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Viewpoint: Ordinary people who made our drinks and hospitals safer

This page highlights efforts by Consumers Union and others to improve the marketplace

Published: September 2014

When Sarah Kavanagh looked closely at her Gatorade bottle and learned that the brominated vegetable oil it listed had potentially hazardous health consequences, the teen petitioned the parent company, PepsiCo, asking that it ditch the chemical. She rallied more than 200,000 people on, then put out a similar call about Powerade. For the high school senior, who plans to study communications in college, it has been a crash course in the power of social media. A PepsiCo rep told Consumer Reports: “We removed BVO from Gatorade in response to our consumers. Since, we have been actively working to remove it from the rest of our product portfolio.” (Coca-Cola, Powerade’s parent, is on a similar path.)

David Antoon’s experience at the Cleveland Clinic prompted him to raise concerns about the safety of procedures there. The retired Air Force colonel’s claims spurred a government investigation and pushed the venerable hospital to make changes.

Know a consumer hero? Fill us in on the advocacy champions you admire most. Write to us at

Actions you can take in November

Photo: Paul Sahre

Tell FDA: Ban the ‘natural’ label

It sounds like a guarantee of purity, but when “natural” appears on a food product, the word is essentially meaningless. Join Consumers Union, the poilcy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, in urging the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to ban the label by signing our petition at

Put a stop to ‘too big to fail’ banks

We stand with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and John McCain—and more than 160 state and national groups—in calling on Congress to stop banks from betting your insured deposits on risky Wall Street deals. The 21st Century Glass-­Steagall Act would separate ordinary banks from investment firms. Go to and ask your representative to join the fight.

The win: You can unlock your cell phone

The keys to your mobile phone are yours again now that Congress has passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. The bill, signed into law by President Barack Obama in August, restores your right to unlock your device and switch to another provider when your contract expires—something Consumers Union has been fighting for since early 2013, when a Library of Congress change to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act made unlocking illegal.


That’s the percentage of Americans willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact—think about the Patagonias and Whole Foods of the world—according to a Nielsen survey. A related study found that ­socially conscious companies have seen annual sales rise 5 percent, compared with just 1 percent growth for those not making such claims.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the November 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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