The Checkout

Archive: April 2008

FDA takes a look at BPA

Ever since the National Toxicology Program (NTP) said two weeks ago that there is "some concern" for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children from bisphenol A (BPA), a widely used compound in hard plastic food containers, one retailer after another has pledged to pull BPA from baby products and consumers have been eyeing their water bottles, their kid's binky, and their Tupperware uneasily. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the use of BPA in products that come into contact with food, such as baby bottles and baby formula cans. When my colleague Lindsey Layton first reported...

By Annys Shin | April 28, 2008; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Your 401(k) Can Cost You

The number of Americans with 401(k)-style retirement plans has grown to about 50 million. But how many of those people know how much they're paying their providers in administration fees? Not many, according to the AARP. A study the organization commissioned last year found that of 1,584 people aged 25 and over who had 401(k) plans, a whopping 83 percent had no idea how much they pay in fees. Even if you were vigilant, you would still probably end up losing out. The fees usually appear deceptively small, ranging from less than 1 percent of assets to more than 2...

By Kathy Lally | April 28, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Saucy Siren of Starbucks

We are on the phone with Starbucks public relations and trying hard to sound like a hard-nosed investigative reporter. We want to ask about their newly brown logo and the mermaid -- Compare the new logo (top) with the old logo (bottom). (Images Courtesy of Starbucks) "She is a siren," spokeswoman Bridget Baker corrects. "A siren has a split tail and a mermaid has a single tail." She pauses. "This is my job." Well, we had to ask. And that's because the logo unveiled this month to celebrate the new Starbucks' Pike Place Roast reveals the saucy siren in all...

By Ylan Mui | April 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Choice?

I've been delving into the process of finding alternate suppliers of electricity and gas, known as "energy choice." Apparently, there are some brave souls out there who have put in a good chunk of their time figuring out where to get the best deal for their electricity and gas needs. It involves calling the various licensed suppliers, getting rate quotes and comparing those to the rate your utility is offering. If you go with the alternates, you can sign up for a variable or fixed rate for a certain number of months. Before you renew, of course, it's wise to...

By Annys Shin | April 23, 2008; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Update: Toys 'R' Us to Phase Out BPA Baby Bottles

It's still early on Monday morning, but Toys 'R' Us has already sent us two e-mails to make sure we know that it plans to phase out by the end of the year all baby bottles and other baby feeding products that are made with bisphenol A, the controversial chemical used to make clear plastic. Straight from the e-mail from spokesman Bob Friedland: Toys"R"Us, Inc. is committed to the safety of all its customers and is vigilant about staying current with emerging scientific and other thinking about ingredients in products sold in its stores. While the FDA has not changed...

By Ylan Mui | April 21, 2008; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bye-Bye Bisphenol A?

The bisphenol-A debate has gained plenty of momentum this week. I reported this morning that Wal-Mart said yesterday it will sell only BPA-free baby bottles in its U.S. stores by early next year -- one day after its Canadian division halted all sales of baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, food containers an water bottles containing the chemical. That's a major move by the biggest retailer in the world. It comes at a time when debate over BPA has reached frenetic levels. My colleague Lyndsey Layton reported earlier this week on the National Toxicology Program draft report that found there is...

By Ylan Mui | April 18, 2008; 8:19 AM ET | Comments (11)

Financial Worries

Lately, I've gotten one e-mail after another telling me about yet another new study or survey declaring this: Americans are worried about their finances. The other day, it was from financial services company The Hartford, which found that 55 percent of parents with children aged 16 to 24 are afraid their children won't be able to support themselves financially. Then came one from the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute, which found that fewer American workers and retirees are confident that they will have enough money to retire comfortably. And there was this: A poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the...

By Kathy Lally | April 16, 2008; 11:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Would You Like Your Steak Adulterated?

Just in time for grilling season.....last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a confab at the Holiday Inn in Georgetown on E. coli O157:H7 in beef. (Yes, you can spend two days talking about the effects of fecal matter in meat.) The big topic of discussion was the recent news that the USDA's Food Safey Inspection Service was considering treating E. coli O157:H7 found on intact meat or primal cuts used for roasts and steaks as an adulterant. Currently, it's only considered an adulterant in ground beef. To part the weeds for you: Making someting an adulterant has legal...

By Annys Shin | April 14, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Where's the Refund?

It's tax time, and here's one figure that might startle you: The number of thieves who have gotten refunds by using another person's Social Security number increased 579 percent from 2002 to 2007, according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, a government watchdog. The report, which was released this week, also found that the theft of taxpayers' names and Social Security numbers to get work, then not pay federal taxes on the wages, is also on the rise. In those cases, the thieves take off with the wages while the lawful taxpayer is left...

By Annys Shin | April 11, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

How to Cook a Cattle Head

Sorry, you'll have to indulge me for a second. On Friday, the USDA announced that a Kansas beef packer was recalling cattle heads because the tonsils had not been removed from all of them. The tonsils are removed to reduce the risk of mad cow. Despite the tonsil situation, there is an extremely low risk of any human illness resulting from this particular set of cattle heads because the cattle were all younger than 30 months old. Anyhow, the mad cow part was not what got my attention. What grabbed me was the cattle head part! I figured it had...

By Annys Shin | April 8, 2008; 9:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Pervasive Plastic Bag

We're getting some company here at The Checkout. As of today, I'm being joined by two of my colleagues, Ylan Q. Mui, who covers retail for the newspaper, and Nancy Trejos, who writes about personal finance. We'll be taking turns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so check in when you can. We'll also weigh in when news breaks or we find a really juicy story that we can't wait to share. As always, feel free to write to us at thecheckout@washpost.com. Here's Ylan, taking on reusable shopping bags. I jumped on the eco-bandwagon two years ago and bought my first...

By Annys Shin | April 7, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (26)

Why won't drawstrings go away?

Yesterday, Brents-Riordan Inc. LLC, of Shreveport, La., recalled 7,400 hooded youth sweatshirts and jackets because the hoods have drawstrings that pose a strangulation hazard. The recall was noteworthy for a few reasons. For starters, the drawstring violation has become a staple of recall alerts, despite the fact that there is an 11-year old voluntary standard that instructs manufacturers not to use drawstrings in the neck area of children's outerwear and to make sure drawstrings at the waist are of a certain length, have no toggles or knots, and are sewn in the back so they can't move. The Consumer Product...

By Annys Shin | April 3, 2008; 6:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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