Consumer group urges FTC to halt ‘dangerously misleading’ marketing claims by vitaminwater – National Consumers League

February 2, 2011

Contact: (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC–The nation’s oldest consumer group today, in a formal complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission, called advertising and labeling claims made by vitaminwater “dangerously misleading” and urged the commission to halt deceptive statements being made by the manufacturer. The National Consumers League, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit watchdog, pointed to print and television advertisements that suggest vitaminwater can replace flu shots and prevent illness and prey on consumers’ health concerns to sell a high-calorie product.

“These advertising claims are not only untrue; they constitute a public health menace. Stopping these vitaminwater claims, which contradict information by the Centers for Disease Control and other public health authorities, should be a top FTC priority,” stated Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL.

Vitaminwater is a beverage manufactured by Glaceau, a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company. The complaint by NCL urges the FTC to put an end to:

  • A TV ad for “vitaminwater power-c” (read text of spot here) that depicts a woman who has so many unused sick days at work that she can take them to stay home and watch movies with her boyfriend. The ad states “One of my secrets? vitaminwater power-c. It’s got vitamin C and zinc to help support a healthy immune system. So I can stay home with my boyfriend – who’s also playing hooky.”

The NCL complaint also urged the FTC to halt deceptive label statements for vitaminwater that describe the product as:

  • a “nutrient enhanced water beverage” and that claim

According to NCL, the statements are deceptive because the products on which they appear are not simply made from vitamins and water, but are made with crystalline fructose or other forms of sugar, and contain 125 calories per bottle.

“Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; the last thing people need is sugar water with vitamins you could get from eating a healthy diet, or by taking a vitamin pill, Greenberg stated.

The FTC should act now, during cold and flu season, to stop vitaminwater’s outlandish claims,” she said.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Nothing to sneeze at: 111th Congress’ four major consumer reform accomplishments – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Now that the dust has settled on the 111th Congress and the new 112th Congress has been sworn in and is hard at work, it’s a good time to reflect on what the 111th accomplished for consumers. Short answer: a lot. Four major pieces of reform legislation passed the last Congress and were signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Health care reform

The first is the long overdue and hard fought health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, which the Republican-led  House of Representatives is now trying to repeal. It’s unconscionable that American citizens – alone among the industrialized nations – have been without health care coverage. Those who get sick are forced to face debilitating debt and bankruptcy in order to pay their medical bills. The reforms under the ACA will begin to bring to an end some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry. The reforms will give Americans new rights and benefits, including helping more children get health coverage, ending lifetime and most annual limits on care, and giving patients access to recommended preventive services without cost-sharing. The National Consumers League will be among the many diverse groups in Washington and around the country fighting to preserve the reforms created by this landmark legislation.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The next big legislative feat is the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of consumer hero and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren.

The CFPB will be an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve System that will help empower consumers with the information they need to make the best financial decisions for them and their families. Created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), the CFPB will work to promote fairness and transparency for mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer financial products and services. As Warren has said all along, we need to protect consumers from the “tricks and traps” in consumer contracts – hidden fees and charges – that have driven so many consumers deeper into debt and  forced them into foreclosure. The CFPB’s mission is to “set and enforce clear, consistent rules that allow banks and other consumer financial services providers to compete on a level playing field and that let consumers see clearly the costs and features of products and services.” The CFPB is again, a long–overdue consumer protection agency that, unlike other federal financial regulatory bodies like the Federal Reserve or the Office of Thrift Supervision, will have consumer protection at the core of its mission.

Student loan reform

Next is student loan reform legislation, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. President Obama called it “one of the most significant investments in higher education since the G.I. Bill.” The law will eliminate private banks as “middlemen” in the loan process and save the US government about $68 billion dollars over 11 years. For students, the loans will look largely the same – same terms, same fees, same interest rates. But the savings over time will be passed along to students because the middlemen fees will be cut out, with the government loaning the money directly.

I continue to wonder how we can saddle today’s students with so much debt – sometimes over $200,000 – coming out of college and/or graduate school. It’s unconscionable to impose this crippling burden on a young person just beginning a career – this legislation is a start but we need many more ideas for lifting this burden from our college and graduate school grads.

Food safety reform

Finally, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded oversight over approximately 80 percent the food supply–not including USDA-regulated meat and poultry—passed after an incredible series of twists and turns in Congress, described by Courtney Brein, our Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow at NCL, in a blog a few weeks back. As Dean of the House, Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, who worked on this food safety law for many years, put it: “This legislation has seen more procedural fits and starts than any other.” NCL cheered the enactment of this new law. There have been serious outbreaks of foodborne illness in the past few years – peanuts, spinach, and eggs, to name just a few – it has become clear that first major update of food safety laws in over seven decades was sorely needed. The bill gives the FDA mandatory recall authority, requires that food facilities implement food safety plans, and stipulates that foreign facilities importing food to the U.S. must meet the same standards.

Four major reform bills in two years that will have direct benefits for consumers. That’s an incredible accomplishment and one that is not being adequately recognized. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Harry Reid, and President Obama have much to be proud of and it’s time they got proper acknowledgment.

Feds rolling out tax refund-loaded cards for the unbanked – National Consumers League

The federal agencies that provide monetary benefits to citizens have figured out that they can save a lot of money if they load those benefits onto a prepaid card instead of issuing a check. (A check costs the government $1.00 whereas benefits loaded onto a card costs only 10 cents.) Great idea for the U.S. Treasury, which recently announced that it would be rolling out a tax refund-loaded card to interested, unbanked parties, but does it work for beneficiaries? Not if the fees citizens have to pay to use the cards eat away at their benefits. (Backlash against these fees was what pushed the Kardashian Kard off the market quickly after it was announced last December.)

Fees might include a charge for the card itself and a monthly maintenance fee, fees for loading more money on the card, or getting balances or paying for out-of-network ATM withdrawals, and possibly customer service calls.

To the rescue comes Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who has introduced legislation that rightly calls for a limit on the fees companies can charge for using these cards. Senators Durbin (D-Il) and Merkley (D-OR)  have joined Menendez call for capping fees. According to Senator Menendez, “The industry can still make money … but it can do so in a way that’s fairer to the consumer.” The Obama Administration’s goal in introducing these prepaid cards was principally to focus on the 25 percent of Americans who don’t use banks – that’s millions of Americans who don’t bank. And estimates are that 22 percent of Black households don’t use banks.

This has prompted radio talk show host Tom Joyner to issue his own branded card for federal benefits. The problem is, Joyner’s card under the name “Reach Media” has fees that are sky-high: an activation fee of $9.95 and monthly charges of $8.95, according to the Post. So let the beneficiary beware until the Menendez bill passes. Those who receive federal benefits should be protected from outrageous fees – whether they come from a Tom Joyner or some other company. NCL, for one, will do all we can to ensure that the benefits go where they should, to beneficiaries and not card issuers looking to make a fast buck.

FCC on right track on ‘bill shock,’ but stronger protections needed – National Consumers League

By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud

NCL recently joined with several other major consumer and public interest groups in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to strengthen its proposed “bill shock” rules to ensure that consumers don’t get hit with bloated wireless bills.

Why do we need rules to protect consumers from “bill shock?” In a nutshell, it’s because the wireless marketplace has changed dramatically and the status quo is not sufficient to keep consumers from getting hit by high fees that they did not anticipate. Numerous studies from the FCC itself and independent groups attest to this:

  • A May 2010 survey by the FCC found that 30 million American consumers have experienced “bill shock” on their wireless bills.
  • A November 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that more than one in three consumers (34 percent) received unexpected charges on their wireless bills.
  • A September 2010 survey of Consumer Reports readers found that more than one in five respondents had received unexpectedly high wireless bills. Half of those respondents reported charges of more than $50 and one in five more than $100.

The FCC’s proposed “bill shock” rules would protect consumers by requiring:

  • Over-the-limit alerts when a consumer is approaching monthly limits for voice, text or data;
  • Out -of-the-country alerts when a consumer’s use of their cell phone on an international roaming network (which is generally very expensive);
  • Clear disclosure of usage management tools that consumers can use to review usage balances and potentially cap usage.

NCL supports the FCC’s proposed rules, but we are urging the commission to go further by instituting a “circuit-breaker” rule that would require carriers to suspend service if a consumer chooses not to accept penalty fees (or fails to respond to alert notifications). We are also lobbying for rules that would mandate that alert notifications be made available in alternate languages for non-English speaking users.

Last year, NCL supported legislation proposed by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall which would have mandated similar rules as what the FCC is considering. Senator Udall’s “Cell Phone Bill Shock Act” would have also required alerts to be provided at the 80 percent and 100 percent thresholds for voice, text, and data allotments, similar what NCL is proposing in our comments at the FCC.

The next step on this issue will be the February 8 deadline for reply comments at the FCC. Following this deadline, the FCC will review the record generated by the proceeding in preparation for a final vote on the rules. Consumers who have experienced “bill shock” and have been unable to rectify the situation directly with their carrier can file a complaint with the FCC online or via a toll-free hotline at 1-888-CALL-FCC. For more information on the “bill shock”, including tips on how to avoid high cell phone bills, visit the FCC’s “bill shock” education page here.

Quit! – National Consumers League

By Jacob Markey, LifeSmarts Summer 2010 intern

LifeSmarts participants are coming back from winter vacation to find that this month’s topic area is Health and Safety. A critical health issue, for both adults and teens, is the danger of smoking cigarettes.

There are indications that anti-smoking education is working to some extent. The percentage of Americans who smoke is much lower than it was in the past, and smoking bans in restaurants and bars are now in effect in at least 22 states. Yet, even though the surgeon general linked smoking with cancer back in 1964, millions of Americans continue to ignore the perils and smoke. While the effects of smoking are well-known, 21 percent of Americans still smoke and around 19 percent of teens still do. The prevalence of smokers puts millions of other Americans at the risk of secondhand smoke. The CDC lists statistics that show an estimated 440,000 people die each year from the effects of cigarette smoking. Smoking substantially increases your risk of other diseases like lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

Teens should be especially wary of smoking. In addition to serious health concerns, smoking can hurt your performance in the classroom and while playing sports, potentially injuring your ability to achieve great things in the future. The best way to avoid cigarettes is to make a commitment to never start.

Health risks aside, quitting will also save you a ton of money. You could easily save $5-$10 per day. At $10/day, you would save over $3,000 a year! In these tough economic times, I’m sure we could all use $3,000 for something better than consuming a product that can kill us.

Many smokers realize the negative impact smoking has on their lives and resolve to quit. Just by quitting, you can improve your health dramatically. For example, within one year of quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s. Unfortunately, quiting is extremely difficult to do. Even President Obama has had difficulty quitting smoking. Here are five good tips from the CDC:

  1. Don’t smoke any number or any kind of cigarette.
  2. Write down why you want to quit.
  3. Know that it will take effort to quit smoking.
  4. Half of all adult smokers have quit, so you can too.
  5. Get help if you need it. There are many others resources available online for help quitting, including

The site offers tools like a step-by-step guide to help you quit and even offers a place where you can contact an expert about quitting. Do yourself and/or your friend a favor and get them to quit. It will save a ton of money and do wonders for your health. If you are the parent of a teen, make sure they never start.

Romance Scams Are the Hot Topic at iDate2011 in Miami – National Consumers League

By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud

The explosive growth of online dating sites in recent years has certainly been a boon to many singles turned off by the traditional bar scene. In fact, according to research commissioned by, 1 in 5 single people have dated someone they met on an online dating site.

What goes less reported is that many consumers go to these sites looking for love and only to find scam artists waiting to separate them from their money.  In a typical romance scam, the con artist reaches out to a prospective victim via an online dating site.  If the victim responds to these initial outreaches, the relationship generally “blossoms” with amazing speed. The scammer will very quickly begin professing love for the victim in an effort to create trust. Ultimately, the scammer will begin to ask for money to cover a range of fictional expenses such as hospital bills, travel expenses, lawyer’s fees or other reasons. The demands for money tend to escalate over time.  Victims of these scams reported an average loss of more than $7,000 to NCL in 2010, with some of the largest losses reaching into six figures.

The online dating industry is aware of the problem and is taking steps to address the issue. It was with this goal in mind, that NCL was invited to participate in a panel discussion about romance scams at the iDate2011 conference in Miami. The event, which brings together many of the top companies in the online dating industry, was an opportunity for us to share our knowledge about these scams from our Fraud Center.

Joining me on the panel was Gene Fishel, the Senior Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Computer Crimes Division with the Virginia Attorney General’s office and Ron Plesco, CEO of the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance.

My presentation discussed the latest trends in romance scams, drawn from our 2010 complaint data.  Our recommendations included urging the online dating industry to improve information sharing to spot suspicious users more quickly, reaching out to victims of romance scams and to liaison more closely with law enforcement to help track down these con artists.

Gene Fishel’s presentation focused on the role that the Virginia Attorney General’s office has played in tracking down these scammers and the benefit of private sector cooperation with the Attorney General’s office. What was especially chilling about Gene’s presentation was his description of criminal registered as sex offenders using online dating sites to meet victims, generally despite court orders to stay off social networking sites or the Internet altogether.

Ron Plesco gave a fascinating presentation about the incredibly sophisticated ways that cyber-criminals, particularly members of organized crime syndicates, are targeting online dating sites. These groups, according to Plesco, harvest user data and sell it on international black markets in stolen data. This data can then be used to commit financial fraud or worse.

In the world of online dating, consumers should always be on their guard.  In particular, be wary of the following “red flags”:

  • Requests to communicate via e-mail or instant messaging (instead of via online dating sites’ messaging services) unusually soon after first making contact
  • Immediate or instant feelings of love
  • The “match” claiming to be from the U.S. but currently overseas
  • Plans to visit but travel is halted by an unexpected or tragic event
  • Requests to wire money to the “match”
  • Refusal of the person you meet to communicate by phone
  • Persistent errors in spelling of common words or grammar
  • Requests to ship merchandise to a third party

For more information on online dating scams, check out the FTC’s Online Dating Scams tip sheet. Consumers who feel they’ve been approached by or are victims of a romance scam should report it via NCL’s online fraud complaint form at

Wal-Mart and Michelle Obama team up for a healthier America – National Consumers League

What do First Lady Michelle Obama and the world’s largest retailer have in common? Before yesterday, you would be hard-pressed for an answer, but Wal-Mart and Obama found common cause in the goal of a healthier America on Thursday when they unveiled the retailer’s plans to make the foods it sells healthier and more affordable.

The plan calls for reducing the levels of sugar and sodium, and eliminating all trans fat in packaged food. It also calls for lowering prices on produce and developing a logo to help customers more easily identify healthy food items. Obama explained that the retailer’s commitment to healthier food is a “huge victory for folks all across the country” and is a great sign that her “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity is gaining traction among business.

Similar efforts have been made by smaller food companies and many prominent government officials have voiced strong commitments to nutrition issues; NYC Mayor Bloomberg recently announced a plan to reduce sodium in US foods by 25%. However, as the world’s largest retailer, with upwards of 60,000 suppliers, any decision Wal-Mart makes carries considerable weight and has the potential to benefit the most Americans.

While yesterday’s announcement comes with the White House seal of approval, and could well be an important step toward increased access to healthier food, the retailer’s harsh treatment of its workers still casts a pall on the good this does. Wal-Mart has long been known for fighting unions, paying low wages, and not offering its workers decent benefits. Even the Obamas themselves have criticized Wal-Mart in the past. Four years ago, on the campaign trail, President Obama stated that he wouldn’t shop at Wal-Mart because of its anti-union polices and unfair treatment of workers; days later, Michelle Obama resigned from the board of Tree Foods, a Wal-Mart vendor.

So while it’s good to hear that Wal-Mart is going to offer healthier food to its customers, it doesn’t change the fact that the mega-retailer still needs to do far better by its workforce.

Scammers going after senior victims, says NCL’s Fraud Center – National Consumers League

January 19, 2011

Contact: (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) has released its annual report on the top scams reported to its national Fraud Center, and the nonprofit consumer group noted a growing trend in 2010 indicating that older consumers have been targeted hard by con artists and are disproportionately falling victim to sweepstakes scams.

The report, which is compiled from consumer complaints submitted to NCL’s Fraud Center, examined trends in Internet and telemarketing fraud in 2010.

“Fraudulent telemarketers and Web-based scammers aren’t just pushy salespeople trying to make a living – they are hardened criminals out to take their victims’ life savings,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Con artists know that older consumers may be particularly vulnerable to falling for a bogus pitch, using scare tactics, posing as legitimate outfits, or making the offer sound so sweet that it’s difficult for consumers to resist.”

Indeed, just last month, NCL’s Fraud Center alerted consumers of scam artists using variations on the so-called “Grandparent Scam,” in response to a number of consumer complaints that the Fraud Center received regarding attempted and successful frauds by unscrupulous scammers.

In a typical Grandparent Scam, a con artist calls or emails the victim posing as a relative in distress or as someone claiming to represent the relative (such as a lawyer or law enforcement agent). The scammer may frantically tell the victim a variation of “Grandma, it’s me,” followed by a description of the problem in which they have found themselves (arrested, in an auto accident, in need of a lawyer, etc.). The victim is then instructed to wire money to the scam artist with the claim that the funds will be used for bail money, lawyer’s fees, hospital bills, or other expenses. The victim is urged not to tell anyone, such as the parent of the “grandchild” because they do not want them to find out about the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into. Although Grandparent Scams have not yet made an appearance in the Top Ten list of scams, the fact that fraudsters are targeting older consumers is consistent with other trends the Fraud Center has noticed recently. And many scams rely on money being wired. Consumers should be wary of any offer that requires wiring of money, instead of using a credit card, which protects consumers in the event of a scam.

“Scam artists will stop at nothing to defraud consumers, many of whom are elderly and living on fixed incomes,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud.

Fake Check scams remain most-reported

Fake check scams—in which fraudsters lure their victims with phony mystery shopper jobs or sweepstake “winnings,” and ask their victims to cash realistic-looking checks and wire a portion of the proceeds back to the scammer before the check bounces—continued to be the most frequently-reported scam to NCL’s Fraud Center, making up 29 percent of all complaints (37 percent of all Internet fraud complaints and 26 percent of telemarketing complaints).

“Fake check scams have been going strong since we first started hearing about them years ago. There are so many variations of the fake check scam, it’s often hard to keep track. But whatever the pitch, they all have one thing in common: there is no legitimate reason for someone to give you money and then ask you  to wire money back,” said Breyault. “If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashiers check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or a bank that has a branch in your area.”

For more information on NCL’s 2010 Top Ten Scams report, click here.


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

NCL to host first ever LifeSmarts Summit in Torrance, CA January 24-26 – National Consumers League

January 20, 2011

Contact: (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League has announced it will host the first-ever LifeSmarts Summit in Torrance, California later this month, convening experts in the arena of education, family and consumer sciences, and corporate consumer communications to assess and evaluate the 17-year-old program’s curriculum and plan for expansion efforts. The nation’s oldest consumer group, which runs the national teen education competition, hopes the three-day summit, hosted by Toyota Financial Services, a long-time LifeSmarts supporter, will result in a strengthened curricular foundation and a plan for implementing expanded outreach efforts. The first ever LifeSmarts Summit has been made possible from a cy pres grant awarded to NCL.

“In light of how dramatically the marketplace has changed in recent years, having become more global, more confusing, and lined with more traps for consumers than ever before, now is the time to roll up our sleeves to assess and redefine the curriculum educators are using to prepare the next generation of consumers,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “American youth often graduate from high school, enter the workforce, rent apartments, lease cars, and apply for credit cards as illiterate consumers. There’s never been a stronger need for current, quality consumer curriculum, and we are delighted to convene a stellar group of experts to ensure that modern consumer education meets these challenges.”

Media Advisory

What: LifeSmarts Summit

Saturday, January 22: LifeSmarts program staff and state coordinators will train 30 educators, mentors, and community leaders to introduce them to LifeSmarts, focusing on high schools in East Los Angeles.

Sunday, January 23: 65 teenagers from East LA high schools, including members of the East LA Boys & Girls Club, will be brought in to be trained as future LifeSmarts participant-leaders.

Monday, January 24-Wednesday, January 26: Consumer literacy experts convene to validate consumer content, concepts, and develop educational activities to infuse consumer topics into the classroom and group settings.

When: January 22-26, 2010

Where: Toyota Financial Services

Saturday and Sunday: TFS South Campus

19001 South Western Avenue, Torrance, CA  90501

Monday: Toyota Plaza, 1411 West 190th Street, Gardena, CA  90248

Who: Participants include:

Curriculum and consumer education experts including past and current leaders from the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) and FCCLA; university professors in consumer sciences; nonprofit consumer advocates; representatives from the Federal Reserve; business executives from Toyota Financial Services, Visa, American Express, and Western Union, and others

Those interested in attending should contact NCL’s LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg, (651) 699-3650,


About LifeSmarts and the National Consumers League

LifeSmarts, the Ultimate Consumer Challenge, is a 17-year-old consumer education program of the National Consumers League. The competition covers five topic areas in consumer sciences: personal finance, health and safety, technology, the environment, and consumer rights and responsibilities. Teens form teams, coached by volunteer educators and other adults, and compete online for a chance to participate in state and national championships. The program is coordinated at the state level by volunteers in more than 30 states, including Better Business Bureaus, consumer protection offices, banks, and others. Each year, participants answer more than 3.5 million consumer related quiz questions online, and more than 125,000 students participate in LifeSmarts curriculum in classrooms across the United States.

For more information, visit:,  email , or call the National Consumers League’s communications department at 202-835-3323.

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Surgeon General urges support for breastfeeding moms in ‘call to action’ – National Consumers League

Surgen General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking to a packed auditorium at GW University in Washington, DC.

Earlier today, Surgeon, General Regina M. Benjamin – a 2010 NCL Trumpeter Awardee – issued a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding,” The SG’s report outlines steps communities, clinicians, and employers can take to improve breastfeeding rates across the country. Dr. Benjamin spoke to a packed George Washington University auditorium.

The health benefits of breastfeeding, for both babies and mothers, are well documented. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, breastfed infants have a lower risk of contracting ear infections, stomach viruses, diabetes, and leukemia, and mothers who breastfeed enjoy lower risks of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and postpartum depression. They can also lose much of the weight gained during pregnancy because nursing burns up to 900 calories a day. And it’s free! Buying formula can cost $1,200-1,500 the first year alone.

Yet according to the Center for Disease Control, while 75 percent of American babies start out breastfeeding, only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of 6 months—rates Benjamin considers low compared to other countries. The SG noted that breastfeeding is significantly lower among African-American, with only 8 percent of infants exclusively breastfed at 6 months.

Some of the steps outlined in the call to action include:

Speakers at the Call to Action for breastfeeding moms.
  • Launch or establish campaigns for breastfeeding education that target mothers, as well as fathers and grandparents
  • Provide education and training in breastfeeding for all health professionals who care for women and children
  • Ensure access to services provided by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants
  • Work toward establishing paid maternity leave for all employed mothers
  • Ensure that maternity care practices throughout the U.S. are fully supportive of breastfeeding

NCL has been advocating for measures to improve the health of women and children since its founding in 1899. We’ve expressed concern that the IRS has denied nursing mothers the ability to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies.

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg was in attendance and asked Dr. Benjamin how the surgeon general’s office can work with the IRS to get breast pumps listed as medical devices. Benjamin pledged to work with the federal steering committee, which includes representatives from the FDA, FDC, and USDA, to ensure all branches of government understand the importance of breastfeeding for the health of America’s mothers and children.