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July 16, 2018

Not All Ben Gay Products Are Created Equal

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:10 am

Last week, we spotlighted a particular variety of Preparation H that actually had none of the active ingredients found in regular Preparation H cream. It was “Preparation H” in name only.

This week, our trusty mouse looks at the ingredients statements of various Ben Gay products after getting a tip from a reader.

Bengay, as everyone knows, has that distinctive menthol smell and provides pain relief for sore muscles and joints.

Bengay regular

Like many brands, the company has created some line extensions to meet particular preferences of customers. For consumers who don’t like the greasy feel, they have a greaseless version. And for people who find the menthol scent overpowering, they have a vanishing scent variety.

But before you grab one of these newer versions, you better compare the ingredients statements.


Bengay ingredients

The regular version has three different pain-killing ingredients. The greaseless version only has two, and cuts the strength of one of them in half. And the vanishing scent variety, only has one pain-numbing ingredient and it is only one-fourth the strength of the regular product.

And for people who want to get away from creams altogether, Bengay now has an “ultra strength” patch. Despite the name, that patch is missing two of the three pain-relieving ingredients present in the ultra strength cream, and it has only half the menthol strength.

So, while you get a product benefit by choosing one of the newer varieties, you may be trading away some product efficacy that drew you to Bengay in the first place.

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July 9, 2018

Preparation H: What Happened to the “H”?

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:52 am

Some products have been around so long and are so familiar to shoppers that everyone knows exactly what the product is by just seeing or hearing its name. We know that Ex-Lax is a laxative, that Pepto-Bismol is for an upset stomach, and that Preparation H is for shrinking your hemorrhoids.

Recently, a friend of MrConsumer’s asked him to pick up a box of Preparation H cream — the one that had one-percent hydrocortisone in it. He didn’t want the one with lidocaine, nor the regular ointment, nor the regular cream, but only the cream in the red box with the added hydrocortisone to treat both his hemorrhoids and his itching.

Preparation H

After purchasing it, and not being familiar with the ingredients in the product, MrConsumer discovered there was only one active ingredient in it.


Preparation H active ingredients

The only ingredient that actually did anything was the hydrocortisone, according to the label. If that is the case, then what the heck is in the regular Preparation H cream without hydrocortisone?


Preparation H regular cream ingredients

Wow… a whole bunch of stuff for shrinking hemorrhoids and treating itching. What became instantly clear was that the Preparation H hydrocortisone product was just plain old 1% hydrocortisone, like any other brand of hydrocortisone, and had little to do with Preparation H as people know and understand it.

Preparation H hydrocortisone 1% costs $9.29 at CVS. A tube of 1% hydrocortisone at Dollar Tree costs $1. Yet MrConsumer’s friend swears by the brand name which is technically incapable of shrinking hemorrhoids.

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July 2, 2018

Where’s the Pork? (Hint: Not in Nathan’s Hot Dogs!)

Filed under: Business,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:43 am

A big national class action antitrust lawsuit was filed last week alleging that major food companies conspired to overcharge consumers for bacon, ham, hot dogs and other pork products.

In a press release issued by one of the law firms, they advise consumers who purchased any of these products that they might be entitled to some money back:

press release excerpt

As a native New Yorker who grew up eating Nathan’s hot dogs at the original Nathan’s stand in Coney Island, MrConsumer knows their frankfurters are all beef and contain no pork.

100% beef


Nathan's package

While all Nathan’s frankfurters are all beef, they do have one variety of fries called “Bacon and Cheddar Crunchy Crinkle Fries.” That product, however, according to the ingredients statement on the Nathan’s website, seemingly doesn’t actually contain any bacon, just artificial or natural flavoring!


bacon and cheddar ingredients

So it appears, based on the items listed on their website, that no Nathan’s Famous products contain pork and thus no Nathan’s products that a consumer may have purchased qualify for a refund or are properly included in the list of affected brands. So why was “Nathan’s Famous” listed as one of the offending brands but not a defendant in the case?

The day after the lawsuit was filed, MrConsumer wrote to the two law firms that filed the class action to find out and to advise them that it appeared that Nathan’s Famous had been wrongly accused of anti-competitive conduct. He also alerted the CEO of Nathan’s Famous that his company and products were apparently erroneously called out in the law firm’s press release.

Neither law firm nor Nathan’s responded to our request for comments and an explanation.

So how did Nathan’s Famous get wrapped up in this lawsuit? This is what appears to have happened. Nathan’s Famous is distributed by the John Morrell Company, which is owned by Smithfield Foods. And Smithfield Foods is a defendant in the lawsuit because they sell other brands and products that do contain pork. Somehow the law firms apparently did not understand that Nathan’s Famous is an independent company not owned by Smithfield and that Nathan’s only sells 100% beef franks.


Nathan's distributor

How could they have known these key facts about Nathan’s? Well, they just could have picked up a package, read the fine print, read the big print, and checked the Nathan’s website!

The law firm also listed Steak-eze as an affected brand. According to the Steak-eze website, and certainly implied in their brand name, they only sell beef products also.

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June 25, 2018

This is a Weight Loss Pill, Right?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:02 am

Last year, a consumer purchased a bottle of Garcinia Cambogia Extract from a Vitamin Shoppe location in California believing that this product could help her lose weight.

Vtiamin Shoppe


In much smaller print, the bottle was labeled “weight management” and “appetite control” leading her to believe this was just the type of product she was looking for. (The caret after those terms merely refers to the standard fine print disclosure on the back of the label that the FDA has not evaluated these claims.)

Apparently she did a little research after purchasing it and found a study or studies from which she concluded that this stuff had been “scientifically proven to be incapable of providing such weight-loss benefits.” So like any good consumer, rather than going back to the store to get a refund, she filed a class action lawsuit alleging misrepresentation and false advertising, among other claims.

To her surprise, the judge ruled against her, saying in his decision:

The first problem with Plaintiff’s complaint is her assertion that the phrases “Weight Management” and “Appetite Control” equate to representations that the Product provides weight-loss benefits. “Weight Management” suggests management or control of one’s weight, whose upward or downward departure may differ depending on an individual person’s goals, i.e., to gain, lose, or maintain one’s weight. “Appetite Control” indicates control of one’s appetite, which may or may not ultimately result in weight-loss. Thus, it is irrelevant whether the alleged studies disprove that the active ingredients in the Product can produce weight-loss benefits because the phrases themselves do not inherently promise weight-loss benefits.

Say what? If putting the terms “weight management” and “appetite control” on a pill bottle doesn’t suggest that the contents are good for losing weight, what do they suggest?

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June 18, 2018

Do You Know Where Your Prescription Drugs Come From?

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

Have you looked at the fine print on your prescription drug bottle lately?

drug origin

MrConsumer decided to check his bottles and made a surprising discovery.


drug origin closeup

What? These pills purchased from CVS/Caremark mail order came from India? Yep. And apparently this is not an isolated case. For many generic drugs today, either the main ingredient or the finished pills themselves come from either India or China. Who knew? (You knew if you saw the story about the book, China Rx, a few weeks ago in Consumer World. The book describes lax inspection of pharmaceutical factories in foreign countries, including inadequate inspections by the FDA.)

While this particular manufacturer put its full address on the bottle as the law seems to require, some others just list the manufacturer’s name leaving you, the customer, to guess what the country of origin really is.

Don’t you want to know where the pills you take come from?

For more on the hiding of the origin of foreign-manufactured drugs, see David Lazarus’ column in the LA Times.

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