NCL hails CPSC decision to move forward with developing national table saw safety standards – National Consumers League

October 5, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The nation’s oldest consumer organization, the National Consumers League (NCL), today lauded a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) vote on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to move forward on achieving a national safety standard for table saws.

According to CPSC’s own data, consumers suffer 40,000 table saw injuries each year, 4,000 of which are finger amputations. That translates into 10 finger amputations every day for those using table saws.

NCL has been advocating for table saw safety standards since November of 2010, when NCL a sent a letter to the Chairman and each of the other four CPSC Commissioners, stating that: “NCL strongly urges the Commission to take action toward a performance standard for table saw safety.” In May of 2011, NCL brought table saw victims from across the country to CPSC headquarters to share their debilitating injuries with CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. The letter and victim profiles are highlighted below.

NCL Letter to CPSC

Victim Profiles

“We are greatly encouraged by the CPSC’s unanimous 5-0 vote in favor of moving forward with the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding table saw safety,” said Greenberg.

“With table saws, clearly we have a pattern of injury, we have technology to prevent the injuries, and we can do so for a reasonable cost. The CPSC is greatly advancing the cause of protecting the 40,000 consumers each year who are injured unnecessarily by table saws. We applaud the Chairman for her leadership and look forward to working with her and the Commission in the months to come,” Greenberg said.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

2011 Trumpeter Awards: NCL to honor FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg and AFT President Randi Weingarten for careers in service – National Consumers League

October 4, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, D.C.—The National Consumers League will honor Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, and American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, with its highest honor, the Trumpeter Award, Thursday, October 6, in Washington DC. The event will bring together a diverse group of labor unions, consumer advocates, organizations, and industries.

“The Trumpeter Award is NCL’s highest honor, given to leaders who are not afraid to speak out for social justice and for the rights of consumers. No one fits that description better than Dr. Peggy Hamburg and Randi Weingarten,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Their dedication to improving the quality of life for workers and consumers in the United States has earned them this year’s Trumpeter Award.”

NCL will also be honoring Paheadra Robinson, Director of Consumer Protection at the Mississippi Center for Justice, with the Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award, named for NCL’s early leader and awarded to grassroots consumer advocates.

The event will feature a reception, dinner, and speaking appearances by the three honorees, as well as:

Ann F. Lewis, President, No Limits Foundation

Jennifer Donelan, Reporter, ABC7 / WJLA-TV

Martha Bergmark, Founding President and CEO, Mississippi Center for Justice

Neal Gregory, Patient Advocate, Mended Hearts

What: National Consumers League’s 2011 Trumpeter Awards Dinner

When: Thursday, October 6, 2011 | 6 p.m. Reception | 7 p.m. Dinner and Presentation of Awards

Where: Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

Questions or to RSVP: Larry Bostian, National Consumers League 202-835-3323

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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 www.nclnet.org.

American public: Young farmworkers deserve equal protection of child labor laws – National Consumers League

June 16, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The vast majority of American consumers do not believe that 12- and 13-year-old children should be allowed to perform arduous agricultural work for long hours in the fields, and would not allow their own children to do commercial farm work at the young ages the government currently allows, according to a survey released today. The survey (questionnaire | tabular data | methodology), commissioned by the National Consumers League (NCL), the organization largely responsible for passing many of the nation’s first child labor laws in the early 19th century , reveals that 81 percent of consumers—four out of five—agree that child labor laws should protect children equally, regardless of the industry they work in. Two in three survey respondents “strongly agreed” that protections should be equal. Only 1 in 7 favored lesser protections for children working in agriculture.

According to the survey of 1,011 adults fielded June 3-6, 2011 by ORC International, only 3 percent of those with children in the house would let their own children under the age of 14 work more than 40 hours a week in the fields. Yet, federal law currently allows farmworker children to work an unlimited number of hours in the fields (outside of school hours), and many farmworker children report working as many as 60 or 70 hours a week.

Many migrant farmworker children work long hours in the fields alongside their parents, harvesting fruits and vegetables. The children often begin working at the age of 12 because of exemptions in U.S. child labor law that excludes the agriculture industry from many labor protections.

The vast majority surveyed—83 percent—agreed that it is “not okay” for children as young as 12 and 13 to work long hours in the fields. Only 1 in 8 surveyed—and only 1 in 10 female respondents—said that the practice is okay. When asked what age they would let their own children work in the fields after school and during weekends, only 13 percent—or 1 in 8 respondents—said that they would allow a child under the age of 14 to work—a common practice in the agriculture industry today.

When it comes to working more than 40 hours in the fields, the majority of those with children in (64 percent) said that they would only let their children work if they were over 18.

“These survey results demonstrate that the public feels strongly that young children should not be toiling in the fields,” said Sally Greenberg, the Executive Director of NCL and a Co-chair of the NCL-coordinated Child Labor Coalition. “Legislation that would provide much needed protections for farmworker kids has languished for more than a decade. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard has tirelessly tried to remedy this tragic problem through the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), which would remove the exemptions that threaten the health, safety, and education of these children. The passage of the CARE Act is long overdue.”

The survey also confirmed that Americans seem concerned that the food they purchase is not tainted by child labor. Nearly 6 in 10 survey respondents—59 percent—disagreed that “it is acceptable for a child under 14 to work for wages in the fields, harvesting produce to be sold in grocery stores.” An even larger percentage—67 percent—said that the United States should not import products made or harvested by children under the age of 14.

Americans expressed their desire that adult farmworkers earn a livable wage—87 percent agreed that the men and women who harvest fruits and vegetables should receive a sustainable wage. Despite this finding, government data suggests that most farmworker families get by on $17,000 a year—about one-third of the living wage calculated for a family of four in typical farmworker community (data based on Eagle Pass, Texas).

“If Americans knew what truly dangerous workplaces farms are, they would be even more outraged by this form of child labor,” said Reid Maki, Coordinator of the CLC and NCL’s Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards. “One of our main concerns is the impact pesticides might be having on these kids who work long hours in treated fields, often with little or no protection.”

For several years, NCL has listed “harvesting work in agriculture” as one of the five most dangerous jobs for teen workers in an annual report on teen occupational safety. Currently, U.S. law allows children as young as 12 years old to legally work in commercial agriculture, while children of the same age are prohibited from working in nearly all other industries (with only a few exceptions such as delivering newspapers). An estimated 400,000 children work in America’s fields, often working 8-, 9-, and 10-hour backbreaking shifts in intense heat, often exposed to pesticide application, runoff, and drift. While only about eight percent of youth are employed in agriculture, the industry comprises 40 percent of child worker fatalities.

NCL, which coordinates the 28-member CLC, commissioned the national random-sample telephone survey to gain an understanding of consumers’ views on child labor in American commercial agriculture. The margin of error of the phone survey sample of 1,011 adults is plus or minus 3 percent. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.

For additional information regarding the survey results, visit www.nclnet.org.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

NCL lauds CPSC action to develop national table saw safety standards – National Consumers League

June 14, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The nation’s oldest consumer organization, the National Consumers League (NCL), today lauded a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) vote to move the agenda forward on achieving a national safety standard for table saws.

According to CPSC’s own data, consumers suffer 40,000 table saw injuries each year, 4,000 of which are finger amputations. That translates into 10 finger amputations every day for those using table saws. In November of 2010, NCL sent a letter to the Chairman and each of the other four CPSC Commissioners, stating that: “NCL strongly urges the Commission to take action toward a performance standard for table saw safety.” The letter and accompanying press release are highlighted below.

NCL letter to CPSC

NCL press release

NCL’s letter noted that there is technology currently available from a company called SawStop that provides nearly complete protection from injuries from table saws. That technology uses sensors to detect the electrical impulse in a finger or other body part—distinguishing flesh from a piece of wood, for example—and drops the blade down in a fraction of a second below the saw to keep it from injuring the user. SawStop has more than 30,000 of these safely-designed saws in the market today—many in high school shop classes—and the company has testimonials from customers of more than 1,000 known “saves”—consumers who have written and sent pictures showing that they have been spared serious injury because of the safety design.

“What SawStop’s table saw design proves is that it is possible to make table saws safe,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. NCL’s November 2010 letter urged the CPSC to move forward with a technology-neutral performance standard that simply provides a safe result —i.e., no injuries to users of table saws—while not favoring one technology over another. This CPSC vote accomplishes that crucial first step.

“We are greatly encouraged by the CPSC’s 4-1 vote in favor of its 2011 Operating Plan, which includes the goal of having the CPSC staff prepare a briefing package with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding table saw safety,” said Greenberg. “With table saws, clearly we have a pattern of injury, we have technology to prevent the injuries, and we can do so for a reasonable cost. The CPSC is greatly advancing the cause of protecting the 40,000 consumers each year who are injured unnecessarily by table saws. We applaud the Chairman for her leadership and look forward to working with her and the Commission in the months to come,” Greenberg said.

The CPSC documents and statement can be found below:

The 2011 Operating Plan is now available on the CPSC Web site – it can be found here. Table saws are mentioned on page 31, as follows:

Table Saws In 2006, the CPSC granted a petition to proceed with a rulemaking process that could result in a mandatory safety standard for table saws to reduce the risk of blade contact injury, and directed staff to draft an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). The Commission did not vote on the ANPR before it lost its quorum. However, the Commission directed staff to initiate a project to collect additional information on emerging injury-reduction technology to prevent and reduce blade-contact njuries, which has been ongoing. In 2011, the CPSC released an updated study based on data from CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) that estimated there were 66,900 emergency department treated injuries related to table/bench saw operator blade contact in the United States during the calendar years 2007–2008.

Goal: In 2011, staff will prepare for Commission consideration, a briefing package with an ANPR regarding a performance standard for table saws.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

CLC Press Release: More progress needed to reduce child labor; Urgent action required on Uzbekistan, Domestic Workers Convention, and U.S. farmworker children – National Consumers League

June 10, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—As World Day Against Child Labor on June 12 approaches, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) is alerting the public that more than 200 million children still toil around the world, often in dangerous jobs that threaten their health, safety, and education.

Here in the United States, the CLC is applauding the anticipated re-introduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), which Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) plans to sponsor once again next week. The legislation would close loopholes that permit the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to work for wages when they are only 12 and 13 years old, often in harsh conditions—10- to 12-hour days of bending over and performing repetitive tasks in 90- to 100-degree heat.

“It’s time to level the playing field by closing these loopholes, which go all the way back to 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was introduced,” said CLC Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, the Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899. “We must offer these children the same protections that all other American kids enjoy.”

“Working migrant children pay a heavy price educationally for their labor,” said Antonia Cortese, a Co-Chair of the CLC  and the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.5 million public service employees. “Many farmworker children leave school before the school year ends and return after it begins. The constant travel and work wears many children out. They struggle to catch up academically, but for many it’s a losing battle—and more than half never graduate high school.”

 

The CLC also joins its member organization, Human Rights Watch, and other advocacy groups in urging the adoption of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers  to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable child workers—the estimated 15 to 30 million children who perform domestic duties in homes around the world. Many domestic workers are girls and begin work as early as age 6 and work up to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

On June 16th, members of the International Labor Organization (ILO) will vote on the convention, which will establish the first global standards for domestic workers. “Instead of being in school, millions of girls work for extremely long hours and little pay, at risk of abuse and invisible to the outside world,” said Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocate at Human Rights Watch in a statement issued today. “This Convention would require governments to include these child domestic workers under their child labor laws and to step in to prevent them from being exploited.”

The proposed ILO Convention would require governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and provide equal treatment with other workers in working hours, overtime compensation, and daily and weekly rest periods. It would oblige governments to set a minimum age for domestic workers and to ensure that work by child domestic workers above that age does not interfere with their education. An accompanying recommendation urges governments to limit strictly the working hours of child domestic workers and to prohibit domestic work that would harm their health, safety, or morals. The CLC also joins its member organization, the International Labor Rights Forum, as well as Anti-Slavery International and other groups in calling for an international investigation to expose the use of forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry. According to Human Rights Watch, a high-level ILO monitoring mission would be the necessary first step in providing an independent credible assessment of child labor in the Uzbekistan. Human rights groups have called for such an investigation numerous times in the past and recently made the request again at the ILO’s annual conference currently taking place in Geneva.

Each autumn in Uzbekistan, schools are closed down and hundreds of thousands of children are forced out of their classrooms and into the fields to pick the cotton. Uzbekistan, the world’s third largest exporter of cotton, officially denies the use of forced child labor in its country, and has so far failed to invite an ILO monitoring mission. Uzbek officials did pledge on June 6 to have a government controlled trade union act as an official monitor. The ILO’s Committee on Application of Standards, in a decision issued on Wednesday 8 June after an earlier hearing, questioned the credibility of Uzbekistan’s proposal and also called for the government to accept a high level ILO monitoring mission.

Speaking in Geneva, Brian Campbell, Policy Director at International Labor Rights Forum, and the Chair of the CLC International Committee said: “Uzbekistan’s intention to monitor its own harvest for a problem it denies is ludicrous. Such monitoring cannot be considered credible in a country where independent civil society is controlled and critical media muzzled. If the government has nothing to hide then it should allow the ILO access during the harvest.” The European Union, a major destination for Uzbek cotton, currently grants preferential trading access to exports from Uzbekistan under a program to support developing economies. However, advocates argue this should be suspended in cases of serious human rights violations. “It’s time for Uzbekistan to let independent monitors in or face trade consequences,” said CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg.

About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition is comprised of 28 organizations, representing consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. For more information, please call CLC Coordinator Reid Maki at (202) 207-2820 [reidm@nclnet.org].

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NCL, injury victims call on CPSC to mandate new national safety performance standard for table saws – National Consumers League

May 25, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC — The National Consumers League and victims of brutal table saw injuries today called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take immediate, decisive steps to set a new, more protective national safety performance standard for table saws.

The move comes as a new CPSC report documents the number of annual table saw injuries is up by 10,000 a year since 2001[1]. Meanwhile, a petition asking CPSC to set a national safety performance standard has been languishing at the Commission since 2003[2].

“Table saws present an unacceptable risk of severe injury,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Each year, tens of thousands of people are brutally injured by table saws – including 4,000 amputations – at a cost of more than $2 billion a year to treat victims. This is a major public health and safety issue that cries out for a public policy response.”

Several victims of life-altering injuries and amputations joined NCL in issuing the call to action on CPSC, saying government has a responsibility to mandate that new, safer technologies be used on table saws. To learn more about these victims, the impact of their injuries on their livelihoods and families, and view photos of their injuries, visit www.nclnet.org

Table saws are inherently dangerous and most table saws on the market lack an adequate safety system to protect consumers from accidental contact with the blade, said Greenberg. “The vast majority of table saw manufacturers haven’t changed their technology in 50 years, despite the 40,000 injuries each year. Current safety technology basically consists of plastic guards, which are usually removed because they make it difficult to use the saws effectively.” In a 2006 report, CPSC staff said the current table saw safety standard does not adequately address blade contact hazard[3].

“Safer-saw technology is available on the market today,” said Greenberg. “Made by a company called SawStop, this technology stops the saw from operating in milliseconds if the blade comes into contact with human flesh by sensing an electrical impulse, preventing serious accidents and often resulting in the user getting nothing more than a nick.

“If a start-up company like SawStop can do it, why can’t well-heeled top manufacturers such as Craftsman, Black & Decker, Ryobi and Dewalt adopt or develop new technologies to prevent grave injuries and amputations from table saws? According to the CPSC, the SawStop technology would increase the cost of table saws by about $100 per saw — a small price to pay to save a finger.”

This cost stands in stark contrast to the cost of injuries for a victim of a table saw accident. A group of doctors led by hand surgeon Dr. Alexander Shin at the Mayo Clinic conducted a study in 2009 of 134 patients who suffered table saw injuries. They found the mean cost of medical expenses for all patients was $30,754 per injury, including lost wages[4]. The state of Utah thought it was so important for teenagers in woodworking classes to use safer technology saws that it purchased the safer SawStop saws for all public schools.

“We are urging CPSC to begin the process to set a national safety standard for table saws,” said Greenberg. “The standard should require industry to adopt current technology or develop new technology to prevent grave injuries and amputations from table saws.”

A petition asking CPSC to set a performance standard has been stalled since 2003. A 2006 CPSC staff report to the Commission in response to the petition shows a positive cost-benefit analysis to setting a national performance standard for table saws, and recommends granting the petition and proceeding with a rulemaking process that could result in a mandatory safety standard for table saws to reduce the risk of blade contact injury[5]. CPSC voted in 2006 to start the regulatory process, but no action was ever taken. In early 2011, manufacturers of safer saw technologies were invited to present their positions at a CPSC public meeting, but no additional action has been taken.

“Each day we wait for CPSC to act, 10 new amputations occur,” said Greenberg. “We’re throwing away 4,000 fingers each year when safer-saw technology exists. The time for action is now.”

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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 www.nclnet.org.

[1] www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/FOIA/FOIA11/os/statsaws.pdf

[2] www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia03/petition/Bladesawpt1.pdf ; www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/FOIA/FOIA03/petition/Bladesawpt2.pdf

[3] www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/FOIA/FOIA06/brief/tablesaw.pdf

[4] www.jhandsurg.org/article/S0363-5023(09)00111-7/abstract

[5] www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/FOIA/FOIA06/brief/tablesaw.pdf

NCL calls on FDA to regulate industry after tests reveal hidden pathogens on pallets used to transport food – National Consumers League

May 26, 2010

Contact: 202-835-3323, 
media@nclnet.org
Washington, DC – In the wake of the recent recall of E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce, the nation’s oldest consumer organization, the National Consumers League (NCL), is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set minimum sanitary and safety standards for the “unregulated but crucial” pallets that are used to transport food throughout the United States.

The move by NCL comes following recent exploratory tests conducted by the organization on pallets to determine whether they are potential carriers of pathogens, as concerns grow about the link between pallets and contamination of food and pharmaceuticals. The consumer group tested pallets for foodborne pathogens, including E. coli and Listeria. The findings were alarming: 10 percent of the wood pallets tested had E. coli present (though not the most virulent strain, E. coli O157:H7). In a letter to the FDA, NCL described the results of its exploratory testing of wood and plastic pallets used to transport food in the greater Houston, Texas and Miami/Tampa, Florida, areas. Testing was conducted in late April and included 70 wood pallets and 70 plastic pallets in total. NCL shipped the samples overnight to an independent microbiology lab that provides testing services for a wide array of commercial, industrial, regulatory, and law enforcement clients.

[Read NCL’s letter to FDA]

[View positive samples from testing]

“We believe it is essential to ensure that pathogens are not introduced at any step along the food transport system, from farm to fork. Our testing of pallets has shown that these relatively unregulated but crucial parts of the food transportation system can and do harbor dangerous pathogens that could potentially contaminate the food supply,” said Sally Greenberg, the League’s Executive Director.

In addition to the presence of E. coli, 2.9 percent of the wood pallets tested positive for Listeria, and half of these, when further tested, contained Listeria monocytogenes, one of the most virulent foodborne pathogens. This strain of Listeria is linked to a 20 to 30 percent rate of clinical infections resulting in death and causes approximately 2,500 illnesses and 500 deaths in the United States every year. Listeriosis is more likely to cause death than any other foodborne bacterial pathogen. Of the 70 plastic pallets tested, 1 – or 1.4 percent – came back positive for E. coli. None of the other plastic pallets tested positive for pathogens.

Finally, high aerobic plate counts, which reflect unsanitary conditions of the pallets, were found on approximately one third of the wood pallets and one fifth of the plastic pallets.

As the recent outbreak of E. coli underscores, the threat of foodborne illness remains a serious concern in the United States.

“Looking at the safety of pallets is crucial. Even if farmers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers were all to follow food safety plans and practices to the letter, the introduction of dangerous pathogens into the food supply during transport could negate these efforts…With approximately two billion pallets currently in circulation in the United States, the presence of dangerous pathogens on even a small percentage of those pallets presents a potential threat to the safety of the food supply,” wrote Greenberg in her letter to the FDA.

Several different aspects of pallet use and storage present potential food safety concerns. If a pallet is absorptive – i.e., has the capacity to absorb water and harbor bacteria – or difficult or impossible to fully clean, it could contaminate food products like fresh produce or meat. A pallet that carries raw seafood on ice to a given destination, then heads of lettuce or apples to the next, could potentially contaminate that produce and lead to foodborne illness. In a just-issued report prepared for the FDA, Eastern Research Group, Inc. highlights the use of “good quality pallets” as a preventive measure. The agency has said it will use the report to inform the development of new rules to increase the safety of food during transport.

Furthermore, regardless of the materials from which it is made, any pallet that is not properly cleaned between trips increases the likelihood of cross-contamination. Storing a pallet outside, in unsanitary areas, in places accessible to vermin, or near potential contaminants increases the chances that the pallet could harbor dangerous pathogens. In conducting our testing, we observed that wood pallets – which we found to have a higher incidence of pathogens – are more often stored outside and exposed to weather, rodents, bird droppings, and insects. Among additional considerations is the use of damaged wood pallets; splinters or sharp points can damage the packaging of products, creating an entryway for pathogens from which sealed products would otherwise be protected.

NCL’s findings build on the growing concern about the potential dangers of unregulated pallets to consumers. In January of this year, McNeil Consumer Healthcare issued a recall of several of its over-the-counter products reported to have a moldy odor and that, in some individuals, were thought to have caused gastrointestinal distress. In a press release dated January 15, the company stated: “McNeil Consumer Healthcare has determined that the reported uncharacteristic smell is caused by the presence of trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA). This can result from the breakdown of a chemical that is sometimes applied to wood that is used to build wood pallets that transport and store product packaging materials.” The FDA issued the same statement on its Web site.

NCL is urging the FDA to do its own testing and set standards that will help to ensure that pallets are cleaned and stored properly, thus minimizing the possibility that they will be implicated in the spread of foodborne illness.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

Consumer group issues alert to generous regarding disaster scams – National Consumers League

January 20, 2010

Haitian Earthquake Expected to Cause Uptick in Reports of Donations to Fraudulent Charity Schemes to National Consumers League’s Fraud Center

Contact: Carol McKay, (412) 408-3688, media@nclnet.org

WASHINGTON, DC—Over the years, opportunistic con artists have exploited both natural disasters and terrorist attacks to bilk generous consumers attempting to make financial contributions to rescue efforts, warns the National Consumers League. The recent devastating earthquake in Haiti will likely be no exception.

NCL, the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, collects consumers’ complaints of telemarketing and Internet fraud through NCL’s Fraud Center (www.fraud.org), and anticipates it will soon receive reports of hurricane-related scams. “In the days following a natural disaster, we begin to hear from consumers about crooks’ attempt to take advantage of tragic events for their personal gain,” said John Breyault, Director of NCL’s Fraud Center.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, as well after Hurricane Katrina, NCL’s Fraud Center received reports of a variety of scams tailored by con artists to capitalize on the rescue efforts. Scams typically involve con artists sending out emails purporting to come from a known and respected charity such as the Red Cross or Oxfam International.  Victims are then directed to a fake Web site made to look like a legitimate charity’s site, where they are asked to hand over personal information or to donate via wire transfer, PayPal, or a credit or bank account.  The scammer then makes off with the donation, and no funds are sent to support actual disaster relief.

“The continued tragedy of fraud perpetrated in the wake of such disasters is that charity scams not only rob the donors,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “They divert contributions from legitimate charities, who are in great need for money and goods to assist those who need it most.”

  • NCL warns consumers to be especially wary of emails from strangers. While many legitimate companies, organizations, and individuals are using the Internet to mobilize help for disaster victims and share information about the latest developments, crooks may use email or social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter to reach a wide audience of potential victims.

“Be cautious about any solicitation that mentions the disaster. Consumers interested in giving to the relief effort should give to charities they know and trust,” said Breyault. “If someone claims to be collecting money that will go to charities, ask which ones and check with them directly to make sure it’s true.”

The FBI has also issued warnings about unsolicited emails or messages from social networking sites asking for donations and claiming to represent a quake victim or a government or charity official and asks for donations. Also, the agency says, do not click on any links within those emails or on attached files labeled photos or video because they may contain viruses.

  • Consumers can confirm that charities are properly registered by contacting their state charities regulators, which are listed in the state government pages of their telephone books. Information about charities is also available from the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, 703-276-0100, www.give.org. Consumers can also check out charities at GuideStar (https://www.guidestar.org/), and Charity Navigator (https://www.charitynavigator.org/), both of which contain links to legitimate charities working on the relief effort.
  • Consumers can report disaster-related telemarketing or Internet fraud to NCL’s Fraud Center at the online complaint form on www.fraud.org.

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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 www.nclnet.org.

National consumer protection and industry groups issue joint statement on the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger investigation – National Consumers League

November 19, 2009

Contact: (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

WASHINGTON, DC–Consumer and industry groups, including the National Association of Ticket Brokers, the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, and Knowledge Ecology International today released the following joint statement on the ongoing Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger as the Department of Justice (DOJ) moves into final phase of consideration. There have been press reports of potential settlements of the Justice Department investigation, and further reports that Comcast Corporation has met with DOJ officials regarding their participation in the proposed merger.

“There seems to be little dispute after extensive Congressional hearings that the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation raises very profound competitive concerns. That is why fifty Members of Congress – an unprecedented number – have written to the DOJ with concerns about the merger. The Department of Justice has a unique opportunity to protect consumers by preventing this anticompetitive merger and preserving competition and choice in the marketplace.”

“Ticketmaster is well aware that their plans will give them unchecked power to take advantage of consumers who will have no other ticket options. Suggested proposals for a modest spin-off or some other type of remedy are insufficient to protect consumers. Bringing more corporate interests to the table appears to be their last ditch attempt to pretend there are no competitive problems and fool the public – and the authorities – into believing they won’t have full control over tickets, venues, artists, and prices. But that’s clearly not the case.”

The groups noted that the merger proposed by Ticketmaster would be a “disaster” for consumers. The ticketing giant would gain full access to competitive information in the market and unprecedented control over each aspect of the industry from artist management to concert promotion, including ticket distribution and concession stands. This will make transparency and accountability impossible. It will also prevent competitors from entering the market, thereby reducing options for fans and creating a monopoly on the industry.

“Any proposed concessions to DOJ, including transferring some assets to other corporations with relationships to Ticketmaster are non-starters. They will not protect consumers from the looming threat of monopolistic control. Ticketmaster may also propose to agree to some type of limits on their behavior post merger, but for a firm that exploits consumers on a daily basis, those promises are simply not credible. The DOJ has every right, and responsibility, to block this merger and protect what remains of an open, competitive, and consumer-friendly market.”

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About the National Association of Ticket Brokers

The National Association of Ticket Brokers, formed in 1994, is the non-profit trade association dedicated to protecting consumers and the secondary ticket market. For more information on NATB and consumer protection efforts, please visit www.NATB.org.

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 www.nclnet.org.

About the Consumer Federation of America

The Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of more than 280 groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through advocacy and education.  For more information, please visit www.consumerfed.org.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action, founded in 1971, is a national non-profit consumer education organization headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.  For more information, please visit www.consumer-action.org.

About Knowledge Ecology International

Knowledge Ecology International is a non-profit public interest organization, supporting work carried out earlier by the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech), an organization that has participated in a number of merger reviews, including those involving legal publishing, retail distribution, and media concentration and telecommunications regulation. www.keionline.org.

Consumer, nutrition groups urge Obama, Congress to update alcohol policies for the 21st Century – National Consumers League

April 23, 2009

Organizations issue four-step plan calling for mandatory alcohol labeling and more resources to combat underage drinking

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC — A coalition of public interest groups today called on Congress and the Obama Administration to overturn decades of inattention to the nation’s alcohol policies by finally issuing a useful final regulation to require standardized labeling information on beer, wine and distilled spirits products and providing the government resources needed to address such pressing problems as underage drinking, binge drinking, and drunk driving.

Using the observance of National Alcohol Awareness Month to rally attention, four leading nutrition and consumer advocacy organizations — Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, and Shape Up America! — released a new action plan, Alcohol Policy for the 21st Century: A Platform to Give Americans the Facts to Drink Responsibly, intended to bring the nation’s policies into the 21st century. Issued as a nationwide call to action, the platform urges the new Administration and Congress to make meaningful changes both in how information about the content of alcoholic beverages is communicated to the public and how the nation mobilizes to reduce underage drinking.

Specifically, the platform urges swift action on four regulatory and legislative measures:

  1. Gaining swift action by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to issue a final regulation that requires complete and easy-to-read labeling information on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products. To provide the information needed for consumers to make informed purchasing and consumption decisions, the advocates continue to press for a standardized “Alcohol Facts” panel that lists the alcohol content, the amount of alcohol per serving, the definition of a standard drink, the number of calories and facts about other ingredients.
  1. Enlisting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make increased access to alcohol content information a new national health objective when HHS issues Healthy People 2020, the updated ten-year health goals, in early 2010.
  1. Including detailed advice on responsible alcohol consumption levels for the public when HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) release the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010, with a specific focus on what constitutes a “standard drink” and the calorie content of “non-standard” mixed alcoholic drinks now gaining in popularity.
  1. Gaining Congressional passage of the “Support 21 Act of 2009,” which will expand the nation’s underage drinking prevention efforts by allocating an additional $35.5 million to federal and state programs.

Among these actions, the top priority for the public health community is for TTB to move quickly to issue a consumer friendly final alcohol labeling regulation. This step would end the stalemate in modernizing beverage alcohol labels that traces back to 1972, when consumer organizations first asked the federal government to require meaningful alcohol labeling. In 2003, the National Consumers League, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America and 75 other public health and consumer organizations submitted a formal petition to TTB resulting in the agency issuing an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” in April 2005. Then, in 2007, TTB proposed a mandatory “Serving Facts” panel on beer, wine and distilled spirits that left out alcohol content and the amount of alcohol in a serving and was widely attacked by consumer groups and the public health community for being incomplete.

“There is no debate within the public health and consumer community about the need for mandatory and complete alcohol labeling,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. “It’s time to give consumers the same helpful and easily accessible labeling information that is now required for conventional foods, dietary supplements, and nonprescription drugs.”

Although TTB’s 2007 actions were roundly criticized, the advocacy groups believe the record in the current rulemaking is sufficient for the agency to act now to issue a final alcohol labeling regulation in 2009. The advocates also urge TTB to consult with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the most effective format and graphic design for the “Alcohol Facts” label.

George Hacker, Director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project, said: “TTB has had a comprehensive response to its haphazard rulemaking to develop labels that will be helpful to consumers in measuring and moderating their alcohol consumption. The agency should accept the guidance it has received and find the political will to act.”

From a public health perspective, the advocacy organizations also urge HHS and USDA to provide detailed information on what constitutes a “standard drink” and the calorie content of popular “non-standard” mixed alcoholic drinks when the departments issue the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010. The reason, according to the advocates, is insufficient information in the marketplace for consumers to know what constitutes a “standard drink” — 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40%) distilled spirits — and to understand that standard serving sizes of beer, wine and spirits are equal in alcohol strength and their effect on the body. As a result, research finds nearly 20 percent of current drinkers regularly consume more than the up to two standard drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women that the Dietary Guidelines defines a moderate drinking.

“Those consumers who choose to drink absolutely need alcohol and calorie information per serving to help them comply with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Without it, alcohol consumers continue to be left in the dark.”

The alcohol platform encourages HHS to add specific objectives to the upcoming Healthy People 2020 national health goals that reflect the current scientific knowledge about the calorie content of alcoholic beverages. Because alcohol is metabolized quite differently from these other macronutrients and provides 7 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates, increased access to alcohol content information through nutrition counseling and government education initiatives is needed both to combat the obesity epidemic and to reduce alcohol-related mortality resulting from hypertension, liver disease and certain cancers, as well as injury.

“To encourage weight management and reduce the health risks associated with alcohol requires that the 55 percent of adult Americans who drink have the information they need to make responsible decisions,” said Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., president of Shape Up America!, “Anything less is a setback for public health.”

Addressing the pervasive problem of underage drinking, the platform calls on Congress to pass H.R. 1028 — the “Support 21 Act of 2009” — which allocates an additional $35.5 million to federal and state efforts to reduce underage drinking. Recognizing that lowering the drinking age is not the answer, the bill focuses on delaying alcohol use through education and a stronger focus within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on disseminating research on effective strategies to reduce underage drinking. The bill also calls for a National Academies of Science report on available research regarding the impact of alcohol on adolescent brain development and the public policy implications of that research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), underage drinkers are responsible for 11 percent of all the beverage alcohol consumed in the U.S. and on average, consume more drinks per occasion than adults. Moreover, new research on brain development shows that adolescent brains are not fully developed before age 21, and alcohol abuse damages this development process.

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About the Center for Science in the Public Interest

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science. Founded by executive director Michael Jacobson, Ph.D. and two other scientists, CSPI has long sought to educate the public, advocate government policies that are consistent with scientific evidence on health and environmental issues, and counter industry’s powerful influence on public opinion and public policies.

About the Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of some 300 organizations, with a combined membership of over 50 million Americans. Since its founding in 1968, CFA has worked to advance the interest of American consumers through research, education and advocacy. CFA’s Food Policy Institute was created in 1999 and engages in research, education and advocacy on food and agricultural policy, agricultural biotechnology, food safety and nutrition.

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 www.nclnet.org.

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 – www.shapeup.org – accessed by more than 100,000 visitors each month and an “opt-in” e-newsletter with more than 24,000 subscribers.