NCL statement of support for FDA nominee Dr. Robert Califf – National Consumers League

October 30, 2015

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC-The National Consumers League (NCL) has issued the following statement on the President’s nomination of Dr. Robert Califf to serve as the new head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The statement can be attributed to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

Dr. Califf will be responsible for ensuring the safety, efficacy, and accuracy of marketing of the products the FDA regulates. He offers an impressive academic background and is an internationally recognized expert in cardiovascular medicine and quality of care.

We have met with Dr. Califf on several occasions, including as part of a larger meeting with consumer and health care groups, where he has repeatedly stated his commitment to the FDA’s crucial role as an independent agency charged with regulating companies that make drugs, medical devices, food, and cosmetics.

We look forward to working with Dr. Califf to ensure that patient and consumer protection remains paramount under his tenure as commissioner.

NCL and FDA have a longstanding relationship. We’ve worked closely with FDA on NCL’s Script Your Future Campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of medication adherence. In addition, I serve on the Reagan Udall Foundation Board, a nonprofit private public partnership established by Congress to help carry out the mission of the FDA.

We’ve also worked closely with former commissioners, including Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who received our highest honor, the Trumpeter Award, in 2011. Commissioner David Kessler was also a Trumpeter Award recipient in 1994. We look forward to learning more about Dr. Califf during his Senate confirmation hearings and to welcoming him to his new role at FDA.


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

New app seeks to raise awareness of the worst forms of child labor and forced labor – National Consumers League

maki.jpgThis post originally appeared on The Child Labor Coalition is a program of the National Consumers League. Written by Deborah Andrews, CLC Contributing Writer and Reid Maki, CLC Coordinator.

The US Department of Labor recently released an exciting new tool to help consumers figure out if the products they purchase are made with child labor or forced labor.  The sheer size of the 2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor produced by the Bureau of International Affairs (ILAB) highlights the reality of this problem – the hard copy version of the report is over 1,000 pages long and weighs in at over eight pounds.USDOL_app.PNG

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates 168 million children globally are engaged in child labor, including 85 million in hazardous labor; 21 million people are trapped in forced labor, including 6 million children. Think of the DoL “Findings” report as a road map that tells us where children are working. It also includes vital information about how 140 countries are combating child labor.

On September 30, 2015, ILAB launched their brand new app, ‘Sweat & Toil’ – now available on iTunes and the App Store, which features the report data in a way that makes it much more accessible. The app enables an individual to search by country name or product.  It includes a country specific review of the current laws and ratifications and the efforts by that country being made to eliminate child labor and assesses its progress.


For example, a user can click on “Albania” and learn that the country made “moderate advancement” in dealing with child labor in 2014. By clicking on a statistics button, the user learns that 87.5 percent of child workers toil in agriculture in the country. A user who clicks on “Brazil,” learns that the country has 16 products produced with exploitative labor, including 13 with child labor and four with forced labor – one of which is beef.

Consumers purchasing a specific good can look it up to see if it is produced by child labor, forced labor, or both. Buying a bag of charcoal for your barbecue? The app would help consumers to know that production of charcoal involves child labor in Brazil and Uganda, and in Brazil it is produced with both forced labor and child labor. For consumers who care about the world and children who are exploited in global supply chains, this app could be addictive.

The broader aim is to empower the consumer to make intelligent decisions about the products we buy, as well as persuade companies to examine their supply chains and identify where risks may be.

Let’s hope this user-friendly app, with its vast amount of current data on child labor and forced labor, will bring about a future where the consumer is highly conscientious and intentional in their consuming.

To download the app, search for “Sweat and Toil.” Readers can view online copies of the new updates of DOL child labor reports by clicking here.

Who decides how much your donor eggs are worth? – National Consumers League

sg.jpgAwhile back I blogged about new moms selling breast milk to make a little money while they are nursing their newborns. Breast milk is full of nutrients and has anti-allergy properties that make it very beneficial for newborns. But because not all new mothers can or want to nurse their babies, there’s a demand for this nutrient-dense food. Nursing is also good for moms and is linked to lower incidents of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and other diseases. Sounds like a win-win, so why shouldn’t women be able to sell their milk then?Now comes a related issue: whether women who donate their eggs to fertility clinics have the right to argue that prices for their eggs shouldn’t be capped. In both cases – breast milk and egg – there’s a concern that women will be manipulated by the promise of money to do what they otherwise would not do at risk to their health.

A group of women have filed a class action lawsuit challenging industry guidelines suggesting a $10,000 limit on compensation for women who donate their eggs. They say since there’s no price limit on donations of sperm, this is an unfair and illegal limit.

I agree with them. Egg donation is an $80 million market and donating eggs involves a lot of discomfort and health risks. It requires weeks of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries, ultrasounds, and surgery. As one of the plaintiffs who is a three-time donor noted, “The guidelines are skewed toward the intended parents, toward the industry making more money and business.” What about the donors?

In 2000, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine established the guidelines, stating that compensation over $5,000 requires “justification,” and that more than $10,000 is “beyond what is appropriate.” The amounts have never been adjusted.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine argues that capping the price ensures that low-income young women are not drawn to donate by a huge payout. The fear is that if the compensation is too high, there might be an incentive for donors to lie about their medical history.

As experts argue, there is a pressing need for research on whether the hormones given to egg donors increase risk of cancer or create other problems among repeat donors. The reality is that doctors, clinics and agencies who recruit donors and harvest the eggs focus on the recipients, not the donors, and paying for egg donation is expensive.

The best comment came from a recent New York Times article in which Debora L. Spar, the president of Barnard College in New York and the author of a book on the assisted reproduction industry noted, “Our whole system makes no sense. We cap the price because of the yuck factor of commodifying human eggs, when we should either say, ‘Egg-selling is bad and we forbid it,’ as some countries do, or ‘Egg-selling is OK, and the horse is out of the barn, but we’re going to regulate the market for safety.’”

Doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals make money on egg donation and no one caps their fees. Similarly, the women who donate eggs should be free to get a price that is commensurate with the value of those eggs to the recipient, without a fee cap in place.

NCL calls on Senate to oppose Cyber Information Sharing Act – National Consumers League

October 22, 2015

Privacy and consumer advocates say CISA is not the answer to cybercrime

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, or (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Calling it “the wrong solution to the problem of cybercrime,” the National Consumers League (NCL), today joined six other privacy and consumer advocacy organizations to urge the Senate to reject the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA). In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the groups called the bill “fatally flawed,” and urged Senators to oppose the bill unless it is significantly improved through the amendment process.

CISA, which is currently pending before the full Senate, would significantly expand the ability of intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency to collect information about American citizens in the name of improving cybersecurity. Advocates at NCL believe that there are significantly better ways to improve consumers data security protections, including a comprehensive national data security standard and a strong national data breach notification law.

“CISA seeks to combat a real problem: the continuous and serious incidence of data breaches that raise the risk of identity theft and other fraud for millions of consumers,” said John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. “Unfortunately, in CISA’s case, the cure is worse than the disease. The bill, as proposed, would allow for even greater collection of consumers’ personal data without adequate safeguards against abuse by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

The letter cited an amendment offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) as one way to address advocates’ concerns. That amendment (#2621) would require, to the extent feasible, that all entities remove personally identifiable information not necessary to describe or identify a cybersecurity threat before sharing cybersecurity threat information under the bill.

In addition to NCL, organizations represented in the letter included the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The full text of the letter is available here.


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

So Simple, So Hard tackles adherence challenges in CA – National Consumers League

“So Simple, So Hard” was the theme of the medication adherence conference the National Consumers League (NCL) held on September 15 in Sacramento, California. Sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the speakers and attendees explored the challenges and barriers to medication adherence – why it is so hard – and highlighted the tools and strategies to make it simpler and to improve adherence and health outcomes, especially among underserved populations.

NCL gathered more than 80 stakeholders in Sacramento, including health care professionals, community health workers, advocates, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers. Throughout the day, conference participants heard from researchers and experts on adherence, and engaged with each other about possible collaborations and solutions.

The meeting kicked off with presentations on adherence research and health disparities, and continued with a variety of strategies and tools to improve adherence that could be utilized in health care practices or organizations. Takeaways from the presentations included the following:

  • One size does not fit all – adherence intervention work best when tailored for the patient
  • Quality of communication and a sense of collaboration between patients and health care professionals impact adherence, especially among people of color   
  • Adherence rates are unique to each medication a patient takes 
  • Cultural considerations are vital to understanding barriers to adherence
  • Always consider the health literacy of the patient
  • Determining the reasons for poor adherence is essential to developing effective interventions   

Specific strategies and solutions:

  • Medication synchronization
  • Comprehensive medication review
  • Tools for translating medication labels into the patient’s native language
  • Best practices and tools for more culturally competent clinical care

The conference provided a forum for participants to interact, connect, and lay the groundwork to develop partnerships for collaborative initiatives. We will be following up with all conference participants to determine the benefits of the conference and learn of any connections and /or collaborations developed.  

At NCL, we view poor adherence, with its devastating effect on health outcomes, as a public health problem. Since 2011, we have been leading Script Your Future – a public education campaign to increase awareness among patients, their family caregivers, and health care professionals of the importance of taking medication as directed.

As leaders of Script Your Future, NCL convened an AHRQ research dissemination conference to further explore possible solutions to this public health problem. The adherence issue is complex and taking medications is NOT so simple, especially for ethnic and racial minorities who often face health disparities. Collaboration among stakeholders who are dedicated to keeping the patient at the center of the discussion, is a critical first step toward developing and implementing effective medication adherence strategies to help people better self-manage their care.  

Conference participants and others are encouraged to distribute information from the conference to interested colleagues and through their networks. We look forward to hearing how others are sharing the information, tools, and resources from the conference, and the possible collaborations that will grow out of the meeting.   

* Funding for this conference was made possible in part by grant number 1R13HS023948-01A1 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government

Volkswagen scandal undermines public confidence – National Consumers League

sg.jpgIt’s hard to explain how a company such as Volkswagen, with a strong reputation among consumers for making affordable, safe, and reliable cars, could have gone so far astray. VW computer engineers, we’ve learned of late, developed and installed software for emissions testing in their diesel cars intended to trick the system and falsely improve emissions scores.The Germans take great pride in their auto-manufacturing prowess. In my years as Senior Product Safety Counsel at Consumers Union, I marveled at how German cars – Audi, Mercedes, BMW, and VW  – were often well ahead of the curve in innovative safety technologies – frontal and side air bags, anti-lock brakes, backup cameras – often adopting important safety technology long before the American-built vehicles.

Apparently in this VW scandal, the software was set up to detect when testing was going on and reduce emissions. But during normal driving conditions, when the vehicles had better performance, they produced as much as 40 times the acceptable amount of nitrogen oxide.

VW’s dirty tricks affects 480,000 cars in the United States and will require a major fix, the experts say, involving perhaps 10 hours of work for each car. More than 11 million cars globally are affected. The head of VW America, who testified this week in Congress, said that a few engineers rigged the engines without the knowledge of higher ups.  That sounds suspicious to me but okay, maybe they did. Like hackers who get their jollies designing malware or computer viruses just to see if they can mess things up for a few million unsuspecting users.

Time will tell whether this deception was conceived by company officials or indeed a scheme developed by a few rogue software engineers. Regardless, this further undermines the public’s confidence in automakers to do right by their customers.

National Consumers League and Shape Up America! applaud new Crown Royal Serving Facts labels – National Consumers League

October 7, 2015

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, or (202) 207-2832 or Alex Colcord, Shape Up America!, alex.colcord@gmail.com406 686-4844

Washington DC—The National Consumers League and Shape Up America! today applauded the appearance in the market of alcoholic beverage packaging with Serving Facts labels. Diageo, the maker of Crown Royal whiskey, has announced that their packaging now features a Serving Facts label like the ones the two organizations have advocated for more than 10 years.

“The National Consumers League and many allied organizations have waited a long time for this day,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “I applaud Diageo for its willingness to place in consumers’ hands the serving facts information they want and need—right on the package. Now is the time for all manufacturers of beer, wine, and spirits to follow this lead by providing consumers with easy access to the information they need to help them to drink responsibly.”

“Serving Facts labeling is an important tool for consumers looking to make informed decisions about drinking,” added Dr. Barbara Moore, President and CEO of Shape Up America! “Complete serving information is especially important today, when so many adults are either overweight or obese. As the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee highlighted earlier this year, 21% of calories from beverages in the average diet come from alcoholic beverages (DGAC Scientific Report, Part D, Chapter 1, p. 47). For the sake of good health, for weight management and for the sake of safe driving, consumers need this information to make the responsible choice the easy choice.”

Alcoholic beverages are one of the very few consumer goods for which nutrition or serving facts are not required. The National Consumers League, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and more than 70 other organizations petitioned for such labeling on beer, wine, and distilled spirits products in 2003. The petition called for the Serving Facts labels to include alcohol per serving and servings per container, as well as calories, carbs, protein, and fat per serving. After a protracted regulatory process, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued a rule in 2013 that allowed (but did not require) Serving Facts labels for alcoholic beverages. The new Crown Royal Serving Facts label is a result of that lengthy campaign.

“Both of our organizations are engaged in helping educate the public about responsible decision-making about what they eat and drink,” said Greenberg and Moore. “This is an important step forward in providing vital information to consumers.”


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

About Shape Up America! 

Shape Up America! was founded in 1994 by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to raise awareness of the health effects of obesity and to provide responsible information on weight management to the public and to health care professionals. The organization maintains an award winning website – – accessed by more than 100,000 visitors each month.