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April 29, 2019

Act Fluoride: Alcohol-Free?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

Bob F., a regular Mouse Print* reader, recently bought a bottle of Act fluoride mouthwash/rinse for kids. The front label of the bottle clearly stated that the product was “alcohol-free.”

Act front

When he looked at the ingredients statement, however, he was taken aback.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Act ingredients

The first inactive ingredient listed was “benzyl alcohol.” What?

Clearly, any parent would be concerned about a child swallowing this candy-flavored liquid if it contained alcohol.

But that is not the case here. When most consumers think of alcohol, they think of the alcohol in liquor. That is actually ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Benzyl alcohol in ACT is chemically different. It is a flavor enhancer and preservative.

So, Act is properly labeled as “alcohol-free” because it does not contain the common type of alcohol that you find in other mouthwashes like Listerine.




 

 

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April 8, 2019

Sometimes Dental Discount Plans Can Be Cheaper Than Dental Insurance for Procedures

Filed under: Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:54 am

MrConsumer had a root canal that recently developed an infection and root tip surgery (an “apico”) was recommended as a possible remedy.

Not wanting to inflict pain on my pocketbook also, I asked if the dental office manager would be willing to charge me the “allowed” Blue Cross dental insurance price for the procedure despite the fact that my policy only covered preventive work like cleanings, exams, and x-rays. She said she would and added that by contract with some insurers, dentists are required to only charge the allowed amount to patients in such cases. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but I’ll take the discounted price, thank you very much.

I asked for a breakdown of what the “cash” (no insurance) price would be versus the Blue Cross price.

Apico price comparison

With my current insurance which would pay nothing toward the procedure, the full amount I would have to pay is $900 less than the cash (uninsured) price. Wow, what a savings.

But, I happened to ask if this endodontist accepted any discount plans. A discount dental plan is not insurance but rather a membership you can buy that offers a set of predefined prices for dental procedures that are 10% – 50% less than the uninsured cash price. Some well known insurance companies like Aetna and Cigna offer such plans, and independent firms do too. The plans vary in price, but for a single individual you would pay between $100 and $125 a year for one.

To MrConsumer’s everlasting delight, the office manager said that they accept Cigna Preferred Network Access. She gave me their pre-negotiated discount prices for my procedure:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Apico discount prices

This discount plan was $400 less than the Blue Cross price, and $1,300 less than the cash price. Yikes, what a savings.

So MrConsumer bought the Cigna discount plan using a percent-off promo code, which brought the price down to $99 plus a $20 administrative fee. And the plan went into effect the very next day, with no waiting periods for major procedures.

So, as we have all read that sometimes buying prescription drugs using a discount card rather than your health insurance might save you money, such is also the case with dental discount plans. Many dentists do not accept any of these plans, so this may not be a solution for everyone facing high dental bills.

Where do you find these plans and which dentists accept them? Just go to DentalPlans.com . [If you use this link, you will receive a 15% discount, and get an extra month free, as will MrConsumer.]




 

 

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April 1, 2019

Does Poland Spring Water Really Come From a Spring?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:05 am

Here we go again. A lawsuit, originally filed in 2017 (but recently amended) against Poland Spring maker Nestle has been given the green light to proceed by a federal court.

Poland Spring

Plaintiffs allege in a 325-page complaint that Poland Spring water is not “100% natural spring water” as the label claims because it doesn’t really come from a natural spring. Rather, they say, it is groundwater that comes from a series of man-made springs. They contend the original Poland Spring in Maine ran dry in the 1970s.

For its part, Nestle says that Poland Spring water comes from eight different springs in Maine that meet the FDA’s definition of “spring water.”

…water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth may be “spring water.” Spring water shall be collected only at the spring [with] a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice. –FDA regulations

Their website seems to protesteth a little too much for an innocent company by providing detailed information about the source of their water, including a map.

The judge in the case wasn’t buying some of the company’s arguments. For example, lawyers for Nestle asserted with a straight face in a prior hearing that the result of a previous lawsuit about the true source of Poland Spring water put the current plaintiffs on notice that the company’s claims might be false (and thus they can’t now contend that they were duped). This argument ranks right up there with a standard legal defense used by company lawyers in false advertising cases — “No reasonable consumer would believe the outrageous claims made in our advertising.”

So, it will be up to a court to decide whether the billions of dollars consumers have spent for Poland Spring water over the years was based on a false premise.

Hat tip to TruthinAdvertising.org for the lawsuit link.




 

 

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March 25, 2019

Cheez-it Cheats-it on Whole Grains

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

Snack foods don’t have a good reputation when it comes to healthfulness. So, it is no wonder that their manufacturers often try to come up with ways to make them seem healthier.

A few years back, Kellogg came up with a way to make Cheez-its appear to be a more healthy snack. They introduced “Whole Grain Cheez-its.”

Whole Grain Cheez-it

Some packages said “whole grain” others said “made with whole grains.” But the problem was in the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Listed first in the ingredients statement on the side of the box was plain old “enriched white flour.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest sued Kellogg back in 2016 for deceptive practices and false advertising.

The lower court said the box was not misleading. So, the plaintiffs decided to let the chips fall where they may and appealed the case. And the appeals court this year reversed the lower court and ruled:

“Whole Grain” and “Made with Whole Grain” statements are “misleading because they falsely imply that the grain content is entirely or at least predominantly whole grain, whereas in fact, the grain component consisting of enriched white flour substantially exceeds the whole grain portion.”

“…a reasonable consumer should not be expected to consult the Nutrition Facts panel on the side of the box to correct misleading information set forth in large bold type on the front of the box.” … “Plaintiffs plausibly allege that the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients list on whole grain Cheez-Its—which reveals that enriched white flour is the predominant ingredient—contradict, rather than confirm, Defendant’s ‘whole grain’ representations on the front of the box.”

So the case is being sent back for a full trial.




 

 

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February 18, 2019

When It Comes to Yogurt, Size and Ingredients Matter

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

Have you read any good yogurt labels lately? You may be in for a surprise.

Here is the 6-oz. container of Yoplait Original strawberry banana yogurt:

Yoplait 6-oz

It is made with real strawberries and bananas, just as the front label depicts.

Thrifty shoppers, however, may find it more economical to buy the quart size container of Yoplait Original strawberry banana. But, they will get less than they bargained for.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Yoplait 32 oz

Checking the ingredients, all the real strawberries and bananas disappeared! While it does say “smooth style” on the front of the label, one might have reasonably assumed that they merely blenderized the fruit into the yogurt to create a uniform, smooth texture.

Nope. And the fine print of the front of the label doesn’t help much either. It says, “flavored with other natural flavor,” which might to the average shopper merely convey that other flavors are also mixed in.

Not to be outdone by this bit of yogurt trickery, once upon a time, Yoplait made a line of Yoplait Whips for the Girl Scouts evoking the flavors of some of their bestselling cookies.

Here is Yoplait’s Girl Scouts “peanut butter chocolate” Whips… but something is missing.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Yoplait peanut butter

According to the ingredients, there is no peanut butter in Yoplait’s peanut butter chocolate yogurt.

We asked General Mills, the maker of Yoplait, about the labeling of these two products. In particular, why different sizes of seemingly the same product did not have the same contents, and why they don’t more accurately describe the product on the front of the container. The company did not respond.

FDA regulations unfortunately allow manufacturers to play games with how product flavors are labeled, even to the point of permitting none of the depicted ingredient to actually be present in the product.

(i) If the food is one that is commonly expected to contain a characterizing food ingredient, e.g., strawberries in “strawberry shortcake”, and the food contains natural flavor derived from such ingredient and an amount of characterizing ingredient insufficient to independently characterize the food, or the food contains no such ingredient, the name of the characterizing flavor may be immediately preceded by the word “natural” and shall be immediately followed by the word “flavored” in letters not less than one-half the height of the letters in the name of the characterizing flavor, e.g., “natural strawberry flavored shortcake,” or “strawberry flavored shortcake”.

This is called consumer protection?




 

 

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