Go Green (and $ave too!) – National Consumers League

These days, global warming sure is the kind of hot topic (sorry) that gets a lot of people anxious. Many consumers may not be aware, however, that by taking a few simple steps to be a good global citizen and help protect the planet, they can actually save some money in the process.

This month, the National Consumers League is helping consumers adopt environmentally-friendly practices that are also friendly to their wallets in NCL‘s “2008 Consumer Calendar: Do We Have Tips for You!”

Tips for going/saving green:

  • Tune up. Keep your call well-tuned and your tires properly inflated to get better gas mileage and cut pollution.
  • Switch to energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last longer.
  • Turn off the TV and other appliances when you’re not using them. Use appliances’ — like computers’ — energy-saving modes.

Groups call for clear, concise single document from pharmacy – National Consumers League

July 29, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League has asked the Food and Drug Administration to issue a guidance for a combined and simplified document for patients when they receive their prescription drugs. In a petition filed on June 30, NCL was joined by several national healthcare organizations including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the National Alliance for Caregivers, the Food Marketing Institute, Healthcare Distribution Management Association, and Catalina Health Resource.

“It is very important that patients receive clear, useful information in plain language with their prescription drugs. They should be able to talk to their pharmacist about potential interactions, how to take their medicine and what side effects to expect. Patients do not need to receive multiple and lengthy pieces of paper that are often redundant and may even contain conflicting information,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “The present jumble of documents ill-serves the patient who simply needs enough information to take a prescription drug safely and effectively.”

The multitude of documents delivered to patients in pharmacies arises from different FDA legal requirements or unwritten, informal interpretation of those requirements from offices within FDA. Some of the legal requirements were established long ago, and were intended to regulate communications directed to healthcare professionals and not directly to consumers.

The FDA-mandated documents for patient communications can be just “too much information,” said Greenberg. For example, a person refilling a prescription for an anti-depressant could, theoretically receive:

  • Consumer Medication Information (CMI) describing how to take the prescribed drug, its risks, and other information including risk information from the Medication Guide.
  • A Patient Package Insert from the manufacturer with a Medication Guide.
  • A Medication Guide provided by the pharmacy.
  • Full professional labeling if the patient receives a sponsored message about the anti-depressant from the drug manufacturer describing, for example, the importance of adhering to the doctors’ orders.

The National Consumers League and other petitioners believe that it makes more sense to provide a single, clear, patient-friendly document with information for the patient that reinforces the communications between the patient, the pharmacist, and the prescribing healthcare professional. This single patient document would consolidate the many documents now in use and replace them with one that is easy to read, in plain language, in a consistent format, with plain instructions informing the patient where he or she can reliably obtain additional information.

“Many of these documents were never designed for nor intended to apply to the unique pharmacy environment,” said Greenberg. “The risks of patient confusion, conflict, redundancy, and pharmacy burden would be eliminated if FDA permitted a ‘single document solution’ for all patient-directed information disseminated in the pharmacy.”

About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

In Washington, Advocates and Federal Officials Meet to Address Child Labor Issues – National Consumers League

By Paula Osborn, NCL Public Policy Intern

Around the world, more than 200 million children toil in abusive child labor. Last week, members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which is coordinated by the National Consumers League, met to discuss the progress being made to ameliorate the problem.

Kailash Satyarthi, the Chair for the Global March against Child Labor and the President of the Global Campaign for Education, who, at great danger to himself, rescues bonded child laborers in India, and Ambassador-at-Large Mark Lagon who is the Director of the Trafficking in Persons Office for the U.S. State Department were the main speakers. A diverse group of CLC members and interested individuals attended, including representatives from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the National Education Association (NEA), Rugmark, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), and a dozen or so organizations. Federal officials from the State Department and the Department of Labor also attended.

Satyarthi, who has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, told the CLC that the elimination of child labor cannot occur without universal education, which he called a “fundamental human right.” Although we are making progress, there is still a long way to go, said Satyarthi.

Ambassador Lagon discussed at length the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report; a country by country review of human trafficking problems around the world, which was released in June. Lagon said that children are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, especially those who are out of school. He also spoke about the need to re-assimilate children rescued from enslaved labor. The ambassador discussed several child labor and child slavery hot spots, including: the Congo, where young children are forced to become soldiers; and the Ivory Coast, where children are trafficked to harvest cocoa beans used in making chocolate.

Lagon and Satyarthi stressed the important role consumers have in combating child labor, urging consumers to research companies and their labor practices to ensure that their products are child labor free.

Satyarthi spoke movingly of witnessing children sewing soccer balls who worked so hard they cut their fingers as they sowed. They would continue working, he said, motivated by the dream that they—one day—may be able to play with the balls they toiled to make but could not afford to buy.

Consumers need to ask themselves if they are unwittingly contributing to the destruction of young lives. Next time you buy a soccer ball, you may want to ask yourself: “Did the blood of a child go into the making of this product?”

Hot on the Salmonella Trail – National Consumers League

Attention pepper lovers: step away from the jalapeños.

Investigators from the Food and Drug Administration think they’ve found the true culprit in the current Salmonella outbreak, which up until now had been associated entirely with tomatoes. The FDA announced yesterday that its officials matched the strain on a single jalapeño pepper at a distributing center in McAllen, Texas.

According to the FDA, “since a recall will not immediately remove all potentially contaminated peppers from the food supply, FDA is also asking consumers to avoid eating raw jalapeño peppers or foods made from raw jalapeño apeno peppers until further notice in order to prevent additional cases of illness. This recommendation does not include cooked or pickled jalapeño peppers.”

If you simply can’t resist the spicy, at least avoid raw jalapeños, or foods prepared with jalapeños. If they are cooked or picked, they are considered safe.

The Salmonella outbreak that started in April of this year has resulted in more than 1,200 infections and 229 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teen Jobless Rate A Cause for Concern – National Consumers League

The Washington Post recently ran a story about teens having a tough time finding jobs. The paper profiled this young man who, at 19, has been searching for work for four years with no luck. He’s pounded the pavement and Internet job boards, looked for work in malls, at banks, and in other places, and he has yet to successfully get an offer. This young man, the reporter writes, isn’t alone: “Young adults seeking low-skill service jobs for the summer must contend with older, laid-off workers, illegal immigrants and college graduates who cannot find work in their fields, as well as with cuts in federal summer jobs programs.”

This seems like bad news for a lot of reasons. If young people are having unusual difficulty finding work, perhaps they’d be tempted to lower their standards or accept job offers against their better judgment. This summer, NCL is working hard to educate the youngest workers about the kinds of jobs that are so dangerous that they should be passed up – during summer vacation from school and year-round. A tough economy may make these jobs more difficult to avoid, but the dangers are still very real. Learn more about NCL’s work with the Child Labor Coalition to end the worst forms of child labor in the United States and abroad.

Beyond Hangover: Risks of Teen Drinking – National Consumers League

At the end of the 2008 academic year, a 19-year-old freshman at Northwestern University, Matthew Sunshine, joined a growing list of teens who’ve died from alcohol poisoning. Deaths on college campuses are rare and chilling – especially when the cause of death is a party pastime enjoyed by many co-eds.

This week, NCL is hoping to help get the message out to parents and teens that binge drinking, no matter how harmless it may seem in the moment, sometimes has terrible consequences. The new pages include the facts about binge drinking, resources for parents and teens, and basic, myth-dispelling information about standard alcohol servings and their affects on the body.

NCL challenges myth that some alcoholic beverages are safer and less potent – National Consumers League

July 16, 2008

New Initiative Underscores Need for New Alcohol Label

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – For the many Americans confused about the potency of different alcoholic beverages, one of the most respected national consumer organizations has this important message: it is a myth that beer and wine are not as strong as the typical cocktail. Standard serving sizes of all alcohol beverages — beer, wine, and distilled spirits — are equal in alcohol strength and their effect on the body.

Because even the most basic information about alcohol content is not clearly and consistently listed on the labels of beer, wine and distilled spirits products, the National Consumers League is going public with Alcohol: How It All Adds Up, a new initiative challenging the myth that some alcoholic beverages are “safer” and less “potent” than others. According to the League, this belief is pervasive and linked with the overconsumption of alcohol and the permissive attitudes of some parents about underage drinking. In an opinion poll commissioned by the Center for Government Reform, 88% of parents mistakenly concluded that beer is safer than liquor.

“Without ready access to information about the amount of alcohol they are consuming, many Americans believe that beer and wine offer a ‘soft’ option and can be consumed in greater amounts than so-called ‘hard’ liquor,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the League. “We are trying to give consumers the basics about the alcohol content of different alcoholic beverages, but the real answer is government action to require standardized and complete labeling information on beer, wine and distilled spirits products. Consumers should know how many calories, carbohydrates, and other nutrition information are in a standard drink. They have it for nonalcoholic beverages, food, and nonprescription drugs. It is time for this information to be on the labels for alcoholic beverages.”

The Meaning of a “Standard Drink”

While renewing its calls for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to make information about the alcohol content per serving a requirement on alcohol labels, the League is attempting to fill the void with a new guide that tackles one of the most important concepts for consumers to grasp – what constitutes a “standard drink.” Research commissioned by the League finds 54% of Americans don’t know there is such a thing as a “standard drink,” even though a large majority of state drivers’ license manuals and national and state public health agencies use the “standard drink” concept to explain responsible drinking.

As the guide explains, the common denominator for a “standard drink” of beverage alcohol is 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. Based on this amount of alcohol, a standard drink consists of a 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer (5% alcohol), a 5-ounce glass of regular (dinner) wine (12% alcohol), and a 1.5 ounce drink of 80 proof (40% alcohol) distilled spirits or liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink).

“It shouldn’t take a calculator to know how much alcohol you are consuming,” Greenberg stated. “Better labeling is badly needed to tell how many ‘standard drinks’ are in a particular product. If consumers can tell from the label how many standard drinks they are consuming, they can learn their limits and avoid exceeding them.”

Misperceptions Contribute to Underage Drinking, Binge Drinking

As part of its initiative, the National Consumers League is also calling on parents and community leaders to address underage drinking, reporting that parents often underestimate how early drinking begins, how much alcohol their adolescents consume, and the risks involved. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), three-fourths of 12th graders, more than two-thirds of 10th graders, and about two in every five 8th graders have consumed alcohol. Compounding the problem, research commissioned by The Century Council finds that 65% of underage youth who drink obtain alcohol from their parents, their friends’ parents, older friends and older siblings or have easy access to alcohol on college campuses.

“Parents need to understand that one can of beer or one wine cooler has roughly the alcohol equivalence of one shot of vodka,” said Greenberg. “Believing otherwise undermines and runs counter to all we know and all we have done to prevent underage drinking.”

While underage drinking is associated with motor vehicle crashes, major injuries and delinquency problems, what is not well understood is its link to binge drinking, which NIAAA defines as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in about 2 hours. Consumption at this pace can also result in alcohol poisoning, a serious condition that can lead to choking, coma and even death.

“Study after study shows that parents have the most influence over their teen’s decision to drink,” Greenberg said. “Parents should be a role model for their teen about responsible drinking, whether they drink or not. This means talking regularly and often about drinking alcohol, including how to resist the peer pressure that can lead to underage and binge drinking.”

New Tools for Consumers

To improve Americans’ alcohol awareness, the National Consumers League is making available a new Alcohol: How it all adds up guide and a series of information sheets about alcohol content, alcohol labels, and binge drinking to consumers, community leaders and health professionals. These materials are available in downloadable form on the League’s Web site, www.nclnet.org.

NCL’s Greenberg addresses NACPI at annual meeting – National Consumers League

July 14, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

New Orleans, LA — Focusing her remarks on strategies for prevention of consumer fraud in mortgages, car loans, Internet and telemarketing, Sally Greenberg, National Consumers League Executive Director, addressed the annual meeting of North American Consumer Protection Investigators, many of whom work in state attorneys general offices and other state and local agencies, representing 22 states, Canada and Bermuda.

“The problem of consumer fraud is rampant. It affects over 30 million consumers, 13 percent of U.S. adults. According to the FTC, and African Americans and Hispanics are victimized more than whites,” said Greenberg. “According to complaints at NCL’s Fraud Center, fake check scams, prizes and sweepstakes, and advance fee loans top our lists of scams that prey on desperate consumers enduring increasingly difficult economic times.”

Greenberg called on the consumer investigators to work with NCL and consumer protection lawyers and open up investigations related to mortgage lending and auto loan fraud. “It’s disappointing that even many reputable companies are entangled in financing and other schemes that rip off consumers. All of us who work on consumer protection must hold them accountable.”

Greenberg also told the group, “The National Consumers League gets 60-70 online complaints each day from people who’ve been victims of fake check scams, phony lotteries claiming that the consumer has won a big cash prize, and sweetheart swindles where a lonely consumer is talked into giving large sums of money to a supposed love interest abroad. Sometimes we can save them from becoming victimized. More often, we can only report the scam to law enforcement. The con artists are very, very good at telling people what they want to hear.”

The National Consumers League, which is the nation’s oldest consumer organization, founded in 1899, hosts the Web site, Fraud.org, and Fakechecks.org. Fraud.org sees 25,000 unique visits each week. The NCL also hosts the Alliance Against Fraud, bringing together consumers, business, government, labor, and nonprofits to share strategies and provide the latest updates on emerging fraud schemes.


About the National Consumers League

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Hey, Teens: Think Your Summer Job Stinks? – National Consumers League

Driving tractors has made the list.

Unless it’s in agriculture, landscaping, driving an ATV, or working for a traveling youth crew, it could be worse.

Check this list of NCL’s 2008 Five Worst Jobs for Teens, a compilation by child labor advocates of the most dangerous jobs for working youth under the age of 18. Some of the jobs are completely legal, and others are not, but they’re all very dangerous.

Each year, NCL staff assembles the list using government statistics and reports, results from the Child Labor Coalition’s annual survey of state labor departments, and news accounts of injuries and deaths. Statistics and examples of injuries for each job on the list are detailed in a report available here.

NCL to teens: avoid these five worst summer jobs – National Consumers League

July 10, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) has issued its annual report for 2008 on the Five Worst Teen Jobs, with recent accidental deaths in agriculture keeping work in fields and processing at the top of the list for the second year running. Based on statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a teen American worker is injured on the job every two minutes, and one teen dies from a workplace injury every five days. Reid Maki, NCL’s Director for Social Responsibility and Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, reminded teens and parents that it’s not too late to focus on safety when considering a summer job.

“More than half a million youth help harvest our nation’s crops each year. Farms may look bucolic and pretty, but they have proven too often to be dangerous workplaces, especially in fields where heavy machinery like tractors are used,” said Maki. “Summer provides numerous opportunities for young workers across the country to make some extra money, whether it’s in the fields, in a retail store, or making French fries in a fast food restaurant. It’s crucial for teens and their parents to understand the dangers of summer work, especially when it comes to the jobs that have made our list.”

Maki cited two 2008 examples of fatal incidents involving young agriculture workers, which helped put fieldwork and processing at the top of this year’s list: In May, Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old farmworker died in San Joaquin County, California of heat stroke after working nine hours in a vineyard. Jimenez was pregnant at the time. In January, Edilberto Cardenas, 17, was killed in a Groveland, Florida citrus grove. It was his first day on the job. Cardenas was emptying bags of oranges into a truck when then truck backed over him.

NCL’s Five Worst Teen Jobs of 2008

  1. Agriculture: Fieldwork and Processing
  1. Traveling Youth Crews
  1. Construction and Work in Heights
  1. Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATVs
  1. Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping, and Lawn Service

The Five Worst Jobs of 2008 list includes both jobs that are permitted for teens by law and those that are prohibited by child labor laws, underscoring the need for teens, parents, and employers to be aware of existing protections. For example, operating forklifts, driving farm equipment, working on roofs, and applying or handling pesticides on farms are currently outlawed. Furthermore, despite urging by advocates for Congress and the Department of Labor to prohibit the what are know as the “most dangerous forms of child labor,” some of the activities on the list remain legally permitted work for teens, including work at heights, poultry catching and processing, driving tractors and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), operating chain saws (prohibited for only use on wood) and working on traveling youth crews that sell magazines or other products. All are legal work for minors, despite compelling statistics about the heightened threat of occupational injuries and deaths to working youth.

NCL compiles the Five Worst Teen Jobs each year using government statistics and reports, results from the Child Labor Coalition’s annual survey of state labor departments, and news accounts of injuries and deaths.


About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.