StarWatch Consumer

Baby food makers face court case over warning labels about lead

Updated: 2013-04-08T14:55:05Z

The nation's largest baby food makers face a lawsuit by an environmental group aimed at forcing them to alert consumers that some products contains low amounts of lead.The case scheduled for trial Monday will determine whether they should put warning labels on such products sold in California.

Gerber Products Co., Del Monte Foods, Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. and many other makers of baby foods and juices are selling products containing lead at levels that require warning labels under California Proposition 65, the Environmental Law Foundation asserts in the suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.

Lawyers for the food companies say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested products targeted in the lawsuit, and decided levels were below the standards that require a warning.

But both sides in the case agree on one fact: baby foods containing carrots, peaches, pears and sweet potatoes have some lead. Also covered by the suit are grape juice and fruit cocktail.

Old Spice is raising the bar

Old Spice, the aftershave brand known for appealing to more mature men, is introducing a line of scented soap bars this month. It may seem odd that Procter & Gamble, which has fought in recent years to refashion its 75-year-old Old Spice brand to target younger men, is rolling out something that some people consider antiquated. Bar soap sales edged up just 1 percent in the U.S. between 2007 and 2012 to $1.62 billion, according to the firm's data. Meanwhile, body wash revenue jumped 30 percent during the same period, to total $2.44 billion.

Airline quality improves

U.S. airlines scored their second best performance last year in the more than two decades that researchers have been measuring airline quality, with Virgin America the leader, says an annual report released Monday. The report ranked the 14 largest U.S. airlines based on on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, consumer complaints and passengers who were bought tickets but were turned away because flights were over booked.

Airline performance in 2012 was the second highest in the 23 years that Wichita State University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Purdue University have tracked the performance of airlines. The airline's best year was 2011.

Virgin America did the best job on baggage handling and had the second-lowest rate of passengers denied seats due to overbookings. United Airlines, whose consumer complaint rate nearly doubled last year, had the worst performance. United has merged with Continental Airlines, but has had rough spots in integrating the operations of the two carriers.

Curbing volatile stock trading

A three-year effort to fine-tune curbs on volatility for individual stocks entered a new phase Monday in the U.S.Trying to reduce market disruptions, regulators are instituting a plan that creates price bands in which shares are allowed to trade on American equity exchanges, replacing the old system of immediate pauses when shares swing rapidly. New restraints to halt all U.S. stock, options and index futures when the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index plunges will also take effect. Both will operate as one-year pilot programs.

Under limit-up/limit-down, trades won’t be permitted to occur more than a specified percentage above or below a stock’s rolling five-minute average price. If the lowest price at which investors are willing to sell shares reaches the stock’s lower band, or the highest purchase price reaches the higher band, the stock enters a so-called limit state for 15 seconds. Should no trades occur between the bands, trading will cease for five minutes, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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