Consumer Health Digest #05-04
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 25, 2005
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
New dietary guidelines issued. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human services have jointly issued Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, which provide science-based advice to promote health and to reduce risk for major chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. The report's overall message is intended to encourage more Americans to eat fewer calories, be more active, and make wiser food choices. Its "Key Recommendations" are grouped under nine focus areas that are integrated and intended to be implemented as a whole. (The nine areas are nutrient adequacy; weight management; physical activity; food groups to encourage; fats; carbohydrates; sodium and potassium; alcoholic beverages; and food safety.) This edition contains more technical information than previous ones and is intended primarily for use by policymakers, nutrition educators, nutritionists, and healthcare providers rather than by the general public. However, many consumers will find it understandable. The 1996 Food Guide Pyramid, which was intended to help consumers implement a previous version of the guidelines, is undergoing revision but is still useful.
Kraft plans to modify food advertising policy. Kraft Foods, which is the nation's largest food manufacturing company, plans to curb its advertising of snack foods to children under 12 and will begin labeling certain products with a "flag" that describes their nutrients. [Kraft Foods announces marketing changes to emphasize more nutritious products. Kraft news release, Jan 11, 2005] Using criteria derived from the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and other authoritative statements, Kraft will:
- Place a "Sensible Solution" flag on the labels of food and beverage products that: (a) provide protein, calcium, fiber or whole grain at nutritionally meaningful levels, (b) deliver a functional benefit such as heart health or hydration, while staying within specific limits on calories, fat (including saturated and trans fat), sodium and sugar; or (c) meet specifications for "reduced," "low," or "free" in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar or sodium.
- Shift the mix of products it advertises in television, radio, and print media viewed primarily by children ages 6-11 toward products that qualify for the flag; and phase out advertising in these media for products that don't. (The company already has a policy of not advertising in media with a principal audience under age six.)
Tobacco giant agrees to pay California $17 million and curb ads targeting youths. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) has agreed to settle charges by the California Attorney General by paying more than $17 million and significantly reducing advertising in magazines with large teen readerships. The settlement ended a lawsuit, filed in 2001, which charged that RJR’s placement of cigarette ads in magazines with many underage readers violated the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached in 1998 between state attorneys general and the major tobacco companies. The MSA banned marketing of tobacco products to youths. Under the settlement’s terms, if a publication’s teen audience comprises 15% or more of its total readership, RJR will be prohibited from advertising in the publication, except under limited circumstances. Additionally, the total number of teens exposed to RJR tobacco ads must always stay at least 30% below the adult exposure level. The settlement also prohibits RJR from skewing the advertising for any of its brands to appeal to youths. Under the settlement, RJR will pay the state more than $11.4 million in civil penalties and about $5.85 million to cover costs. The settlement applies to all RJR cigarette brands, including several acquired in 2004 when it merged with Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. [Attorney General Lockyer announces settlement with R.J. Reynolds to reduce Tobacco ads targeting youths. News release, Dec 22, 2004]
Enforma marketers barred from further marketing of weight-loss products. Enforma Natural Products, Inc.; Andrew Grey; Twenty-Four Seven, LLC; Michael Ehrman; and Donna DiFerdinando have signed an FTC consent agreement under which they are banned from advertising or marketing weight-loss products (except exercise programs or equipment). [Sellers of “Fat Trapper Plus” and “Exercise in a Bottle” banned from advertising weight-loss products. FTC news release, Jan 18, 2005] The settlement resolves two FTC contempt charges for violating a May 2000 final order which prohibited unsubstantiated claims for "Fat Trapper" and "Exercise In A Bottle." According to the FTC, although Enforma stopped broadcasting infomercials in the United States, prohibited claims continued on its Web site, in print ads, and in packaging. This month's settlement also:
- Requires Enforma, Grey, 24/7, and Ehrman to pay a total of $300,000 in consumer redress (or up to $4 million if the court finds they misrepresented their financial condition).
- Prohibits transfer or further use of the trademarks for “Fat Trapper,” “Fat Trapper Plus,” and “Exercise In A Bottle.”
- Prohibits unsubstantiated claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any dietary supplement, food, drug, or device.
- Prohibits the sale or rental of any customer list obtained from the sale of any weight-loss product.
Medical Letter pans "Airborne" cold products. The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics has concluded that Airborne, a dietary supplement promoted for preventing and treating colds, has not been proven effective. The product contains seven herbal extracts (lonicera, forsythia, schizonepeta, ginger, Chinese vitex, isatis root, echinacea), three vitamins (A, C, E), two amino acids (glutamine, lysine), selenium, zinc and several other ingredients and is available in both adult and child (Airborne Jr) versions. The adult product contains 1000 mg of vitamin C. The recommended dosage—one tablet every three hours at the first sign of a cold—contains enough vitamin C to increase oxalate and urate excretion and thus may cause kidney stones. [Taylor EN and others. Dietary factors and the risk of incident kidney stones in men: new insights after 14 years of follow-up. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 15: 3225-3232, 2004]
This page was posted on January 25, 2005.