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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.

*MOUSE PRINT:

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?

*MOUSE PRINT:

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

HUGE MOUSE PRINT:

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!

MOUSE PRINT:

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.

MOUSE PRINT:

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

*MOUSE PRINT:

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.

*MOUSE PRINT:

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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June 11, 2018

Is This Stuff Really “Ice Cream?”

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:14 am

A new brand of “ice cream” called “Enlightened” has hit the market claiming only 60 – 100 calories per serving, with “more protein and less sugar.”

They picture 27 varieties of pints of ice cream in fancy flavors like this on their website:

Enlightened 4 pints

Each of the descriptions under those containers, and even the containers themselves call the product “ice cream.” And on individual product pages, the manufacturer repeatedly refers to the product simply as “ice cream.”

Red Velvet on web

Under federal law, a “standard of identity” defines when you can label a product as “ice cream”:

“Ice cream” is a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10 percent milkfat. It also cannot be aerated (“overrun”) by more than 100%. And a gallon must weigh at least 4.5 pounds. [language simplified]

Their nutrition label on the red velvet “ice cream” flavor, for example, reveals a fat content of only 2 grams in a 70 gram (half cup) serving:

nutrition label

So clearly, there is not at least 10% milkfat in this product, and therefore legally it cannot be simply labeled “ice cream.”

You can’t tell looking at the pictures of the pint containers on the website, but a visit to a grocer’s freezer case reveals a secret on the package.

*MOUSE PRINT:

fine print

At the very bottom of the container in the tiniest print, which many people might miss, it says “low fat ice cream.” And that is completely different from plain old “ice cream.”

Federal law requires conspicuous disclosure of the legal name of the product, the statement of identity:

…be presented in bold type on the principal display panel, shall be in a size reasonably related to the most prominent printed matter on such panel, and shall be in lines generally parallel to the base on which the package rests as it is designed to be displayed. 21 CFR 101.3

And under separate FDA rules, products can be labeled as lower in fat if they meet these requirements:

  • “Reduced fat” ice cream contains at least 25 percent less total fat than the referenced product (either an average of leading brands, or the company’s own brand).

  • “Light” or “lite” ice cream contains at least 50 percent less total fat or 33 percent fewer calories than the referenced product (the average of leading regional or national brands).

  • “Lowfat” ice cream contains a maximum of 3 grams of total fat per serving (½ cup).

  • “Nonfat” ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving.

  • Because this flavor of Enlightened has less than three grams of fat per serving, it can and must be labeled as “low fat ice cream” and not merely “ice cream.”

    We asked Enlightened how the company could refer to these products merely as “ice cream” under the standard of identity and it referred us to the above chart.

    Is the fine print disclosure they make on the container sufficient disclosure to purchasers? Are repeated references merely to “ice cream” in marketing materials and on the package misleading? We filed a complaint with the FDA asking them to look at this case, and we’ll report their findings (if any).

    We’re not alone in raising questions about these newfangled “ice creams.” A class action lawsuit was filed last month against Halo Top, the most famous of these new lower calorie brands, making similar allegations as we have about Enlightened. (Hat tip to TruthinAdvertising.org for this lawsuit.)




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