Birth control and the Obama Administration – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

This has been a tumultuous week for the politics surrounding women and their reproductive choices. We support women’s right to reproductive health care as an overall good practice for women’s health. Providing women access to birth control should not be a political issue, though it seems to be. Contraception has proven health benefits both for women and their children. Controlling the frequency of pregnancies can prevent a range of complications that can endanger a woman’s health, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and placental problems, among others. Also, women who wait for a period of time after delivery to conceive again lower the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes, including low birth weight, pre-term birth, and small-for-size gestational age. Contraception means healthier mothers and families.

Ninety-eight percent of sexually active women in the United States, regardless of their religious beliefs, use contraception at some point in their lives. This includes Catholic women and women working in the Catholic institutions that are seeking an exemption from having to provide contraceptive services to employees. While we can respect that the Bishops and others who run these religious institutions have strong religious convictions, this shouldn’t be about the institution, it should be first and foremost focused on the health of the women they insure, who, by the way, pay a lot of out-of-pocket money for their own health care and deserve access to the same services everyone else receives. It seems the Obama Administration has arrived at a satisfactory compromise.

And since many women skip such preventive health care due to cost, it’s vital that we ensure that this contraceptive care be affordable. NCL supports women’s access to basic health care services, including access to birth control – and we support HHS’s determination that these services be available without a co-pay or deductible, regardless of where women work.

Just Label It! Americans have the right to know what’s in their food – National Consumers League

By Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow

Here at NCL we believe that consumers have a basic right to know what is in their food.  Knowing what’s in your food means you can make informed choices about what to eat and what to avoid, a right that is fundamental. Unfortunately, this still isn’t possible in some cases.

Enter genetically engineered (GE) foods. Some see GE foods as “frankenfoods,” a dangerous scientific development that can put our health at risk.  Others see GE foods as the only answer to feeding a growing world population.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue, most people agree about one thing; People have the right to decide whether or not they eat GE foods.

NCL agrees with the 93% of American consumers who say that they want genetically engineered foods to be labeled. The right to choose what you and your family put in your bodies is a basic one. Without labels, it’s impossible to avoid genetically engineered foods unless you eat only organic foods, which not every family wants or can afford to do. Labels would allow consumers to make informed choices about whether or not to feed their family a certain food.  Nearly 50 countries, including the European Union, Australia, Brazil, and China, already have law mandating the labeling of GE foods.

NCL has joined with more than 450 other organizations as part of the Just Label It campaign to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to mandate the labeling of GE foods. The campaign has issued a petition urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that all genetically engineered foods be clearly labeled. So far, more than 600,000 people have signed on to the petition.

If you believe that consumers have the right to both know what is in their food and choose what they consume, add your signature to the Just Label It petition and urge the FDA to mandate labeling of GE foods!


Prizes/Sweepstakes bump fake checks as top scam – National Consumers League

The data is in! NCL’s Fraud Center has released the Top 10 scams of 2011, and bogus prizes and sweepstakes have bumped fake check scams to take the #1 spot. Also on the rise, and a concern for advocates, is that scammers posing as loved ones and preying on victims’ emotions, like the Grandfather Scam we’ve reported on in recent months, are on the rise.Another significant finding is that scammers appear to have targeted their scams at particular age groups more than ever in 2011. For example, complaints involving bogus prizes, sweepstakes, and free gifts made up 26.98 percent of complaints overall. However, among consumers ages 56-65 and above 65, these types of complaints made up 40.96 percent and 60.12 percent of the total, respectively. Similarly, fake check scams made up 26.65 percent of complaints overall. Among consumers age 18-25, fake check scam complaints made up 45.74 percent of the total.

Top 10 scams of 2011:

  1. Prizes, sweepstakes and fake free gifts
  2. Fake check scams
  3. Internet scams for general merchandise
  4. Phishing and spoofing
  5. Advance fee loans and “credit arrangers”
  6. Scholarships and grants
  7. Friendship and sweetheart swindles
  8. Nigerian money offers (not prizes)
  9. Family or friend imposters
  10. Fraudulent Internet auctions

New to the Top Ten Scams list this year is the Family/Friend Imposter Scam, the 9th-most frequently reporter type of fraud. In response to a rash of complaints, NCL’s Fraud Center began tracking this fraud (also known as the “Grandparent Scam”) in 2011. In these scams, a con artist typically poses as a relative in distress or someone claiming to represent the relative (such as a lawyer or law enforcement agent). The scammer frantically describes an emergency situation in which they have found themselves (such as being arrested, in an auto accident, in need of a lawyer, etc.) and asks the victim to send money for bail, 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.

“Scam artists will stop at nothing to defraud consumers,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “The scary part about these scams is that they prey on our natural inclination to want to help a loved one who is in distress.”

According to the consumer group, the majority of money lost was sent via wire transfer, a popular payment method among scammers because of the difficulty to track – and particularly devastating to consumers because of the improbability of recovering lost funds. Consumers should be wary of any offer that requires wiring of money, said NCL.

The report, which is compiled from consumer complaints submitted to NCL’s Fraud Center, examined trends in Internet and telemarketing fraud in 2011.

“Fraudulent telemarketers and Web-based scammers are hardened criminals out to take their victims’ life savings,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The best way for consumers to fight back is to get educated and not be afraid to report such fraud to law enforcement. Scammers know all too well that their victims are often embarrassed and count on this to continue to perpetrate their crimes.”

For more information on NCL’s 2011 Top Ten Scams report, click here. Consumers who wish to report a fraud or potential fraud can do so via the online complaint form at NCL’s Web site.

Common sense child labor protections under attack – National Consumers League

A teenager’s first job is an important rite of passage for many, offering that first taste of adult responsibility; but young teenagers are not yet adults and need to be protected from the risks of dangerous work. Certain jobs and industries, especially farming and agriculture, pose unique safety concerns. Common sense dictates that young teens be protected from hazardous agricultural work, yet it’s this common sense reasoning that’s currently under attack.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently proposed the first update to the rules governing child labor in hazardous work in over 40 years, with the strong support of NCL and the Child Labor Coalition, a group of 28 organizations focused on child labor issues that NCL co-chairs. While there has been a great deal of coverage highlighting agribusiness and its opposition to the changes, under the guise that the new rules would somehow impair the family farm or “rural way of life,” what’s often lost in the conversation is that the rules would protect children from harm, injury, and death. The opposition to these necessary changes is especially startling given the facts:

  • More children die in agriculture than in any other industry.
  • According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), between 1995 and 2002, an estimated 907 youth died on American farms – that’s well over 100 preventable deaths of youth per year.
  • In 2011, 12 of the 16 children under the age of 16 who suffered fatal occupational injuries worked in crop production, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • When you include older children, more than half of all workers under age 18 who died from work-related injuries worked in crop production.

Agriculture is consistently ranked as one of the three most dangerous industries, along with construction and mining, yet children are still allowed to work in agriculture under extremely dangerous conditions, such as handling poisonous pesticides, managing animals that can way upwards of 3,000 pounds, and operating heavy machinery. Just this summer, Oklahoma teens Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon, both 17, each lost a leg in a grain auger accident. Agriculture uses far more machines and dangerous chemicals since the last update to rules for child workers more than 40 years ago.

DOL’s proposed rules will also preserve the “parental exemption,” allowing any child to do any job at any age on their parents’ farm. DOL also recently announced that they will redefine the parental exemption to be more inclusive of other types of family members.  Contrary to assertions by some in the farming industry:

  • Children as young as 12 will continue to be able to engage in non-hazardous farm work – just not the jobs that have proven to be especially hazardous—and will prevent such avoidable tragedies as children drowning in grain silos, being crushed by tractors or being maimed by heavy machinery.
  • Educational programs, such as FFA and 4-H, will continue to teach children about agriculture under safe conditions, including raising farm animals.

We can prevent needless tragedies from happening to children by implementing the proposed updates to the child occupational safety rules without any further delay. The rules won’t impair the rural way of life; they simply put the safety and well being of children above corporate profit. Every day we wait puts at risk the well being of these child workers and could cost them their lives.

NCL announces new digital literacy partnership – National Consumers League

February 7, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC — In recognition of Safer Internet Day, NCL Is pleased to announce the launch of ThinkB4U, a new digital literacy partnership with Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, and Google.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a new digital literacy awareness Web site — — which launched today. The site seeks to help consumers develop the skills necessary to navigate the Internet safely in a fun and interactive way. With content tailored to students, parents and educators and presented in a “choose-your-adventure” style, ThinkB4U follows a family thought its daily use of media and allows users to see the consequences of good and bad decisions online.

“We are extremely pleased to be a part of the Thinkb4U partnership,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “Raising consumer awareness about scams online and giving them the tools the protect themselves is a top priority of the League.”

“ThinkB4U is a great complement to our financial and digital literacy programs,” said Lisa Hertzberg, Program Director for NCL’s LifeSmarts program, which develops consumer and marketplace knowledge and skills of teenagers through a national educational competition. “Making learning about digital literacy fun is a goal we have long pursued, and ThinkB4U achieves that.”

As part of its non-profit mission to fight fraud online and help consumers be safe on the Internet, NCL provided expert advice and fraud education content to the new consumer education portal. For more information on the ThinkB4U partnership, click here or visit


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 joins ThinkB4U digital literacy partnership – National Consumers League

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

In recognition of Safer Internet Day, NCL is proud to announce a new consumer education partnership with Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, and Google.  The centerpiece of the campaign is a new digital literacy education Web site – – that seeks to educate students, parents and educators about the importance of making the right decisions online. presents consumers with digital literacy information in a fun and interactive “choose your own adventure” style the follows the Parkers, a fictional family, as they navigate the complex always-connected digital world.  As someone who grew up loving the “choose your own adventure” books (especially the Time Machine series), I was thrilled to work with some great partner organizations on this project. covers a range of digital literacy topics areas.  Through original interactive videos, the members of the Parker family deal with the need to disconnect from the Internet, spotting and avoiding Internet scams, smart sharing online, and cyberbullying, among others issues.  The decisions they have to make to stay safe and responsible online are likely to be familiar to anyone who spends time online.

NCL, through our Fraud Center and LifeSmarts programs contributed expert advice and consumer education content to the site.  In addition to the videos, this content is made available through easy-to-remember tips that anyone viewing the site can access.

If you haven’t yet done so, surf on over to and check out this great new resources!

Love your ticker during American Heart Month – and year-round! – National Consumers League

Did you know that more than one in four deaths in the United States can be attributed to heart disease? There’s never been a better time for consumers to take a little time to recognize the leading cause of death in America and learn about protecting their own heart.

NCL’s Script Your Future campaign, which is raising awareness among patients – especially those with chronic conditions like heart disease – about the importance of following doctor’s orders and sticking to treatment regimes, has partnered with Million HeartsTM to spread the word about heart health this month.

The Million Hearts initiative was set up in 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in recognition of the fact that heart disease is a silent killer in our communities. Its goal is to raise awareness of these facts and work to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. in five years. The Million Hearts initiative is focusing on promoting the interventions to reduce heart attacks and strokes – the ABCS:

  • Aspirin to prevent heart attacks for people who need it
  • Blood pressure control
  • Cholesterol management
  • Quitting Smoking

Heart Disease 4-1-1

Heart disease is an umbrella term used to describe several different types of heart conditions, including the more common coronary artery disease (which can cause a heart attack), angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Risk Factors

Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease. Nine out of ten heart disease patients have at least one risk factor, which can include both the uncontrollable and controllable.

Uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • family history (including race)
  • age
  • gender

Controllable risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity
  • diabetes


We are all familiar with the classic, as-seen-on-tv sign of a heart attack. Unfortunately, most heart attacks start slowly, with only mild pain or discomfort, which can lead to a devastating delay in treatment.

According to the American Heart Association, symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.


We have the power to reduce our risk for heart disease. We can take several steps to help keep the plaque from building up in our arteries and to keep our hearts healthy and strong.

According to the American Heart Association, our heart is healthiest when we meet the following seven health measures:

  1. never smoked or quit smoking more than one year ago
  2. healthy body mass index (BMI)
  3. regular physical activity – 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly
  4. blood pressure below 120/80
  5. fasting blood glucose less than 100 milligrams/deciliter, a fasting measure of blood sugar level
  6. total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter
  7. eating a healthy diet

The American Heart Association has developed My Life Check as a tool for consumers to use to improve their behavior and a healthier heart.

Screening and early detection

If you have any of the risk factors for heart disease, talk with your doctor often about your health and any symptoms you may have experienced or continue to experience. You and your doctor might decide it is appropriate for a chest x-ray, stress test, and/or a coronary angiography.


While there is no cure for heart disease, it can be treated. Some forms of treatment include:

  • lifestyle changes
  • medications
  • angioplasty
  • coronary bypass

Take the pledge

If you don’t take your medicine as directed, you’re putting your heart — and your health and future — at risk. If you have been diagnosed as having heart health issues, taking your medicine as directed is an important step toward a longer, healthier life. NCL and its partners have launched the Script Your Future campaign to educate consumers about the importance of following their healthcare treatment regimes and improving their health — and futures — by following doctors’ orders.

At, cardiovascular patients have a special section specific to their needs. You can create your own personal pledge, print it, and use it to remind yourself of all the reasons you have to stay healthy and to take your medicine. You can also get a wallet card to keep track of your prescriptions, as well as other tools — like text reminders — that help improve medication adherence.

Women and heart disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Women are more than five times as likely to die from heart disease as from breast cancer. In fact, nearly twice as many American women die from heart disease and stroke than from all types of cancer combined.

For many years, women were unaware that heart disease could affect them in the same way it could men. While more and more women now know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, too many still feel it can’t or won’t happen to them. Many more admit that living a healthy lifestyle – getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, eating healthy, etc. – can be a real challenge.

Though the risk for heart disease increases with age, women of all ages should be aware of and work to prevent heart disease.


The risk of heart disease is no longer just a concern for adults. With childhood obesity on the rise – 1 in 3 children and teens are overweight or obese, it is believed that for the first time in American history, the current generation of young people may live shorter lives than their parents. Adults need to lead by example and teach children how to develop healthy habits for life.

Some initiatives underway to help improve the health of America’s children and instill the skills for living a healthy life include:

  • We Can! – We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition) is a national movement designed to give parents, caregivers, and entire communities a way to help children 8 to 13 years old stay at a healthy weight.
  • Let’s Move! – Let’s Move! has an ambitious but important goal: to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. Let’s Move will give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.
  • Play60 – The NFL PLAY 60 campaign is designed to tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active through in-school, afterschool and team-based programs, online child-targeted outreach on, and many partnerships with like-minded organizations.

Learn more about heart health

Blood thinners. Used to prevent clots from forming in the blood, blood thinners are often prescribed for patients who have a history of stroke, mechanical heart valves, or a heart condition called atrial fibrillation.

Cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol can significantly increase the risk of coronary events, such as heart attack and stroke.

Super Bowl to be held in America’s newest right-to-work (for less) state: Indiana – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Ironically the state of Indiana, whose legislators just adopted a so called “right-to-work” (should be called “right to work for less”)  law, is hosting the Super Bowl tomorrow. It’s ironic because, not so long ago, NFL owners were threatening to lock out the football players. Owners wanted more games from the players and less sharing of the profits. Months ago, I attended a press conference hosted by the NFL players union, which argued forcefully on behalf of the players and was ultimately able to win rights and protections for players. The union made it possible not only for players to preserve rights but also made it possible for management and labor to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement and keep the season moving forward. So the season ensued, and now millions of football fans will be able to watch Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

What’s a right-to-work law anyway? Well, unions are legally required to equally represent all employees covered by a contract, whether or not they pay a cent in union fees.  That representation includes contract negotiations and arbitration over grievances (in fact, unions sometimes go out of their way to pursue cases on behalf of critics, lest they file charges against the union).  Barring unions from requiring employees to pay fees for these costs is an effective way to defund them and that is what right-to-work laws are intended to do.

I personally would have liked to see the NFL players union refuse to play in Indiana after it enacted this odious, anti-worker law. It could have been a great teaching moment, i.e., what is a right-to-work law and why is it anti-worker? In fairness, the National Football League Players’ Association did express strong objections to the law, but refusing to play would have really made Americans stand up and notice.

Right-to-work laws now exist in 23 states. According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws don’t do what proponents say they do: help create jobs and raise wages. Instead, right-to-work laws reduce wages by an average of $1,500 a year, lower the likelihood that union and non-union employees receive health care coverage or pensions through their jobs, and have no positive impact on job growth in states that adopt them.

Indiana’s law new law is a sad development and aggressively anti-union. If only the millions of football fans knew what an important role the NFL players union played in negotiating a settlement on behalf of the workers – the football teams in this case – and got the players back on the field so we can all enjoy the Super Bowl Sunday night.

Serve up union-made goodies for the big game – National Consumers League

With the Super Bowl nearly upon us, a lot of us are thinking about all fun food we get to indulge in at our Super Bowl parties. Everything from chips and dip to hotdogs and beer, Americans have a good time while watch the big game.

This year, with a near constant battle against unions, we look to include union-made products at our party. That list is a bit longer than one would suspect, especially with the pervasive assumption that nothing is made in the USA anymore. Consider serving some of these union-made items at your Super Bowl party.

Snacks Hot dogs Beers
Doritos Oscar Meyer Anheuser Busch
Lays Nathan’s Budweiser
Crunch & Munch Hebrew National Busch
Corn Nuts Ball Park Icehouse
Oreos Hormel Labatt’s Blue
Ghirardelli Chocolate   Leinenkugel’s
Kraft snack products Sausages & Brats Michelob
Wise snacks Johnsonville Miller
Snyder of Berlin Armour Molson
Planter’s Nuts Eckrich Pabst
Condiments Poultry Soft drinks
Heinz ketchup Butterball Coke products
French’s mustard Healthy Choice  
Gulden’s mustard Hormel Juices
Land O’Lakes butter Tyson Welch’s
Open Pitt BBQ sauces   Minute Maid
Pace salsa & picante sauce    
Vlasic pickles    

When the big game is over or at halftime, why not take a few minutes and work off some of those calories and play catch with the same company’s game balls used in the Super Bowl – Wilson union-made footballs.

NCL disappointed in FTC conclusion of investigation of misleading marketing claims for “vitaminwater” – National Consumers League

February 3, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

WASHINGTON— The National Consumers League, the nation’s oldest consumer group released a letter today from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that confirms that the agency investigated misleading advertising for “vitaminwater,” owned by Energy Brands, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, in response to a formal complaint filed by NCL last year.

The Washington, DC-based NCL, a nonprofit watchdog, urged the FTC to halt deceptive TV and print ads suggesting that vitaminwater can replace flu shots and prevent illness.  The FTC has since informed NCL that it investigated the claims, assembling a file containing several hundred pages of materials.

In a letter dated January 30, 2012 the FTC informed NCL that it was closing its investigation on the basis that the company:

“had permanently discontinued the advertising containing claims that drinking Vitaminwater could reduce the likelihood of illness before being contacted by the FTC and that Energy Brands is revising its advertising containing claims related to eyesight.  In addition, Energy Brands has assured the staff that it will carefully review its claims and substantiation to ensure its future advertising complies with the FTC Act.”

“Vitaminwater’s claims were not only untrue, they constituted a public health menace,” stated Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “We had hoped the FTC would have formally prohibited the claims, and required corrective advertising. However, the FTC’s letter to the makers of vitaminwater should signal the food industry that the agency has no tolerance for grossly misleading health claims in food ads.”

The complaint by NCL urged the FTC to put an end to:

• A poster ad for “vitaminwater” that stated: “flu shots are so last year” and pictured three varieties of vitaminwater under the banners “more vitamin c, more immunity . . .”

• A TV ad for “vitaminwater power-c” that depicted 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 stated “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.”

According to NCL, the statements were also 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.


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