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!

Sneezin' Toddler? Feds Say TLC, not OTCs, Best Meds

By NCL staff

A lot of moms and dads turn to over the-counter cough and cold medicine when a kid comes down with the sniffles, but according to a public advisory issued today by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pediatric cough and cold meds are no longer considered safe enough for use in kids under the age of 2.

The safety of those medicines was questioned starting late last summer, with an FDA advisory committee meeting in October. An FDA advisory panel voted 13-9 to not administer the use of cough and cold medicines to children six and under. The FDA has not taken final action on this recommendation.

Manufacturers of the cough and cold products for children under 2 voluntarily withdrew them from pharmacy shelves before the advisory committee even met in the fall. The FDA has made a final decision, affirming the position that cough and cold meds are no longer safe to use in kids two and under. So, in the middle of a tough cold and flu season, what’s a parent to do? Thankfully, there are ways to safely treat our kids’ coughs and colds. And stay tuned for more on this from the FDA in the coming months.

How Healthy Is Your Nest Egg?

by NCL staff

We recently ran across an advertisement for an insurance nest-egg.jpgcompany that included this fact: “Hallmark sold 85,000 ‘Happy 100th Birthday!’ cards last year.”

That’s certainly something to think about. The ad also said that the average American is living about 20 years past the age of 65 (87 for women, and 84 for men). That’s a lot of years, post-retirement, that consumers need to plan for, and a recent survey indicates that many seniors aren’t considering basics like health and medical costs when they’re saving for the golden years.

According to a national survey of 1,000 Americans over the age of 65 conducted by Directive Analytics, more than half of retirees (55 percent) have said they completely overlooked their health care and prescription drug needs when planning for retirement expenses, and one in three seniors said their medical or drug costs surpass their expectations, and are taking away from their “golden years” lifestyle.

The good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to help seniors who may be looking for ways to cut their health costs. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs helps consumers find the most effective and safe drugs with the most value for your dollar. Also, Medco Health Solutions, Inc., is offering a free guide including tips about shopping for Medicare plans, saving on prescription refills, and avoiding medication duplication.

Product Safety: Beyond the 'Year of the Recall'

by NCL Staff

To a crowd of reporters and a handful of consumer advocates, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Acting Chairman Nancy Nord yesterday described a new import surveillance system that her agency will implement, pending legislation, at many of America’s ports.

The system includes an increased staff presence to better identify potential problem products before they reach the market, Nord said at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The new tracking system would provide the federal agency with access to real-time information of shipments and would allow the feds to focus on high-risk product shipments. CPSC would also target inspection on imported products that have been identified as riskier to consumers. NCL has voiced its concern over goods imported from China and the implications this practice presents for consumers and the workers that produce such unsafe goods. Additionally, there would be increased enforcement of standards and additional post-recall surveillance, to allow CPSC to address emerging hazards quickly and more efficiently, Nord said.

Despite the proposed changes, at the end of the day, it is the U.S. retailer who has the responsibility to ensure the products they sell are safe, Nord said. She added that unlike the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the CPSC is not designed to test products before they reach the market.

Nord acknowledged that 2007 was publicly perceived as the year of the recall, but she said that CPSC actually issued only a few more recalls last year than the year before (467 in 2006 vs. 472 in 2007). Nord said that recalls don’t indicate that more unsafe products are out in the market, and that the agency has always viewed recalls as a testament to the agency’s enforcement.

Nonetheless, “Change is inevitable, and that is where my focus will be in 2008”, Nord said.

We certainly look forward to holding you to it, CPSC!

2008: Day Six

by NCL staff

Here we are, less than a week into 2008. How are your new year’s resolutions holding up? Whether you have kept them all, or have resolved not to make any resolutions, we figured you might be interested in some tips to help start the year off right.

Determined to finally lose those extra pounds? Do so healthfully. Did your holiday spending get out of hand? Notice an error on your credit report? Check out NCL’s tips here. Vowed to help others more? Volunteerism can take many forms. Consider helping out at your state or the National LifeSmarts competition. Or, donate to NCL!

Do you want more ideas on how you can stay healthy, avoid scams, and make smart decisions overall as a consumer? Check out NCL’s 2008 Consumer Calendar online.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2008!

NCL in the Land Down Under: Sally Meets with Australian Product Safety Compliance Official

by Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director G'Day!Sally Down Under

While traveling in Australia this week, I met with a colleague who works the product safety beat for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, (ACCC) the Australian government's official consumer protection and enforcement agency. Gail O'Bryen, Director of Product Safety Compliance, and I have worked together on product safety issues for a number of years. Not surprisingly this year, Australia, like the United States and Europe, has had to grapple with the danger of lead in toys. Australia effectively banned lead in toys so that no toy may have more than .06 parts per million of lead.

Gail also noted that the ACCC expects to set a standard for buggies and strollers after several incidents when these nursery products lead to shocking incidents of injury or death of small children. In several instances, strollers without a braking system rolled away into water or traffic. The ACCC expects to see improved standards for strollers and buggies in the near future.

Finally, the ACCC will likely have a standard for self-extinguishing cigarettes before the end of the year. This is something the United States has adopted in some states, but there has never been a federal standard for fire-safe cigarettes, despite the work of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on the issue. The ACCC works on a vast number of consumer issues, and product safety is only a facet of what this government enforcement agency does for Aussies. Nevertheless, the product and toy safety issue has received the full attention of the Commission.

Learning what colleagues in other countries are doing to address concerns about hazardous products - many of them the same or similar products, like toys, cigarettes, or strollers - has always proved valuable to our work on these and other consumer protection issues.