacy Advanced Eye Health dietary supplement was formulated with the same nutrients as used in one of the study arms. The “comparable to” claim was designed to invite consumers to compare the product to the study arm while noting the ongoing nature of the clinical trial. The packaging also notes that there were other formulations being studied.

We are in the process of removing this statement from the product packaging now that the results of the AREDS2 study have been released. — CVS Director of Public Relations

CVS is correct that they don’t compare their product to PreserVision directly and their claim refers to the “ongoing” tests. But the tests referred to are long over. And, the Bausch + Lomb product is the final AREDS 2 formulation as found in the AREDS 2 study. It says “AREDS 2″ on the label, and it sits right next to the CVS version on store shelves. Given that, consumers will inevitably make the comparison to PreserVision and assume the CVS version is the same. They are not likely to go off and do medical research to read the full study to understand what was being tested and how it compared to the CVS product.

CVS, however, appears to be incorrect when it says that the ingredients in its product are “the same nutrients as used in one of the study arms.” The study was very complex, but basically it took the original AREDS formulation of vitamins and minerals and tested ADDING things to it. In one part of the test, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3s were added to the basic AREDS formula. The CVS product however, ONLY has those three added ingredients and none of the original proven AREDS ingredients. To analogize, imagine if CVS was coming out with a new detergent plus bleach product. It added bleach to the detergent bottle, but did not put in the main ingredient, the actual detergent.

Lastly, while it is good that CVS has agreed to remove the comparability claim from its packaging, they should have done that a year ago when the AREDS 2 study was finished and released. And they probably should remove the current product from store shelves pending the revision of the packaging claims.

Should CVS continue to market this product with its current formulation either expressly or impliedly as being comparable to either the AREDS 2 formula or to Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision, you have to understand that it has not been proven to slow the progression of a disease that could rob you of your vision.

If you purchased CVS Advanced Eye Health, please post a comment indicating what your experience was, what you believed you were buying, and how you feel about the revelation that it is not the equivalent of the AREDS 2 formula.

• • •

June 23, 2014

Corn Oil Lowers Cholesterol More Than Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:51 am

  A full page ad from Mazola Oil in a recent Sunday coupon insert, made an astounding claim:

Mazola

What? Corn oil is better for you than olive oil? There is a block of almost unreadable fine print at the bottom of the page. It reads in part:

*MOUSE PRINT:

“…Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 tbsp (16 grams) of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in corn oil. FDA concludes there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim. To achieve this possible benefit, corn oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”

How limited was the test? According to a summary of the results, the theory was only tested on 54 people.

Two other points:

  • Mazola seems to be claiming that eating just one tablespoon of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. Yet, the test they conducted required subjects to eat FOUR tablespoons a day.
  • Mazola shared the cost of this study, and it does not appear to have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    The question becomes whether it is fair to tout this health claim in big headlines with such a limited test? We asked the makers of Mazola to comment on this and the discrepancy in the amount of oil needed to achieve the claimed benefits, but they failed to respond.

  • • • •

    June 9, 2014

    To Increase Profits, Product Makers Just Add Water!

    Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:49 am

      We all know that product downsizing occurs when some amount of the product has been removed from the package inconspicuously, but the price remains the same.

    A close relative to product downsizing is what we call “product dilution.” The product is formulated or reformulated in such a manner as to make it less expensive to manufacture.

    Exhibit A:

    A classic example is Tropicana’s “Trop50” drink that boasts 50% less sugar and calories. How did they accomplish this? It only has 42% juice and the rest is water and flavoring.

    Exhibit B:

    And if you have poked around the meat counter lately, some whole chickens and boneless chicken breasts have been plumped up with up to 15% of “broth” (aka water). [Note how "fifteen percent" is spelled out to make it less obvious at a glance.]

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    chicken broth

    Exhibit C:

    Procter & Gamble recently has been “diluting” some of their products to come out with a new “value” line. Witness the introduction of Charmin Basic and Bounty Basic, a cheaper single-ply product compared to regular two-ply rolls. And then there is the new Tide detergent in the yellow bottle. Priced less expensively than traditional Tide and presumably with a less effective formulation, it is designed to complete with other bargain detergents.

    Exhibit D:

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    DawnAnd P&G’s newest product, Dawn “Simply Clean” is just beginning to hit store shelves. It caught regular Mouse Print* reader Tim B. unaware, who bought a bottle of the new stuff thinking it was regular Dawn Ultra.

    “I didn’t notice the label until I went to use the soap. Very watery and very runny. As expected, it does not perform as well as the Ultra so I have to use more. My problem when I shop, is I expect things to remain the same. And these companies continue to get me. Gwaltney bacon, I purchased a pack of that only to discover I got 12 ounces instead of 16. Anitfreeze that was “pre-diluted” which means I bought a half gallon of water and half gallon of anti-freeze. Packaged meat with “water added”. And now “Non-Concentrated ” Dawn, AKA more water added. I thought the “Simply Clean” was just a new slogan.

    Sad part is years ago, companies would improve their product to get you to buy it. Now it seems everything is going the other direction, to make cheaper products.”

    Our intrepid consumer is a technician by trade, so he decided to test both old and new Dawn to try to determine how much the new non-concentrated Dawn had been watered down. The old one was thick and gloppy, while the new one was much thinner. In fact, he says the new product only has one-third the “solids” as the old one.

    So how do you feel about “product dilution?” Sound off in the comments.

    • • •

    May 19, 2014

    Those Devilish Keebler Elves Downsize Some Cookies

    Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

     Welcome ABC World News viewers!

    Leave it to the Keebler elves to come up with a devilishly clever way to downsize their chocolate chip cookies so that it might go unnoticed by shoppers.

    Exhibit A:

    Keebler

    The above picture was the traditional package of Chips Deluxe cookies until last fall. Then the company decided to refresh the look of their entire line and came out with new yellow packaging.

    Exhibit B:

    keebler2m

    Savvy shoppers know when they see “new and improved” or “new look” on a package that could be a clue that the product has been downsized. In this case, however, Keebler kept the net weight of Chips Deluxe cookies the same — 13.3 ounces.

    Then, not long thereafter, the company decided to downsize a few of their cookie varieties as inconspicuously as possible.

    Exhibit C:

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Keebler

    Those clever elves took out two to three cookies from each package, reducing the contents from 13.3 ounces to 11.6 ounces, but retaining the same “New Look” packaging. Even the savviest of shoppers who checked the package when they first introduced the “New Look” packaging would ever think to check again the next time they bought the item to see if it had been subsequently downsized.

    Mouse Print* asked Kellogg’s, the maker of Keebler cookies, some very pointed questions about why they downsized, and whether they realized that maintaining the banner “New Look, Same Great Taste” after they downsized the product could easily mislead consumers into believing that only the packaging changed.

    The company responded:

    “As commodity prices and other costs increase, Kellogg occasionally adjusts package sizes and wholesale prices, and we offer a range of product sizes to meet differing consumer preferences.” –Keebler Media Hotline

    Inconspicuously downsizing a product continues to be a sneaky way to pass on a price increase in the hopes that most shoppers won’t notice.

    • • •

    May 12, 2014

    Blue Buffalo: “Never has Chicken/Poultry By-Product Meals” ?

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:32 am

      Blue Buffalo, a maker of premium pet food, proclaims in advertising that meat is “always” the first ingredients in its products and it “never” has chicken/poultry by-product meals. It even invites consumers to compare their favorite brand to Blue Buffalo.

    Blue Buffalo

    Never say never, just in case a competitor like Purina decides to have your products tested to see if the claims are true. And that is exactly what Purina did, using an independent lab to test Blue Buffalo products.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Blue Buffalo

    And after getting the results, Purina filed sued (see complaint) last week against Blue Buffalo for false advertising and product disparagement. And they set up a website to tell the world about it.

    While Purina says they tested Blue Buffalo products purchased from retail stores on the East and West coasts, they didn’t say how many products were tested in total. On the issue of whether Blue Buffalo contained any chicken by-products in the kibble itself, Purina seems to have only found three bags that did.

    We asked Purina how many bags they actually purchased and tested, but their PR person did not return our call.

    For its part, the founder of Blue Buffalo said, “We categorically deny all of these false allegations and will aggressively defend the integrity of our brand and our products.”

    Thanks to Richard G. for the tip about this story.

    • • •
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