The legacy of César Chávez on César Chávez Day – National Consumers League

Reid MakiDo you ever think about people from the past you wish you could go back in time to meet? At the top or near the top of my list is César Chávez, who was born on March 31 in 1927. César died in 1993 a few months before I started working for a farmworker organization, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP).

For the last 22 years, my work with that AFOP and then the National Consumers League and the Child Labor Coalition has involved trying to obtain equal protection for farmworker children under US labor law. The legacy of César cast a big shadow on our efforts. His success in raising the public consciousness gave all of us hope in the advocacy community that we might help Americans to care about migrant farmworkers and their plight and the conditions endured by their children working in the fields beside them.

César was born in Yuma, Arizona in an adobe home on his parent’s ranch, which eventually was lost during the Great Depression. His family joined the exodus to California where they began work as migrant farmworkers and faced many hardships. The family would pick peas and lettuce in the winter, cherries and beans in the spring, corn and grapes in the summer and cotton in the fall.

Poverty forced César to drop out of school in the 8th grade to work in the fields. After he returned from a two-year stint in the Navy, César returned to California, married and eventually had eight children. Through much of the 50s, he worked for and eventually headed the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group. In 1962, he and Dolores Huerta cofounded a group that would later come to be known as the United Farm Workers (UFW) of America.

In the fertile California fields around him, César saw workers performing back-breaking work for wages that kept them in poverty. In 1965, he helped lead the five-year Delano grape strike. He also led the historic 340-mile protest march of thousands of striking farmworkers to the state capitol in Sacramento, inspiring many Americans. The union reached out to consumers and asked them to boycott grapes in support of the workers—an estimated 17 million Americans joined the boycott. Eventually, the growers were forced to recognize the union and raise workers’ wages. Around the country, other farmworker unions formed to advocate for farmworkers.

In the early 1970s, the UFW won passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, allowing farmworkers to bargain collectively.

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, César inspired the public by conducting a number of personal fasts, including one lasting 25 days, as part of his advocacy. Senator Robert Kennedy famously visited César to help draw attention to farmworker conditions.

César also espoused non-violent tactics used by Martin Luther King and Gandhi. His leadership and sacrifice helped a lot of average Americans to empathize with the struggles of migrant farmworkers. He helped give power to the powerless.

Today, in Washington, the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture honored the legacy of César by naming the department’s primary interior courtyard after him. César’s daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law spoke in a public ceremony about the unfinished work that remains, including the deportation of hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, the lack of immigration reform, the worsening conditions for many rural workers and the need to advance rural cooperatives accessible to Latino workers.

One of those pieces of unfinished work that we at the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and the National Consumers League are very much involved in is closing loopholes in U.S. child labor law that allow children, as young as 12, to work unlimited hours in US fields. This week we met with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, leaders from the White House, and 16 representatives of tobacco companies and tobacco growers to discuss child labor in US tobacco fields.

Child labor in US agriculture concerned César. In his 1984 Commonwealth Club address in California he tried to warn the public about unfinished work:

“Child labor is still common in many farm areas. As much as 30 percent of Northern California’s garlic harvesters are under-aged children. Kids as young as six years old have voted in states, conducted union elections, since they qualified as workers. Some 800,000 under-aged children work with their families harvesting crops across America. Babies born to migrant workers suffer 25 percent higher infant mortality rates than the rest of the population. Malnutrition among migrant workers’ children is ten times higher than the national rate.”

César continued:

“All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation that treats farm workers as if they were not important human beings. Farm workers are not agricultural implements; they are not beasts of burden to be used and discarded. That dream was born in my youth, it was nurtured in my early days of organizing. It has flourished. It has been attacked.”

Today, on the anniversary of his birth, we are inspired by the life of César Chávez and are committed to increasing wages for adult farmworkers so that parents are not compelled by poverty to bring their children to the fields with them.

We are committed to change US child labor laws so that they do not discriminate against Latino children.

We envision a future in which the sons and daughters of migrant children have the same educational opportunities as other children and are able to fully participate in the American dream.

As César and his beloved farmworkers often chanted, “Sí, se puede – Yes, we can!”

Breast milk for sale? – National Consumers League

The New York Times reported recently (“Breast Milk Becomes a Commodity, With Mothers Caught Up in Debate”) that companies are buying breast milk from mothers, condensing it down and selling it to hospitals for treatment for extremely premature infants in intensive care. The milk is tested for viral infections, nicotine, drugs of abuse, dilution, and adulteration. The women supplying the milk must take blood tests for infectious disease, provide notes from the doctor saying they and their baby are healthy, and must furnish DNA samples, which helps to ensure that the milk is theirs. All of which is good public policy and makes sense.

Breastfeeding is good for babies and good for mothers. Kids who are breastfed have much lower incidence of allergies and a recent Brazilian study found that they have higher IQs and are more likely to earn more. For moms, breastfeeding seems to reduce the incidence of cancer.

There’s been a lot of chatter after the Times article about selling breast milk. Another mother weighed in as well, in a piece called “Give Breast Milk,” noting that Prolacta Bioscience and Medolac are two companies that buy the milk, fortify it, concentrate it, and sell it to hospitals.  While they pay very little for the milk  – apparently $1 an ounce, compared to what they sell it to hospitals for, $180 an ounce. Sounds like an awful big mark up, even for what they do to make it effective for treating preemies.  I have no problem with women selling their breast milk, but they should just get paid decently for it. 

Which brings me back to the original issue. Anything that gets more women to breastfeed is – in my view – a good thing. So paying for breast milk, especially from healthy women of limited means, seems like a fine idea. Men are paid for their sperm; why shouldn’t women sell their breast milk?  And as the obesity epidemic grows, breastfeeding can burn up to 900 calories a day and help women take off their pregnancy weight very fast. All of which seems like a win-win: Mom breastfeeds her own baby, that’s good, and then make a little extra money by pumping and selling the milk, which eventually gets used by premature infants struggling to get bigger and healthier.

I realize that not everyone agrees. The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association is quoted in the article saying, “We are very concerned that women will be coerced into diverting milk that they would otherwise feed their own babies.”  Fair enough, but what if paying women for their milk increased the number who breastfeed significantly? I think that is worth the relatively benign downside the critics have cited. We just need to ensure that women are getting a fair price for their breast milk contributions.

NCL statement on introduction of Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 – National Consumers League

March 13, 2015

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

Washington, DC — The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization today expressed its disappointment with the introduction by Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Peter Welch of the “Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015.” The following statement may be attributed to John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud:

“At a time when millions of consumers suffer the effects of data breaches, it is disappointing that Congress would propose a bill that actually reduces consumer protections in this space. NCL supports a strong national data breach notification standard. Unfortunately, the bill proposed by Rep. Blackburn and Welch would preempt stronger existing state laws. For example, the bill covers fewer types of sensitive information, such as e-mail addresses, than many state laws.  In addition, the bill creates a disincentive for companies to notify affected consumers by instituting a ‘harm trigger’ that would enable breached companies to determine for themselves whether their customers should be notified of a breach. It is our sincere hope that this bill will be improved through the legislative process, rather that simply serving as a way for businesses to reduce their data security compliance burden. Failing that, it should be opposed as an anti-consumer measure.”


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

The LifeSmarts Safety Smart connection – National Consumers League

This post originally appeared on LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League.

For the past two years LifeSmarts has partnered with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on its Safety Smart® Ambassador program to provide a way for LifeSmarts students to give back through community service. LifeSmarts students become Safety Smart Ambassadors by delivering interactive safety messages to younger children in their communities.

We predicted that the program would be a hit, and that our Ambassadors would learn right along with the children they mentored. We were right on both counts!

Last year LifeSmarts participants in 20 states became Safety Smart Ambassadors. They made more than 200 presentations, educating 4,000 young children.

One Ambassador told us, “Safety Smart is truly an amazing program…  The children that I have had the honor to teach were so interested and appreciative of the information I conveyed via this program.  This program was not only beneficial to the children, but to me as well as I have learned to be confident and assertive in front of people, whether age 5 or 50.”

Our appreciation to UL for this opportunity was summed up by one of our Ambassadors who said, “I want to say thank you to Underwriters Laboratories for getting to do the wonderful Safety Smart program.”

Become a Safety Smart Ambassador!

The resources provided by UL and LifeSmarts make this program easy to use – beginning with the coach lessons plan, a logistics checklist, videos featuring Timon and Pumbaa from Disney’s The Lion King, and four step-by-step lessons that are fun and easy to teach. Titles include:

  • Goes Green!
  • Healthy & Fit
  • Online!
  • Honest & Real!

In a nutshell

The Safety Smart Ambassador program is:

  • Quick and easy: each lesson is designed as a 30-minute presentation
  • Fun: Timon and Pumbaa resonate with young children
  • Educational: Everyone learns
  • Satisfying: LifeSmarts participants give back, serve as mentors, and demonstrate leadership
  • A great fit: The program helps you meet service learning and community service requirements
  • Turnkey: Everything you need is in one place

Wait, there’s more! Apply soon for LifeSmarts Safety Smart scholarships

Four motivated LifeSmarts students who become Safety Smart Ambassadors will win $750 post-secondary education scholarships. To apply, students complete the scholarship application  and submit it with a PowerPoint that highlights their Safety Smart presentations. Ambassadors will illustrate what they learned and what the younger children gained from the Safety Smart Ambassador experience.

Applications for the LifeSmarts Safety Smart scholarships are due by 5 p.m. Eastern, Friday, April 11, 2015. Students may submit an application based on presentations made from May 1, 2014, through April 11, 2015.

Scholarships will be announced on April 18 at the National LifeSmarts Championship in Seattle, WA. Students do not need to attend Nationals to be eligible. All LifeSmarts students in grades 9-12 may apply.

For more information

Visit the Safety Smart page on the LifeSmarts Web site or contact Lisa Hertzberg, LifeSmarts Program Director:

The meningitis B vaccine must be added to the routine vaccine schedule – National Consumers League

Meningitus B (MenB) is a frightening illness. It can overtake and kill in 24 hours. College-age students who live in close quarters are the usual victims.  If it doesn’t kill, it often causes grievous injury—especially to the extremities—including loss of fingers, toes, feet, or parts of the face. While vaccines against other strains of meningitis have long been available, those for MenB have only been approved in the U.S. for a few months. Thanks to Pfizer and Novartis, we now have two effective FDA approved vaccine choices to protect against this terrible MenB strain. Unfortunately, neither is required on the routine schedule of vaccinations. 

In February, I joined with a group of advocates at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in Atlanta to change that. At the top of ACIP’s agenda was a vote on MenB’s inclusion on the routine vaccine schedule for persons at increased risk. While the ACIP discussed various topics such as the, “Economic evaluation of vaccinating US adolescents and college students against serogroup B meningococcal disease” or “Considerations for routine use of MenB vaccines in adolescents,” ACIP wasn’t scheduled to vote on including MenB vaccines on routine schedule for adolescents. That was unfortunate, as those who came to Atlanta with personal experience about the horrors with MenB told the committee – many in graphic terms. 

Dr. Mary Ferris, student health director at the University of California Santa Barbara, a campus of 30,000 students, faculty and staff led off. In November 2013, her campus experienced an outbreak of four cases of the MenB disease. A 19-year-old lacrosse team member suffered amputations of both legs and extensive skin grafts and scarring to his arms and face. Every word she said resonated. I have excerpted her comments here:

 “I know you’re well aware of the devastating consequences of this terrible disease, but you may not know the impact it has on a university when an outbreak occurs. National news outlets camped out on the campus. There was widespread fear and even panic among students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding city. The local school district initially prohibited our student teachers from their sites, and parents drove in to remove their children from the campus. Our campus childcare center asked student volunteers to stay away. Parents demanded that we close the campus, and others did not want their students to come home for Thanksgiving holidays. Our local public health department and CDC had to establish special phone lines to handle the large volume of incoming distress calls. We greatly appreciate all the help they gave us, including handling even international media attention, but we would have much rather avoided this disaster completely by protecting our students in advance with a vaccine that covers MenB. Outbreaks WILL happen again at other colleges, and in fact is happening right now at the University of Oregon, where they are struggling to find a source to pay for the vaccines. Even ONE CASE in a college setting has major repercussions on the institution, and most colleges will not have the resources to pay for vaccines when the outbreaks occur.

We need the ACIP to establish MenB vaccine as part of routine adolescent immunizations, so that our entering students can be protected before they arrive on campus and are exposed to meningococcus, not just after an outbreak occurs. We also need your recommendation for vaccination before college entry so that we can enforce it as an entrance requirement along with MCV4 coverage. The majority of our students are the first generation in their families to attend college, and they come from low income families that will not be able to afford this vaccine unless it is included in their health insurance coverage.” 

That is exactly NCL’s position.

The father of a young boy who tragically died of MenB last year spoke of his grief at this terrible event and asked the ACIP why MenB is not on the routine schedule. Andy Marzo, who contracted MenB as a college student in Kansas, described what it felt like to spend weeks in intensive care, his family not knowing whether he would live. And how it felt to lose all of his fingers—he has one remaining thumb—and portions of both feet. His care cost $2 million. Andy has no idea how he contracted MenB. That’s a universal theme among patients. Most are healthy and active. Andy had never spent a day in the hospital and was a healthy and happy journalism student when the infection struck. He gave me a signed copy of his book ,which is a riveting account of his ordeal. 

Frankie Milley lost her only child, Ryan, 18 years old, to MenB. She turned tragedy into action by forming the Meningitis Angels. Their mission: Meningitis Angels educates the public, health professionals, child care facilities, schools and universities on not only meningitis but other vaccine preventable diseases and the preventions including vaccines, through personal stories, our educational brochures, posters and videos.

The Angels’ video details the tragedy of menB. She implored the Committee to include the MenB vaccine on the routine schedule. 

NCL applauds the Meningitis Angels for their advocacy on vaccines and for mobilizing their members to lobby state legislatures and Congress, to educate consumers on the importance of vaccines and to attend meetings at the CDC and advocate for widespread vaccination.

Adding a vaccine to the recommended schedule is not without controversy. All vaccines cost money—MenB is around $130 a dose. Novartis’ vaccine is two doses spread out over a few months. Pfizer’s is three.  Requiring these on the routine schedule means health plans have to cover them. 

CDC, like other government agencies, does a cost benefit analysis to determine whether the expense is justified. But after I listened to the director of health in Santa Barbara, to patients, and to parents of deceased children talk about the ravages of this terrible disease, the cost of vaccinations is tiny compared to the cost of treatment, which in many cases exceeded $2 million per patient.

Frankie told me that she has been accused of being in the “pocket of industry” by the very destructive anti-vaccination groups that—in my view—traffic ignorance and fear.

Supporting the efforts by companies that develop these critical vaccines to get these lifesaving products out into the community makes sense. How someone could say to a mother who lost a child to a very preventable disease is to be faulted as too close to industry is beyond me. 

Dr. Ferris from Santa Barbara notes that other outbreaks will and have happened at other schools and that is critical to know. I worked with my own son’s health office at Oberlin College to order the vaccine for him. He lives in a dorm and plays on a sports team. He’s in the demographic that is susceptible to this disease. I’d like the see his college inoculate every student on campus and have encouraged them to do so. Until that happens, I’m going to make sure he is protected.

Vaccines have all but wiped out diseases like polio, German measles, diphtheria, influenza, mumps, small pox, measles, and many others that in previous generations caused the death and disability of millions of children and adults. They are safe and they are very effective. We join with the Meningitis Angels in asking ACIP to include MenB on the routine schedule. NCL’s letter and statement at the ACIP meeting are attached.


NCL releases “10 things you didn’t know about caffeine” for Caffeine Awareness Month – National Consumers League

March 10, 2015

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC—During March, which is both National Nutrition Month and Caffeine Awareness Month, the National Consumers League (NCL) is calling on consumers to turn their attention to the world’s favorite pick-me-up: caffeine. Coincidentally—for the first time in its 35-year history—the Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, released last month for public comment, addresses caffeine safety and consumption. 

“Whether it’s a strong cup of morning Joe, a green tea with sushi, a chocolate bar at the movies, or an energy drink to get through the work day, the fact is that 85% of the U.S. population consumes caffeine every single day,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director. “And while we know where to find it, and consume a lot of it, the majority of Americans are not ‘caffeine literate.’”

In the interest of informing American consumers and promoting moderation, NCL has released a guide that reveals 10 facts you likely didn’t know about caffeine.

  1. The earliest rumored consumption of caffeine was by a Chinese emperor in 3,000 BC who is said to have accidentally discovered that when certain leaves fell into boiling water, a fragrant and restorative drink resulted. We commonly know this drink as tea.
  2. Caffeine is found in the seeds and leaves of more than 60 plants around the world. Coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, guarana plants, and yerba mate are just a few that contain caffeine.  
  3. Regardless of whether caffeine is naturally occurring (coffee or tea), or in its synthetic form (cola or energy drink), the chemical structure is identical, and its effect on the human body is the same.
  4. Birds, dogs, and cats cannot metabolize caffeine – so don’t feed your pets chocolate (or give them coffee)!
  5. The darker the coffee roast, the less caffeine in the coffee bean. Unroasted, green coffee beans have a higher concentration of caffeine. For teas, it’s the opposite: the darker the tea, the higher the caffeine.
  6. Around 400mg of caffeine per day is commonly cited as a safe intake level for healthy adults. That’s about 6-7 cups of black tea, 4-5 cups of home brew coffee, 2-3 Starbucks Grande Lattes, 8 cans of Diet Coke, or 5 cans of Red Bull. A typical serving or portion of caffeine is usually an 8 fl oz cup of home brewed coffee, a 20 fl oz diet cola, a 1.5 fl oz espresso shot and an 8.4 fl oz energy drink, all of which are about equal with a range of approximately 70-90mg of caffeine.
  7. Aside from the ‘pick-me-up’ that is a well-known effect of caffeine, there is evidence that caffeine has some positive effects against some diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But too much caffeine can result in side effects like nervousness, anxiety, nausea, sleeplessness, and jitteriness.
  8. Eighty five percent of the US population consumes caffeine daily. How is it split? 64 percent from coffee, 17 percent from tea, 17 percent from sodas, and 2 percent from energy drinks.
  9. Caffeine takes 15-45 minutes to take effect. The average person will eliminate half of the original amount consumed between 4-6 hours.
  10. Pregnant women should avoid caffeine, and it is not recommended for children.

To maximize transparency for consumers, NCL believes that all products containing caffeine should declare the total amount of caffeine per serving—and per container—on their product labels or packaging.

“The FDA should provide the public with clear guidance on safe upper limits of caffeine intake for the general population of healthy adults and for other relevant age and gender groups, including pregnant women and young children,” said Greenberg. “If the FDA is still reviewing the science, it can at least provide interim advice, as Health Canada has done, in order for consumers to have some guidance to go on in the meantime.”

“The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans—which will be current for the five years following publication—should address caffeine holistically instead of implying, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, that caffeine is only a potential concern when it is consumed via energy drinks or ‘high dose caffeine products,’” said Greenberg. “To deliver consumers with useable guidance, and common sense educational tools, the Dietary Guidelines should educate the public about the primary food and beverage sources of caffeine, and the amount of caffeine they contain.”


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

March is National Nutrition Month: What’s the Buzz on Caffeine? – National Consumers League

By Kelsey Albright & Sally Greenberg

March is National Nutrition Month making it the perfect opportunity to reflect on the state of the American diet. This year, with March being Caffeine Awareness Month, caffeine is on our mind. Whether it’s a strong cup of morning Joe, a green tea with sushi, a chocolate bar at the movies, or an energy drink to get through the work day, the fact is that 85 percent of the U.S. population consumes caffeine daily. And, while we know where to find it, what do we really know about caffeine? During National Nutrition Month, NCL is taking a closer look at the world’s most commonly consumed “pick-me-up.”

DISCLOSURE: Three cups of iced black tea–approximately 180 mg of caffeine–were consumed in the writing of this blog post!

National Nutrition Month is an annual initiative led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a good time to reflect on things like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, food labeling, meal and beverage portion sizes, and physical activity and exercise. Additionally, the latest proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans were just released and for the first time in its 35-year history, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans proposes to provide guidance on caffeine intake.

Caffeine is consumed from a variety of sources every day, all over the world, as it has been for hundreds of years. In addition to being a natural part of over 60 different types of plants, like coffee beans, kola nuts, cocoa beans, tea leaves, and guarana, it is also synthetically produced for use in various foods and beverages. Regardless of whether the caffeine is naturally occurring (in coffee or tea) or used as an added ingredient (in cola or energy drinks), there is no chemical or biological difference–our bodies respond to it in exactly the same way.

We all choose whether, when, where, and how to consume caffeine and for those who do consume it, it is for a reason–caffeine is well-known for its stimulative or “pick-me-up” quality.  Apart from that, how much do we know? Caffeine is one of the most researched ingredients in the world. From the white coats conducting rigorous scientific assessments to the number crunchers analyzing consumption data, to the billions of people globally who consume coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, or energy drinks daily, caffeine has been scrutinized time and again.

A comprehensive study of more than 35,000 Americans published in 2014 confirmed that 85 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily, with 98 percent of the intake coming from beverage sources. The largest contributor is coffee, which is responsible for 64 percent of all caffeine intake. Coffee actually has a lot of healthful properties. A Consumer Reports piece from January 2015 noted that people aged 50-71 who drank at least one cup of coffee per day had a lower risk than nondrinkers of dying from diabetes, heart disease or other health problems when followed for more than a decade. Coffee has been linked to a lower risk of depression and provides more antioxidants than any other food. Other primary sources of caffeine include tea (17 percent), soda (17 percent), and energy drinks (2 percent). Other beverages make up the balance and the average total intake per day is approximately 165 mg.

There is a general agreement among U.S., Canadian, and European public health agencies that healthy adults, except for pregnant women, may consume moderate levels up to 400 mg of caffeine (an amount equivalent to four or five cups of 8 fl. oz. home brewed coffee) per day without risk of long term adverse health effects. Health Canada recommends that women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, should consume no more than 300 mg per day.  Broadly speaking, children and teens should consume less due to lower body weight.  Health Canada recommends specific ranges for different age groups, whereas the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggests a level of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight for children (about 150 mg for an average 110 lb. teenager).Individual sensitivity to caffeine varies, and those who are especially sensitive may also want to limit their intake.

To stay within recommended moderate levels, however, a consumer would need to know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages he or she consumes and that’s where the problem lies. Very few products list the amount of caffeine they contain though some companies, like Red Bull and Monster, have begun voluntarily labeling.

So, how much caffeine is in a common portion of some of the most popular products?

In the recent report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, they concluded that moderate caffeine consumption up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is not associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. In fact, the Committee agreed that there is evidence coffee has some health benefits including some protection against Parkinson’s disease and potential to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment.

In comments filed with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in 2014, NCL suggested the following.

  1. All products containing caffeine should disclose the total amount of caffeine per serving – and per container – on their product labels or packaging; that means all products, including those marketed as dietary supplements, which often contain extremely high levels of caffeine. This should also apply to coffee, tea, and soda – the top three sources of caffeine in the diet. Quantitative labeling of caffeine would provide transparency and help consumers determine their daily intake and make sure it is in line with current recommendations. The Food and Drug Administration should provide the public with clear guidance on safe upper limits of caffeine intake for the general population of healthy adults and for other relevant age and gender groups. If the FDA is still reviewing the science, it can at least provide interim advice, as Health Canada has done, so that consumers have some guidance to go on in the meantime.
  2. We also recommend that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans should address caffeine holistically instead of implying, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, that caffeine is a potential problem when it is consumed in the form of “high caffeine” energy drinks.  One area of real concern is dietary supplements (caffeine pills, powders, and shots) that contain excessive and potentially harmful levels of caffeine that can be easily abused. We tell consumers to steer clear of caffeine capsules, powders, sprays, and shots.
  3. We also recommend looking at energy drinks alongside other caffeinated products. The recently released report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee clearly states that ‘the main sources of caffeine among both adults and children are coffee, tea, and carbonated soft drinks.’ In addition, the Dietary Guidelines should educate the public about these primary sources of caffeine, including from sodas – which is missing entirely in the dietary guidelines dialogue.

Despite our familiarity with caffeine, common sense and moderation should always prevail.  Caffeine may not be for everyone.  Even though some may believe it is an essential part of their day, it is not a nutrient. Consumers should keep in mind that caffeinated products are not recommended for pregnant or lactating women or those sensitive to caffeine. Up to 3 mg per kilogram of body weight per day for children should have no adverse effects. The same goes for light weight adolescents, while those that are older/heavier may abide by adult guidelines. A common sense approach for caffeine management – which starts with caffeine labeling and guidance on daily levels – is paramount to ensure all consumers can make informed choices.

NCL praises McDonalds move towards antibiotic-free chicken – National Consumers League

March 4, 2015

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) welcomes the announcement by McDonald’s Corp. that its American restaurants will stop serving chicken raised with antibiotics that are vital to fighting human infections. Reports call this the most aggressive step by a major food company to change chicken producers’ practices in the fight against dangerous ‘superbugs.’ The following can be attributed to NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We are pleased that the world’s biggest restaurant chain will discontinue serving chicken raised with human antibiotics within two years.  Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem that requires a range of approaches, including the prevention of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. McDonald’s is a key player in the fast food industry—and in Americans’ eating habits. NCL is on record calling for the reduction and eventual elimination of unnecessary and dangerous use of antibiotics in our food supply. This is an important step forward towards achieving that goal.”


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

FTC report highlights continuing threat of identity theft to millions – National Consumers League

March 3, 2015

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC – The release of the Federal Trade Commission’s annual Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book once again highlights the harm that identity thieves are inflicting on millions of American consumers. For the 15th consecutive year, complaints about identity theft topped the Commission’s annual list of top scams.

“Identity theft, and the data breaches that fuel it, must be a top concern not only of regulators at the FTC, but policymakers throughout Washington and beyond,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The message from 332,000 identity theft complaints to the FTC is clear: more needs to be done to protect consumers from this fraud.”

The Data Book identified tax-related identity theft as a top source of identity theft complaints to the FTC. While there is no fool-proof way to prevent tax ID theft, NCL has published a step-by-step guide to spotting and recovering from this fraud.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research, nearly 1 in 3 data breach victims will also experience identity fraud.  As information on tens of millions of consumers affected by data breaches continues to fall in to the hands of cybercriminals, it is likely that millions more consumers will suffer from identity fraud.

For policymakers, the need for reform should be clear. Ensuring that companies collecting consumers’ data protect it critical to bringing down rates identity fraud. However, without leadership from Washington, businesses and other entities that amass vast troves of consumer data will have little incentive to put data security ahead of profits.

Unfortunately, real reforms to improve data security have languished in Congress while hackers and other cyber-crooks have had a field day at consumers’ expense.  That’s why NCL has called on policymakers to adopt NCL’s Congressional Data Security Agenda. The agenda calls for reforms that:

  • Create a national data breach notification standard, while protecting strong state laws like California’s;
  • Require data holders to abide by reasonable data security requirements;
  • Clarify and strengthen the FTC’s data security authority;
  • Promote robust cyber-insurance underwriting standards;
  • Increase federal civil and criminal penalties for malicious hacking; and
  • Strengthen international anti-cybercrime partnerships.

“While the 300,000-plus identity theft complaints may seem like a huge number, it is just a drop in the bucket given the fact that most ID theft victims don’t report the crime, if they’re even aware of it,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud John Breyault. “While consumers can take steps to mitigate their risk of ID theft, they can’t prevent it entirely. That’s why we need leaders in Washington to help make sure that the companies that profit from consumers’ data protect it to the greatest extent possible.”


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

NCL Statement on White House Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights discussion draft – National Consumers League

March 2, 2015

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

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League today expressed its hope that the White House’s proposal for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights will be just the beginning for a negotiation to enshrine strong consumer privacy protections in law. Unfortunately, should the proposal released last week be passed, it would in many ways actually weaken existing privacy and data security protections.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, NCL Vice President, Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud:

“The President has rightfully made protecting the privacy and security of consumers’ personal data a top priority of his Administration. Unfortunately, the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights released on Friday fails to create a robust framework for consumer privacy and data security protection. Instead, it relies on industry-created codes of conduct without effective enforcement mechanisms. What’s worse, it would preempt laws in nineteen states, many stronger that the proposed standard, that provide data security protections for their citizens. We hope that this draft proposal will serve as the starting point, not a high water mark discussions about how to better protect consumers’ privacy and data security in the digital age.”


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