A step in the right direction with new nutrition facts labels – National Consumers League


You may have heard about the Food and Drug Administration’s recently released proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts label. The results were resoundingly positive, with only a couple points of contention. Nutrition Facts labels first came about thanks to the passage of a 1990 law requiring them. Since, they have only been significantly updated once, to include trans fat in the list of required nutrients. Needless to say, they were due for an update.

One of the most notable changes is the emphasis on calories.  The increased font size and bolding of the calories amount play an important role in consumer decision making and contribute to addressing the obesity epidemic in America.  FDA also proposed to add a line to the required nutrients for “added sugars”.  Added sugars are a good means of determining which food options are healthiest.  While added sugars do not affect the body any differently than those that occur naturally, they indicate that a food is likely more processed and most likely contains unnecessarily large amounts of sweetener.

The FDA would also like to see that all fiber listed on the Nutrition Facts label exclude purified processed fibers like maltodextrin and inulin.  Processed fibers are not as beneficial as those that are unprocessed and frequently found in whole foods.  A few other high points to the proposed changes are removing the “calories from fat” section and getting rid of the table that lists nutrient labels for 2,000-2,500 calorie diets and replacing the required amounts of vitamins A and C listed with potassium and vitamin D.

The largest concession was that the Daily Value of sodium was only lowered from 2,400mg to 2,300mg.  Ideally it would have been lowered to 1,500mg as is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for people that are over 50, have hypertension, or are African American.   Daily Values are typically based on the most vulnerable populations.  It would be ideal if that applied to this proposed change.

If you are as excited as I am about seeing these new Nutrition Facts labels hit the shelves, you might want to check your enthusiasm.  We shouldn’t expect to see them until 2018 as it may take a while to finalize the rule and industry has two years for implementation.

National Consumers League Statement on FTC Investigation of Herbalife – National Consumers League

March 12, 2014

Contact: Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League, (202) 631-2301, sallyg@nclnet.org or John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud, (202) 835-3323,  johnb@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League, the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today welcomed the news that the Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation of Herbalife, one year to the day after NCL originally called for such action. The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We applaud the Federal Trade Commission for opening this important investigation. In early 2013, NCL met with representatives of the Direct Selling Association, Herbalife and Pershing Square Capital Management to examine questions about the legality of Herbalife’s business model and whether consumers recruited to sell products for the company were victims of a pyramid scheme. Unfortunately, these meetings did not alleviate our concerns. Subsequently, NCL asked FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez  in a letter dated March 12, 2013 to open an investigation to determine whether Herbalife is a legitimate multi-level marketing company, as the company claims, or an illegal pyramid scheme.” 

“The beneficiaries of today’s action will be the millions of consumers who purchase and try to earn money selling Herbalife’s products. This is an important step and we commend the FTC for its action.”


About the National Consumers League 
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, 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. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

The ticket marketplace: A scalper’s paradise – National Consumers League

This week I braved the ticket buying process for Roland Garros, otherwise known as the French Open. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I had heard from those who had attended in the past that you have to buy as soon as the tickets become available, as they sell out immediately. I hadn’t realized that tennis was so popular and that so many people would get online to buy those tickets up.

So at 2 am EST, 7 am French time, I logged on to the French Open website and was put in queue for 80 minutes. I sat with a book on my lap reading and whiling away the time in the middle of the night. About an hour later, the purchase page popped up, I put in my info and got my 3 tickets. I was delighted that the French seemed to be effective at preventing scalping and appeared to be doing their best to make tickets available to as many people as possible at a reasonable price.

How foolish I was to believe these modest measures would prevent scalping. Two days after I bought my face value tickets, I saw seats in the same section as ours going for four times what we paid. I can’t help feeling angry about scalping. My son, who helped orchestrate the buying process, thinks I’m hopelessly naïve. He claims that when a hot Nike shoe goes up on a website, it’s gone in 10 minutes, only to quickly show up online for $5,000.

The National Consumers League has been working to prevent bots, illegal ticket buying software, from being used to scoop up in-demand tickets that then get sold at far higher prices. We’ve looked at many creative ways to prevent scalping, but it’s a difficult problem to solve when there’s more demand than supply. We can make it illegal to sell a ticket for more than face value, but then the worry is that the secondary market goes underground. At least with some of the official secondary market services, you have some consumer protections built in to guarantee that you’ll get the ticket you paid for.

My experience this week reinforces my frustration with scalping. Many people are making a lot of money by buying up face value tickets, then charging triple or quadruple the price. I think that’s unfair. What we need are creative solutions that ensure fair access to tickets, as opposed to the exorbitant markups that the scalpers too often charge. Yes, I’m hopeless naïve, but I can’t help but want average people to get a fair shake in the ticket market.

While Congress stagnates, your tax dollars are hard at work – National Consumers League

Here’s a thought. When you’re feeling disheartened about partisan bickering in Congress, think about this: your tax dollars are supporting the work of outstanding, hard-working, and knowledgeable public servants who’ve got your back. Last week, my colleague Kelsey Albright and I met with an EPA staffer who gave us a crash course on food waste. Nearly 30% of the food US agriculture produces is wasted!

Not only is she knowledgeable about the subject, she also helped us understand the part played by each sector in the food-supply chain, including us consumers. NCL is considering what we can do to help address this important problem.

Later that day, Rebecca Burkholder, Ayanna Johnson, and I met with a cheerful and equally hard-working team at FDA to talk about NCL’s Script Your Future medication adherence campaign. FDA supports the campaign, which is complementing its mission of ensuring that the prescription and OTC drugs that Americans take are safe and effective and that consumers understand how to take them properly. They are doing a lot at FDA with very limited staff and resources,

On March 11-12, Rebecca will participate in a two-day meeting convened by CERTs, the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research’s Centers for Drug Education and Research in Therapeutics. The meeting will focus on what’s working to boost adherence. The AHRQ staffer who organized the meeting, herself a physician, has generously invested time and energy in the issue and in Script Your Future.

We could all list many more federal government employees who exhibit the same traits: strong commitment to public service, deep substantive knowledge coupled with a sophisticated understanding of their issue’s political implications, an enthusiastic willingness to engage with consumers and with stakeholder groups like NCL.

March is National Nutrition Month and it’s time to get informed. Do you know where your calories come from? – National Consumers League

March kicks off National Nutrition Month – a good time for us to reflect on our diets and physical activity.  We all know the importance –and the challenges — of maintaining a healthy weight.  A third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight.  That means that two thirds of Americans are at increased risk for certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other life threatening illnesses that accompany excessive poundage.

There are a few promising signs that the nation’s health is improving, however. Just this week, a major federal health survey reported that the obesity rate among two-year-old to five-year-old children has dropped 43 percent. Children who are overweight or obese are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult. There is a strong focus nationwide on improving eating habits and being more conscious about what we put into our bodies.

In pursuit of sound eating practices, we recommend watching portion sizes, looking at nutritional labels and moderation above all else.   It is easy to overeat when we are surrounded by high calorie, high fat foods, many with surprisingly little nutritional value.  Americans’ top sources of calories, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), are cakes, cookies, and sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.  These foods are laden with fat and/or sweeteners and easy to consume in large quantities.  Surprisingly, some foods like candy contribute only 2.2% of calories to the American diet.    First Lady Michelle Obama says it well – it’s not that we can NEVER have certain foods like candy or ice cream, but that we should enjoy them in moderation.

We believe strongly in studying Nutrition Facts labels!  They are also being updated for the first time in 20 years.  Almost every packaged food item includes them: they provide calories per serving and help consumers monitor and control caloric intake for the recommended 2,000 calorie a day diet.  The updated labels will now reflect more accurate caloric information, provide larger font and a listing for added sugars, which is useful to know. Focusing on eating more foods that are nutrient dense and low in fat and calories is a critical step in the right direction if you’re looking to shed a few pounds.  As “My Plate” suggests, making half of your meal fruits and vegetables is an easy way to do this.  A few other tips to get on track are:

  1. Increase intake of whole grains, making half of all grains consumed whole grains.
  2. Reduce consumption of high fructose corn syrup-sweetened beverages like soda.
  3. Monitor and minimize calorie intake from alcoholic beverages.
  4. Be aware of how large portion sizes are, especially when dining out.
  5. Prepare more meals at home where you have control over the amount of added salt, sugar and fat.

A balanced diet is just that, balanced.  Eat a variety of foods:  it keeps your food choices interesting and satisfying.  And of course, partake in the occasional indulgence. A very restrictive diet can backfire.  A candy bar, piece of chocolate, or some other reasonably small treat can be helpful in curbing cravings.

Finally, physical activity can play a critical role in maintaining a healthy weight.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes, or two and a half hours of moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking at a brisk clip or riding a bike, each week.  The idea of fitting this in can be daunting for many of us, but it helps to know that walking to work or taking a quick stroll on your lunch break counts.  Any amount of physical activity – however brief – yields rewards and is better than none at all.  Taking these steps to better your health may be difficult at first, but with time and practice, they become habit and will surely enhance your quality of life.