Challenge – Two options. Learn about an FDA decision that could hugely impact consumers!

Ok, so you’ve read about consumer protection and regulation. What? You HAVEN’T? Why don’t you visit the CP&R Matters page right now?!

Ok, so NOW you know a little bit about how regulation of industries can help protect people as consumers, AND can even help industries be safer and more viable.

Take a look at this piece by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) about what’s happening right now in the world of food labels – spoiler alert: It’s not good. The American public was supposed to have access starting in 2018 to better information about serving sizes, sugar, and other aspects of packaged products that are tasty, cheap, and fun but not all that great for our health. In fact, some food product manufacturers had already changed their labels to meet the new regulation’s requirements earlier. Now the Food and Drug Administration (the agency whose job it is to protect people by providing information about ingredients, allergens, and other things you want to know about packaged food choices) is planning to delay the new rules until at least 2020.

Here’s an example of a product with the new food label. Note the differences between it and an old/current label (meaning MOST package labels right now). Get a sense of WHY it’s more helpful for you as a consumer.

consumerhealthnewfoodlabelpic

Food labels CHALLENGE One: Try talking with someone you care about about what they know and understand about packaged food and beverage products. Ask them to look at an “old” label and this new one, for example, and have them tell you what they really want when it comes to food packaging info. Write a post discussing how the conversation went and what you learned by exploring food labels and information both on your own and with someone else. As always, use your username and Challenge as tags, and choose the Challenge category. (Oh, and UNchoose the uncategorized category!)

Food labels CHALLENGE Two: If you’re interested ENOUGH, and want to take action as a consumer to raise your voice, take a look at this “model letter” to the FDA Commissioner, provided by CSPI. Then visit the Federal Register Comment space for the labeling regulation delay, and add a comment of your own. Write a post that shares your comment, and discuss how it felt to be an active, informed, and aware citizen around this consumer health issue. As always, use your username and Challenge as tags, and choose the Challenge category. (Oh, and UNchoose the uncategorized category!)

 

Advertisements

Early Life Matters Prompt 1

After reading the birth slides and articles, “The Cord Blood Controversy,” stood out to me in terms of families being vulnerable to unneeded stuff for their newborn. Prior to reading this article, I did not know a lot about saving umbilical-cord blood, but I did think it would be useful in a way. But when you really think about it, that umbilical-cord blood is most likely the same type of blood that that child will have years later. The article does say that there is barely a chance of the child needing that blood later on. Although there are stem cells in cord blood, it is unknown if they even have the ability to develop into other types of cells. New parents are more vulnerable to medical or luxury things because they are still learning and want the best of everything for their child of course. I think what most parents would really want to know is what is safe and unsafe for their children. In many products such as food, skincare, and clothing, there are ingredients that could be harmful to the child that they are unaware of. Or even ingredients that claim to do something such as “less fussiness” and not even do that at all in the product. Parents should speak with doctors and educators about what things they could avoid or lean toward when purchasing things for their baby. Raising a family is costly, but thousands of money could be saved by not purchasing unneeded things.

Early Life Prompt #1

What a more perfect topic for me, as I am about 35 days away from giving birth to my first child. I have already gone over the birth slides, so I with a quick overview there and the reading of the midwives, cord blood, birthing video trend, and C-section options, I learned a lot. You would think, being pregnant that I would have already known a lot of this since I am living it currently, but wow. What a word out there for families and mothers to be. Lets start with the question at hand: What do I think young parents would really like to know? Well, what did I want to know? I wanted to know what I didn’t actually need! I didn’t want to buy unnecessary things, and I still have yet to find out if I have or not. I also wanted to know, what are the best health options for my unborn child and I. Reading the cord blood article, it really took me back. In my teens I always had this idea what I would save my babies cord blood because you never know and I thought I understood the importance of saving it. After reading the article and finding out that, in reality, it’s all just played on fear (at least in my opinion), I wouldn’t even waste my time trying to save the blood. For my pregnancy now, saving the blood wasn’t an option as I thought it was so expensive, but I did have plans for my second. Nope not anymore. It’s easy for companies to play on the emotions of new parents, or even second or third time around parents, cause not many parents are educated. This is what confirms it for me that people are vulnerable to unneeded products. As I read on, I learned that women are not even given the option to potentially have a vaginal birth after a C-section. Why? I mean, they go on about how dangerous and the risks are higher and etc., but is that the truth? C-sections cost in the range of $18-$30k (based off a quick google search). I think, although there may be risks, the risks really don’t outweigh the benefits of a vaginal birth. This here again, playing on fear of the unknown. So, back to the question: What do I think they would really want to know? The truth. About as much as they can get, and learn to keep the emotions out of it, cause that’s where they’re going to get duped the most. And being new parents, of course you can’t do everything right, but you can learn from the first time around.

The Consumers Black Hole

Parents, especially new ones, often get caught up in all the excitement of welcoming a new tiny person into this world. They are a perfect victim for what I like to call, The Consumers Black Hole. This is something that not only expecting parents fall into, but likely everyone can say, at some point, they too were sucked in to what seemed like a screaming deal at the time. There are many different sub-populations that certain businesses and corporations sink their claws into. Their goal is to persuade people to consume, new parents happen to be one of them.

We are exposed to thousands of commercials and other propaganda out there that makes planning parents vulnerable to all sorts of items, services and other sorts of “stuff.” These companies advertising their merchandise are becoming more creative by the second.  Businesses and corporations are selling anything from the necessary diapers to the unimportant pacifier wipes, what? Johnson’s, a company all of us likely know and love, even sells a baby cologne. Isn’t that insane? It is more shocking to me that parents fall into these marketing traps.

New Zealand and The United States are the only two nations that allow direct-to-consumer drug advertising. These ads tend to overemphasize the benefits of the drugs so that the risks are lost in the crossfire. The over advertisement and information provided causes the consumers to be misled and confusing into purchasing products. It is easy to get caught up in something when the ads say it’s the next best thing and claims to fix all your problems. This can hit new parents especially hard. Babies are so delicate and fragile that a brand-new mom and dad would do anything they are told to make the perfect life for their precious baby. For example, they can easily be manipulated into believing that all babies need to have Johnson’s baby cologne, when this is very untrue.

Parents should be doing their research. It would be extremely beneficial to gain information from websites that are unbiased. Even moms and dads who have raised children before are good sources to figure out what things are necessities and what are not. This makes me nervous to have a child of my own. I know I often easily fall into the Consumers Black Hole, but with the right education beforehand I could easily pull myself out, and others can too.

Early Life Matters Prompt 1

Looking through the Birth slides and some of the readings on the Early Life Matters content pages has opened my eyes to the vulnerability of parents to unneeded items and medical “necessities”. Firstly, medication; according to the National Women’s Health Network, “ART [assisted reproductive technology] is expensive (averaging $12,400 per cycle, with many patients requiring two or more cycles) and often is not covered by insurance, so it is natural for patients to seek a provider that can maximize their chance of success. Yet, a recent analysis of web content from 372 U.S. fertility clinics (out of a total of 381 clinics) suggests that the success rates being promoted are not based on reputable practices and/or standards,” (Walden, 2015). This shows that ART is neither an affordable nor a reputable practice that cannot be relied on, and yet thousands of families do. Secondly, according to the Birth Slides, a Cesarean Section is the most common surgical procedure in the United States with rates at about 31.8%. However, the rates are different based on hospital policies, not on health. Furthermore, the cost of vaginal birth and a Cesarean section are not the same, and while there is a plan to equalize the payment, one is not in place as of yet.

Keeping with the theme of unneeded vs. needed medical expenses, next to discuss is an article entitled “The Cord Blood Controversy”. In this article, many parents have chosen to freeze their child’s umbilical cord after birth in case of an autoimmune disease or genetic defect that could be cured with the stem cells from the cord. However, the problem with this is that not only does it cost a large sum of money, currently $1,000 to $2,000, it also may not be effective. If the infant has a genetic defect or a disease, the same defect or disease is likely in the umbilical cord, therefore rendering the stem cells in it useless to the child. In fact, to quote the article, “Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued statements in the late 1990s opposing the use of for-profit banks — and criticizing their marketing tactics,” (Moninger). However, it was stated that the umbilical cords may be donated to a public institution to be available for free for children who need stem cells. Lastly, we will revisit the Cesarean section topic. In the United States, if a mother has had a Cesarean section before, she will be denied a vaginal birth in the future. This is problematic because, as mentioned before, Cesarean sections are more expensive than natural births. However, according to the article “More women should have choice of vaginal birth after C-section, panel says” this information is untrue. In this article, and independent panel of women’s health experts say that “U.S. women should be given the option to have a vaginal birth after cesarean, stating that such births are reasonably safe,” (Roan, 2010). In other words, families have been forced to spend thousands of dollars on a procedure that they may not need which would impact them financially in a significant way. Families appear to be duped out of money from contraception to birth, and probably long after. Pre-parents and young parents need to look into all of their options for conceiving and birthing before making a decision. If they decide to visit a doctor, they should attempt to bring a list of questions so that they are able to get all of their answers at once and therefore spend less money. Everyone knows that being a parent is hard work and a lot of money, but many people do not realize that being a pre-parent can also be extremely expensive.

Bibliography

Moninger, J. (2017). The Cord Blood Controversy. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-baby/cord-blood-banking/the-cord-blood-controversy/

Roan, S. (2010, March). More women should have choice of vaginal birth after C-section, panel says. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-0323-hosp-vbac-20100323-story.html

Walden, R. (2015, October). Direct-to-Consumer: Fertility Clinic Advertising on the Web. Retrieved from https://www.nwhn.org/direct-to-consumer-fertility-clinic-advertising-on-the-web/.

Food Labels Challenge Prompt 1

For this challenge I decided to talk to my friend who is majoring in Computer Science and knows next to nothing about food labels and nutrition. First, I had her look at the nutrition label on a box of organic cereal I own. She noted that she knows most of what the words in bold are excluding how potassium is impactful, however, she was mostly unable to tell me how the values of the word not bolded could impact her. She was aware that different kinds of fat are “varying degrees of bad” to quote her, but she was not sure which ones or why. However, she was confused as to how the total fat was 1.5g and yet all the different types of fat were listed at 0g. As for the vitamin and minerals section, she expressed great disinterest and no knowledge.

When I showed her the picture of the new label, she seemed more comfortable. The fact that there were less words on the label made it less intimidating for her. She also said that having the calories and the serving sizes enlarged made it feel like she was not being duped out of a product. She feels as though if she were to buy this she would know exactly what she was getting. She seemed much more relaxed given less information, as before she was unable to interpret all of it, but given the basics she felt much more comfortable. However, her one concern was that the ingredients list was interesting as it was more vertical than horizontal, which made it more difficult to read.

This was an interesting challenge to me because it is easy to forget that not everyone looks at package labels or knows how to read them. Since going into the field of nutrition, it has become second nature for me to read food labels because I have a genuine interest in it, however, that is not the case with everyone. I do agree with my friend in the case that the newer label is easier to read, however, I will miss the vitamin and mineral section, and I do not see a list of the different kinds of fats, but they may be a production choice rather than a requirement. All in all, I do believe that this label switch will benefit the general consumer, however, as someone studying food science and nutrition, I will miss the added information.

Kiwis and Eagles and Prescription Medication

The United States and New Zealand are unique in a very particular way: you’ll be able to see advertisements on television for different prescription drugs – you know, to mention to your doctor in case you suffer from any of the symptoms that the advertisement seems to mention.

They’re iconic for their awkwardness – whether it be the timing (watching an erectile dysfunction ad with family can be a tad offputting), or the endless barrage of symptoms (the joke that the drug will kill you before the actual disease does), the rule is unique to the US and New Zealand, two countries that share a language and an affinity for a bird (the bald eagle, and the kiwi, respectively), but are on completely different sides of the world.

While those will argue that it can offer some increased awareness of certain conditions, or treatments for conditions, and can give autonomy for patients, I think that this particular issue shouldn’t be something just given out.

Aside from the practical standpoint of it raising medical costs through a bloated advertising budget – I’m a public relations major, and I have come to fully understand that a television commercial campaign can become expensive. Other mediums tend to be less expensive for advertising, but in general, ads are expensive.

It also encourages people to ask for name brand, which, if a generic is available, should really be what is prescribed unless the taker has an allergy to binding ingredients in the generic, or something along those lines. If people specifically are able to get that same coverage for a name brand as a generic, when there is an alternative, it can bring up healthcare costs for all others and effectively raise premiums. Which, would be fine, if it was necessary: but when people are told that “Xyterna” (this is a fake name for a drug that I made up, if this is really the name of a prescription drug then I guess that’s the career path I should look into) is the way to go, many who may not be educated may demand to doctors thats what they want.

Not to mention: doctors should be making healthcare recommendations for patients, not the other way around. If that was the case, then I’m sure there’d be hundreds of people who were real proud of their ‘ice cream diet’ and how much it’s helping them lose weight.

I feel as though the protections that are in place in certain places are definitely a benefit: while I understand not everyone has the same worldview as me (that intervention through agencies and the ‘red tape’ of process and time, is, typically, the only way to make sure that things are not done for the gain of corporate interests), I do think, generally, it’s in peoples best interest to make sure that the things that they’re consuming are safe for them, and in the case of advertising on behalf of a pharmaceutical, it can be potentially dangerous. It’s a gross thing to me, advertisement for healthcare, though again: that’s one that’s up in the air, depending on your worldview.

Food Labels Challenge

After a long conversation about food labels, I’m ready to share!

In today’s society, we are becoming more health conscious and reading food labels more, but do we actually know and understand what we’re looking at? Most people see a food label and take into consideration the calorie count, total grams of sugar and sometimes the ingredients list.

(After comparing the new and old food labels…)

“What stood out to me the most was the added sugars; I still however, don’t understand the difference between added sugars or general sugars… what difference does it make if they are all artificial sugars? I can’t tell the difference? More specific information would be great to the greater population/average consumer. Based on what I see on food labels today, I don’t know enough to make a decision as a consumer because I’m not entirely informed about it.”

Q: What would you like to see when it comes to food labels?

A: Not an overload of information, but yes enough information as far as what is included in the product, “dummied down”, easy to understand numbers… For example, grams or micrograms, that’s fine on a label but in relation to what? I think it would be easier to understand and gage how much of an impact each individual product I’m consuming has on my body/health in general.

OVERALL, I learned that we should make the information easier to understand in terms of everyday usage. For instance, there is 20 grams of sugar in a candy bar. Yeah, that’s great to know but 20 grams of sugar in relation to what? It has no value or meaning unless the overall measure of it is clearly defined. I don’t think that the Daily Value Percentages are as effective as they could be because people don’t generally spend more than 5 minutes looking at a food label, at least I don’t, to tally up the percentages for their daily value intake. There needs to be a more comprehensive way of portraying that.

Consumer Protection & Regulation Prompt One

The area that I chose to focus on for consumer health and this weeks topic of protection and regulations is within the automobile industry. I personally have dealt with this issue with Ford. I have a 2012 Ford Focus and I bought it in 2015. When I test drove the car, there was no issue during the that point in time. Then six months down the road, the car started to stutter when I would drive.

To elaborate, the newer models of Ford Focuses and Fiestas are made with a transmission that is automatic but acts as a manual (if that makes sense). It would shutter because the transmission would not move into gears quick enough – for example, as I would accelerate, the gears would not change quick enough to allow for a smooth transition. This was one of the first recalls that I had received for the car was for a faulty transmission.

To date, I have received five different recalls for my car since I purchased it in early February 2015. I have received two recalls for the transmission, one for the emergency breaks, one for the door latch, and one for one of the many computers that control the basic functions of my car. The recall for the computer was a pretty significant one because it was the computer that controlled the transmission and it had died. My transmission had over heated which caused my car to break down on the freeway in the evening and I was by myself trying to make it home.

As a consumer, I would have liked to know if there were any issues that I would face or if these issues were to happen, the issues would be fixed beforehand. Granted, all of the issues were fixed and covered by Ford – however, these issues could have caused larger issues. For example, what if I had caused an accident or anything along those lines? I think that as a consumer for an automobile, I should be told all of the information for the vehicle before hand because then I could have purchased another vehicle. The law that would have been beneficial to know is the United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.” I feel that this law would have showed me that my life would have been protected since the car had so many “unknown” problems at the time.

CP&R

The article that stood out to me the most was about automobile safety recall. When you buy a car, you expect it to be in top conditions, the last thing you want is to receive a letter in the mail saying your mode of transportation has a safety recall.

I think that as a consumer of Toyota products, I’m fairly protected since Toyota has a longstanding reputation of putting quality products on the market for a long period of time.

I know that they are pretty heavily regulated and have a rigorous process they have to go through in order to continue with production for mass consumption. I don’t know what the quality assurance/testing process is or how the reporting process works as far as defective parts.

I would think that the NHTSA is relevant to learn more about because they are responsible for issuing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to Congress in order implement laws that support safety.

It is important to understand that although safety regulations are issued, they are typically the bare minimum necessary in order to move forward with production. That being said, there is always more control in what you can do in being proactive with the more knowledge you obtain so that you can make adjustments in your everyday life.

Glossary Building #2

In the Overview of Nutrition PowerPoint the term eating patterns is used to describe food choices. After closely examining and considering the different aspects that go into eating patterns my understanding of the term is not solely dependent on what one person simply wants to eat. Eating patterns include preference, habit or tradition, social pressure, availability, convenience, economy, emotional needs, values or beliefs, attitudes, nutritional value and outside incentives.

Again in the Overview of Nutrition PowerPoint the term food culture is introduced. I was a bit confused with the term and considered the terms independently. Foods meaning any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth. Then culture meaning the ways we believe, act and think. Together, my interpretation of the term food culture refers to the way we believe, act or think about any nutritious substance that people, animals and plants eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth. Simply put, food culture refers to the way we think, believe or act in regards to food.

In the same powerpoint, Overview of Nutrition, the term portion distortion is used. The term is followed by the question, “How much BIGGER are we eating?” which led me to think about what portion distortion meant. Individually, portion, refers to a helping, fraction or divide. Then distortion refers to misrepresentation or bend. Together, my interpretation of the term portion distortion would then mean the misrepresentation of a helping with regards to food. Basically, in this way our vision of what is an adequate serving or helping size does not accurately reflect what is healthy.