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Consumer Reports magazine: February 2013

The issue: Genetically modified organisms don’t have to be disclosed on food labels.

 

Our take: A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its genetic material artificially altered in a laboratory, to make it insect resistant, for example. A Colorado lawsuit filed in November contends that the “natural” claim on Pepperidge Farm Goldfish doesn’t tell the whole story, since the tiny crackers contain genetically engineered soybeans. The complaint alleges that Pepperidge Farm “mistakenly or misleadingly represented” its Goldfish Crackers as natural. The company told us that it doesn’t comment on the specifics of pending litigation but that it is confident of the accuracy of the labels and stands behind its products.

 

The labeling of genetically modified food is a hot topic. More than a million people signed a petition presented to the Food and Drug Administration asking for such foods to be labeled. California’s Proposition 37, which would have required GMO labels, was defeated in November after the chemical industry and agribusiness poured $45 million into fighting it. Consumers Union, which supported the bill and others at the federal and state levels, believes that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. We’ll continue to work toward legislation that requires disclosure of GMOs on labels. For more information, go to NotInMyFood.org.

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on food animals, mostly to make them grow faster or prevent disease in crowded, unsanitary conditions. That overuse promotes the spread of drug-resistant superbugs and makes antibiotics less effective for humans.

 

Kim Howland, pictured at right, from Enid, Okla., knows how devastating that can be. She believes she carried home a MRSA infection from the hog-farming facility where she worked. The antibiotic-resistant superbug sickened several members of her family, including her husband, Dale, who needed emergency surgery to remove the flesh-eating MRSA infection.

 

Kim Howland has teamed up with Consumers Union’s Meat Without Drugs campaign. “Grocery stores can make a real difference to public health by stopping the sale of meat raised on antibiotics,” she says. For more information, go to NotInMyFood.org.

That’s the amount consumers spent on gift cards during the 2012 holiday season, according to an estimate by the National Retail Federation. But shoppers don’t get all they paid for; certain store policies erode the value. Consumers Union supports a bill in Congress that prohibits expiration dates and non-use fees and prevents companies that have filed for bankruptcy from selling gift cards or refusing to honor those they’ve sold.

Money on your mind? A new, consumer-friendly site run by the Federal Trade Commission is a one-stop shop for consumers looking for information on money management, credit, loans and debt, and scams, ID threats, and more.

Each topic on Consumer.gov is broken down into What It Is, What to Know, and What to Do. The site, available in English and Spanish, also has worksheets (say, to compare prepaid cards), links to agencies where you can file a complaint, and other resources from a range of agencies. Those will continue to expand as the site grows.

Editor's Note: Consumers Union is the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports.
   

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