National Consumers League

From the Experts Blog

NCL staff is hard at work for you playing watchdog on a variety of issues. Get to know the latest From the Experts!

Alcohol Facts

By National Consumers League staff What's a dieter to do? A solid month into the new year, resolutions going strong: counting calories, exercising, avoiding late-night binges. But the weekend's just around the corner, and one can only avoid Friday happy hours for so long. Wouldn't it be nice if somehow you could actually look at any bottle of beer or wine or tequila and find out how many calories or grams of fat are in it? Have allergies? Wouldn't it be nice to know the ingredients in what you're drinking? Counting carbs? Watching your alcohol intake? What's an info-seeking consumer to do? Currently, the labeling on beverages containing alcohol is all across the board, with most drinks lacking easy-to-find information about calories, serving sizes, etc. For years, NCL has been asking the federal government to make a change for the positive and better regulate this stuff with a standardized, useful "Alcohol Facts" label. (Think "Nutrition Facts" for beer.) Here's our latest call for change.


Child Labor Coalition Hosts Guests to Hear about Sweatshop, Child Labor in China

by Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Two activistsCLC Meeting from the China Labor Watch came to Washington DC January 15, 2008 to speak to the Child Labor Coalition, a national organization of child labor advocates and activists lead by the National Consumers League. Li Qiang, Executive Director of China Labor Watch, and David Shih, executive assistant and translator for Li Qiang, spent an hour with the CLC. Li Qiang described how he came from a union family and worked in factories until he went to law school. He was able to experience personally the exploitation of workers in Chinese factories. Li began organizing and has been at the forefront of the workers rights movement in China, encouraging businesses to develop a legal framework for the enforcement of local and national labor law. CLW has produced more than 20 in-depth reports on a wide range of topics. One of the most controversial, released in August 2007, showed that between December 2006 and August 2007, toy factories in China had violated labor laws, including employing teenagers from rural areas in their factories. Toys associated with Disney, Gosh International and Hasbro, among others, were implicated.

Li Qiang noted that Mattel has a better record than most companies because in recent years its corporate leadership determined to make improving factory and worker conditions a priority.

The CLC also heard from Han Donfang, founder and director of the China Labour Bulletin, who spoke about his work defending and promoting workers rights in China. Based in Hong Kong, CLB has ties to labor organizations and finds that child labor is “widespread, systemic, and an increasingly serious problem in China.” CLB’s report, “Small Hands: a Survey Report on Child Labor in China,” is based on research carried out in 2005, and explores the demand for child labor and the causes, including serious failings in the rural school systems. Researchers for CLB talked with school teachers, labor officials, factory owners and administrators, child workers, and their parents to develop the profile of living and working conditions of child laborers. Han Donfang talked about the report, the research, and efforts to combat the exploitation of child labor in China.


Settling In, and Giving You the Inside Scoop

 

by Tim McNutt, Public Policy Intern

Public Policy Intern TimI met Executive Director Sally Greenberg, last fall at the Equal Justice Works Conference, and was so inspired by her energy and optimism, that I decided to take a semester off from my studies at the California Western School of Law to intern at NCL.

As I’ve been settling in at the League, I am awe stricken and inspired by the breadth and magnitude of issues that NCL takes on. Whether it is combating telemarketing fraud, child labor in sweatshops, or the latest predatory trend on dating websites, my new colleagues are zealous advocates for consumers’ rights.

I hope to continue blogging here, and will do my best to give you the scoop on what’s going on at the League.


Changing drugs? Talk to your doc!

by Rebecca Burkholder

For many of us, January is a time for change. New diets, new routines, new habits. For some of us, the new year may also see changes to our health insurance plans, which may mean facing the confusing process of switching from one medicine to a similar drug.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, be sure to talk to your doctor what you might expect to see the next time you go to fill your Rx at the pharmacy counter.

  • Why am I being switched? Is my current medicine working well?
  • Will the new drug work better? Will it lower my costs?
  • How can I tell if it is working?
  • Will I need to do anything differently – take it more or less often, at different times, or with or without food?
  • Are there any side effects? What about interactions with other drugs, dietary supplements, or foods?

In addition to asking questions, you should pay attention to how the new meds are working. Look for changes in symptoms or side effects. Keep track, and tell your doctor what you notice.

The month of January of NCL’s “2008 Consumer Calendar: Do We Have Tips for You!” has more tips, sponsored by Pfizer Inc., to help consumers who may be switching medications.


Time to Talk

by NCL Staff

Our friends at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health have just launched an educational campaign—Time to Talk—to encourage the discussion of use. Complementary and alternative meds (CAM) include products and practices such as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.

AARP recently teamed up with NCCAM to survey patients over the age of 50, and they found that patients and their physicians aren’t really talking about alternative medicine. It looks like patients don’t know to ask their docs aboutTime to Talk alternative meds, and physicians aren’t initiating the conversations either. But this doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t using the herbal supplements, and other alternative medicines. The same survey found that nearly two-thirds ARE using it!

Hence, the Time to Talk program – put in place to try to initiate discussion between patients and their docs about what kinds of treatments they’re using or interested in trying. We at NCL are big fans of patient-provider communication, and we’re happy to help spread the word about Time to Talk. We’ve even provided a personal medication record for all consumers to get their medications listed in one place and help begin a conversation with their doctors – to prevent medication duplication, dangerous interactions, or a general lack of communication between doctors and patients. Good for you, NCCAM, and best of luck on spreading the messages of this important campaign!