Key fobs latest VW woe

vw

businesspundit.com

via Key fobs latest VW woe, clarionledger.com

PDF: The_Clarion-Ledger_State_20160818_A002_5

If you own certain models of Volkswagen diesel vehicles, you’re probably aware of the $10.3 billion settlement involving “clean diesel” claims made by the German automaker. This history-making settlement between VW and the Federal Trade Commission promises to compensate consumers who bought VW models with 2.0-liter diesel engines in a “buyback” program of unprecedented size, in many cases, offering more than the vehicle’s current value, or making repairs and paying cash in addition.

Now, a new concern has emerged for VW owners: some VW cars’ remote keyless entry systems could be hacked, leading to your vehicle being stolen.  British researchers and a German engineering firm announced last week that the key fobs for millions of VW Jettas and Passats sold between 1995 and 2016, as well as those for some Audis and other brands, could be compromised, letting thieves potentially unlock and steal the vehicles. The vulnerability could affect as many as 100 million cars.

According to many sources, it’s not the first time that VW vehicles have been found to have security vulnerabilities; the same firm that released this week’s results also found significant vulnerabilities back in 2012, but announcement of those results were delayed for two years after VW allegedly sued to keep the story quiet (citing the increased risk of theft if the results were made public).

This developing story comes on the heels of the emissions scandal (some have dubbed it “Dieselgate”), in which Volkswagen was accused of having falsified emissions test results. The automaker admitted to using what’s been called a “defeat device,” which caused more than 500,000 diesel vehicles to appear to be more environmentally friendly than they actually were.

The emissions scandal is already producing a lot of confusion about the settlement and the “buy-back” program. The FTC this week warned VW, and independent dealers, that they should be careful when using the buyback program for marketing.  “It would be unwise for anyone — including independent VW dealers — to make separate offers implying either that an offer is part of the $10.03 billion settlement if it is not, or that affected diesel owners must buy a new VW or Audi,” the FTC noted in a news release. “FTC staff will be watching closely to ensure that the compensation process is unsullied by deception.”

The agency advises consumers that their first step should be to visit VWCourtSettlement.com , the official settlement website. There, owners can register their vehicle, and find out their options. Buybacks could start in late fall of this year and emissions modifications will begin once approved.

VW owners shouldn’t feel pressured to make a quick decision; they have more than two years to decide. And, if they get settlement money, they can use it for whatever they want. Apparently, the FTC and other agencies have been hearing from VW owners who have been approached with alternate offers, trying to take advantage of the concerns.

“It’s unwise,” warned FTC blogger Lesley Fair, “for anyone — including independently-owned VW dealers — to make separate offers that: 1) falsely imply that the offer is part of the pending $10 billion settlement, 2) falsely tell owners they have to spend compensation under the settlement on a new VW or Audi or 3) use “Act now!” tactics to lock owners into a separate deal before owners have the full picture of what they stand to gain as part of the $10 billion settlement.”

“If someone makes you an offer for your VW or Audi car, or suggests limits on the buyback program that don’t exist, please report them to the FTC,” Fair added. “We worked very hard to get a fair deal for VW and Audi owners and lessees, and we don’t want anyone to undermine it.”

Meanwhile, many experts say that although the key fob vulnerabilities are real (and likely not limited to just VWs), it apparently takes quite a lot of effort, targeting specific vehicles. To find out more about the buyback program related to the emissions settlement, VW owners should visit http://VWCourtSettlement.com.

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Say no to raw dough, FDA says

via Moak: Say no to raw dough, FDA says, clarionledger.com

Cookie-dough-taste

Foodbeast.com

As children, many of us share a favorite childhood memory of when our mom or grandma would bake cookies or cakes, and then let us kids scrape the mixing bowl. That sweet, doughy mixture was irresistible, and many of us carried on the tradition for our own kids. In many families, it’s a tradition that goes back generations. Nearly anyone who bakes will tell you that it’s hard to resist the urge to sample the goods before they go into the oven. (As somebody who loves to bake, I know this firsthand.)

It’s rare to hear about anyone actually getting sick from eating raw dough, but as our knowledge of food-borne illnesses has expanded, it’s become apparent that we’re taking a risk when we indulge our sweet tooth this way. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned us again about the potential dangers after an outbreak of a particularly nasty bacteria called “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121” (a form of the well-known E.coli). Dozens of people in 20 states have so far been sickened by the outbreak, which has been linked to a Kansas City, Missouri, facility that made flour for General Mills.

According to the FDA, General Mills has voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of flour sold under three brand names: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen’s and Gold Medal Wondra. The varieties include unbleached, all-purpose and self-rising flours. Since flour has a long shelf life, the FDA advises you to throw them away.

General Mills noted the recall was based on an abundance of caution, although the link between illnesses and any particular product is hard to ascertain. “As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour,” said Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills’ Baking division.

Jenny Scott, a senior adviser in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, warns that eating raw dough or batter of any kind — or giving homemade “play clay” to kids — can make us sick. Scott notes any flour can contain bacteria that cause disease. The FDA-CDC investigation found some of the flours made in the Kansas City facility had been sold to restaurants that give kids dough to play with while waiting for their meals.

Usually, the concern is about salmonella and other disease-causing organisms found in raw eggs, but eggs aren’t always the culprit. “Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” says Leslie Smoot, a senior adviser in FDA’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods. “So if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.”

Common symptoms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, the FDA notes, include diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps, although most people recover within a week. But some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can occur in people of any age, but is most common in young children under 5, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Parents of young children should be particularly aware. Some kindergartens and daycare facilities make “play clay” from raw dough. Even if kids don’t eat the dough, they can put their hands in their mouth after handling it. “Childcare facilities and preschools should discourage the practice of playing with raw dough,” the FDA notes.

The agency notes commercial products containing raw dough (such as the irresistible cookie-dough ice cream), are usually prepared using safe ingredients, such as pasteurized eggs and treated flour, so they aren’t a concern.

Here are some tips from FDA to help avoid getting sick from uncooked dough or batter:

  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily because of its powdery nature.
  • Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.

For more about the flour recall, visit http://www.generalmills.com/flour.

What you should know about the Blue Bell recall

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger print edition on 4/23/2015.

PDF: Blue bell recall

In what is fast becoming one of the most sweeping recalls in history, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries has recalled all its products currently on the market due to potential infection by the potentially-deadly Listeria monocytogenes organism.

Mississippi is a big market for Blue Bell ice cream. Many Mississippians have come to love Blue Bell, as much for its reputation as an American business success story as for its tasty products. Since it’s likely that you have at least one Blue Bell product in your freezer, you need to know a few things, so we’ve pulled this information together for you.

What’s happened?

In the past several months, concerns about infection by the Listeria bacteria have increased, with the organism being found in a number of locations. Tuesday, Blue Bell announced it had initiated an “enhanced sampling program”, which revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half-gallons produced on March 17 and March 27 contained the Listeria bacteria. Blue Bell noted in a news release that Listeria has been found in several different plants. As a safety precaution, Blue Bell is asking consumers to stop consuming Blue Bell products (including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks) and return them to the retailer for a refund.

The products being recalled were distributed to food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,  South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations. This is a voluntary recall by Blue Bell, and not a mandated recall by the government.

Why is it important?

Listeria is a dangerous organism, and can cause serious — and sometimes fatal — infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been following this outbreak for some time, and reports that 10 people have gotten sick, with three deaths reported in Kansas. Other cases of Listeria infection allegedly related to the outbreak have been reported in Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas.

In addition, pregnant women may face an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

What’s Blue Bell doing?

Blue Bell president Paul Kruse noted on the company’s website that the company is initiating a number of precautions, including implementation of a “test and hold” procedure for all products. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. A Blue Bell plant in Broken Arrow, Okla. has been closed until an investigation is completed.

In addition, Blue Bell is expanding its program to clean and sanitize equipment, expanding swabbing and testing all personnel by more than 800 percent, sending daily samples to a lab for testing, and enhancing employee training.

“At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities and so we have taken this unprecedented step,” Kruse said in a statement. “We continue to work with our team of experts to eliminate this problem… We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.”

What now?

Consumers are urged to gather any Blue Bell products and return them to the store where you purchased them for a refund.

Kruse said the company will resume making and selling ice cream products, but will make sure products are free of Listeria before doing so.

For more information about the recall, call 1-866-608-3940 Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CST or go to bluebell.com.

Understanding Recalls

Originally printed in the Clarion-Ledger print edition on April 12, 2015. 

If you’ve visited the customer service desk at one of the big-box retailers, you may have noticed a bulletin board plastered with pieces of paper and titled “Recalls”. The other day, I noticed this board at a local store. The board was over to the side where it would hardly be noticed, and surrounded by shopping carts and other obstacles to make it difficult to read what was posted. Then I realized that few people would ever even be interested enough to read it anyway.

Many consumers are confused about what actually happens during a recall. It’s actually quite complicated; the public recall is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. But recalls can affect you and your family’s health and safety, so it’s a good idea to understand them.

Dozens of products are recalled every week. Most of the time these don’t make the news, but sometimes they do so – often in spectacular fashion. Just this week, a recall of Sabra Hummus made the national news because some cases of the popular dip had been found to be infected with the potentially-deadly Listeria organism. In that case, consumers were urged to throw away the product, or take it back to the store for a refund.

But wide news coverage is the exception, rather than the rule. Occasionally, we’ll write about a recall affecting our consumers, such as one we did a few months ago regarding potentially-dangerous tree stands. But choosing which recalls to highlight is a difficult decision for the media.

This week, besides the Hummus, there were recalls affecting children’s pajamas (fire risk), patio furniture (risk of breaking), Macadamia nuts (potential salmonella infection) and intravenous (IV) fluids (found to contain “particulate matter.”) In many of these cases, it’s unlikely you ever heard about it, unless you are in a business that sells or uses that product. In some cases (such as with some of the Macadamia nuts), they were sold in just a few locations.

Simply stated, a recall is an action to address an issue which has been found to be a concern for health, safety or which has the potential for harm. Recalls can originate with the manufacturer of the product (self-reporting), through reports from consumers or from government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Once the problem is discovered, the company is required by law to report it, and work with the agency to issue a recall.

Recalls are an attempt at damage control, but are usually only partially effective. For example, if you buy a swing set for your child and the bolts holding the swing on the frame break and send your child to the emergency room, you (or your attorney) might call the company to complain. Upon investigating, the company finds that a single box of bolts was made of substandard metal, but now the problem is all over the country because the bolts are in hundreds of units.

For lots of reasons (potential lawsuits among them), the company issues a recall. But there’s a problem: they don’t really know who bought those swing sets. They only know that they were sold in certain toy stores, in certain cities.

There is a lot riding on these damage control efforts. Not only does a company have the moral and ethical responsibility to do what it can to stop potential harm, it must also deal with potential lawsuits. And a company’s response can make or break its reputation. Perhaps most famously, drug maker McNeil has been lauded for their quick recall in response to deliberate poisoning of Tylenol in 1982, leading to seven deaths. But many other companies have gone out of business because they didn’t get out front of the issue and take responsibility.

So, how do you know about recalls, and what to do about them? First, there are lot of good websites out there which alert the public. For example, the CPSC site (www.cpsc.gov) has current recall information on its Recalls tab. And the CPSC will also send you emails about recalls as well, just go to the Stay Connected link on the right side of the CPSC Recalls page.

Also, there are a lot of other government agencies and industry groups which alert the public about recalled products, including the FDA (food and drugs), USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (food safety issues), American Veterinary Medical Association (recalls affecting pets), and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (vehicles, tires, child safety seats, etc.)

Secondly, there are many free mobile apps for all platforms which will provide you with alerts, often customizable to your situation. Popular apps include Recalls and Parenting Ages and Stages, available on the iTunes store, and Recall Watch, available for Android.

Tree stands recalled because of potential fall hazard

With the Mississippi woods full of hunters and the proliferation of affordable portable tree stands, the chances of injuries or death from falls has increased in recent years. Back in December, the Clarion-Ledger’s Brian Broom reported that seven of 12 hunting-related injuries reported since the start of the fall hunting season involved falls from tree stands. While most – if not all – of those were said to involve improper use of safety harnesses, there is also the possibility of injuries from defective products.

On Thursday, a New Jersey-based company announced a recall of two models of hunter tree stands because of six reports of the cast-aluminum platform breaking. Although no injuries have been reported, PrimalVantage Company has recalled its Hyde brand Ameristep Cliff Hanger and Sky Walker tree stands, which were made in China and sold at Bass Pro Shops nationwide from July through November, 2014 for $220 to $250.

The recalled models include the Ameristep Hyde Cliff Hanger has model number 2RX1H008C and date code JH-2014-3-6 and the Ameristep Hyde Sky Walker with model number 2RX1H009C and date code JH-2014-3-6. The date code is stamped on the back of the tree stand’s aluminum seat frame. The model number is printed on the packaging and in the instruction manual. “Hyde” is printed in red on the vertical aluminum bar between the seat and the foot platform.

If you have purchased one of these, you can return it for a refund. Call Primal Vantage toll-free at (866) 972-6168 between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit www.primalvantage.com and click on “For Hyde Recall Click Here” on the homepage or go to the Customer Service tab. In any case, don’t use the product, or try to sell it. (Selling a recalled product is illegal.)

Regardless of what type of stand you use, safety experts urge you to always check out the equipment thoroughly and make sure you know how to use it properly before you head out into the field. The Treestand Manufacturers Association has produced a good list of safety tips for safe use of tree stands at http://www.tmastands.com, under the Safety tab.

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger on 1/28/2015.

Pedigree recall includes Miss. stores

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger on 8/30/2014.

PDF: Pedigree recall includes Miss. stores

Dog food manufacturer announces recall of some PEDIGREE® Dog food sold in Miss.

Mars Petcare US has announced a voluntary recall of 22 bags of PEDIGREE® Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food products due to the possible presence of a foreign material, according to a news release from the U.S. Food and Dug Administration (FDA).

The bags were sold between Aug. 18 and 25 at Dollar General Stores in Vicksburg and Magnolia, as well as in other Dollar General stores in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.

The bags were produced in one manufacturing facility, and shipped to one retail customer. The facility production line has been shut down until this issue is resolved.

Affected bags may contain small metal fragments, which could have entered the packages during the production process. The foreign material is not embedded in the food itself, but may present a risk of injury if consumed.

“We encourage consumers who have purchased affected product to discard the food or return it to the retailer for a full refund or exchange,”
noted the release. “We have not received any reports of injury or illness associated with the affected product.”

To identify the 15-pound bags of
PEDIGREE® Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food, look for a lot code printed on the back of the bag near the UPC code that reads 432C1KKM03 and a Best Before date of 8/5/15.

The FDA notes that no other PEDIGREE® products are affected, including any other variety of dry dog food, wet dog food or dog treats.

Pet owners who have questions about the recall should call 1-800-305-5206 or visit www.pedigree.com/update.

Kroger recall issued for 2 types of ice cream

The Kroger Co. said today it has recalled Private Selection Chocolate Hazelnut Mascarpone Ice Cream and Private Selection Caramel Hazelnut Fudge Truffle Ice Cream sold at the Kroger family of stores in 31 states because the products may contain egg not listed on the label. The recall includes products sold in Mississippi.

People who are allergic to egg could have a severe reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to egg, there is no safety issue with the product. No customer illnesses have been reported to date.

Kroger has removed potentially affected item from store shelves and initiated its customer recall notification system that alerts customers who may have purchased recalled Class 1 products through register receipt tape messages and phone calls.

What customers should do

Customers are asked to carefully check their freezers for the recalled product. Any opened or unopened products included in this recall should not be consumed by persons allergic to egg, and should be returned to their local store for a full refund.

Customers who have questions about this recall may contact Kroger toll-free at 800-KROGERS (800-576-4377). For more information, please visit http://www.kroger.com/recall.

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger on 4/30/2014.

Wal-Mart recalls 174,000 dolls due to burn hazard

Little girls who got a certain doll from Wal-Mart probably had a lot of fun helping the “sick” doll get better by taking care of her. But parents be warned: this baby doll’s “fever” may turn out to be amazingly real. So real, in fact, that the doll may actually catch fire.

Wal-Mart has issued a nationwide recall for “My Sweet Baby” electronic dolls, which are designed to mimic illness by babbling, getting reddened cheeks and coughing. Using the included “medical equipment” causes the “symptoms” to go away. But there’s a problem: the doll’s circuit board may overheat, burning little fingers and causing a possible fire hazard. Wal-Mart has received 12 reports of incidents, including two burns or blisters.

Wal-Mart has recalled about 174,000 of the Chinese-made dolls, which were sold at Wal-Marts nationwide from August 2012 through March 2014 for $20.00. If you think you have one of these, you’re advised to remove the batteries immediately and return the doll to Wal-Mart for a full refund. The dolls were sold in clear plastic and cardboard packaging which reads, “My Sweet Love” or “My Sweet Baby” on the front. The doll can be identified by UPC Code 6-04576-16800-S and a date code beginning with WM. The date code is also printed on the stuffed article label sewn into the bottom of the doll.

Now, the hard part is likely to be getting your little budding doctor to relinquish her prize.

This is just one of the recalls listed today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Items are recalled constantly, and we try to keep you apprised using this site. But it’s a good idea to keep tabs on them yourself; you can get on the CPSC’s e-mail list by going to http://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/Subscribe/. Choose the recall info that interests you, provide your email address and you’ll start getting alerts, so you can feel better about keeping your family safe.

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger on 3/25/2014.

Jerky treats may be killing, injuring pets

flippie1Giving your dog or cat a meaty treat is almost guaranteed to send them into a food Nirvana, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers that there may be something dangerous lurking in those treats. The problem is, they don’t know exactly what.

Last week, the FDA issued a call for anyone whose pet has become ill or even died after eating “jerky” type pet treats to come forward and let them know. The FDA estimates that close to 600 pets have died after eating the treats since 2007, with more than 3,600 pets becoming ill enough to take them to the vet. It does appear that at least some of the problems may originate in …wait for it… China.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” says Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.” The CVM has conducted more than 1,200 tests, visited jerky pet treat manufacturers in China and collaborated with colleagues in academia, industry, state labs and foreign governments. Yet the exact cause of the illnesses remains elusive.

Now, the CVM is asking for help from consumers and veterinarians across the country. A letter is being sent out to vets, along with a fact sheet to help report the incidents.

Meanwhile, the FDA has told us what to look out for:

  • Decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, drinking more water, and increased urination have been associated with eating jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit.
  • Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems.
  • The remaining cases reported various symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.

“Our fervent hope as animal lovers,” says Dunham, “is that we will soon find the cause of—and put a stop to—these illnesses.”

I agree. For now, no jerky treats for the Moak family dog. He’ll just have to stick to his daily allotment.

For more information, visit the FDA’s incident site here.

Crosman recalls air pistols for explosion hazard

Originally published by clarionledger.com on 9/9/2013.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled some Crosman semiautomatic air pistols, citing potential risk of the pistol exploding at high temperatures (150 degrees). Given the summer temperatures we’ve had here in Mississippi, and the fact that temperatures in an enclosed vehicle in the sun can reach this point easily, this warning should be taken seriously. No injuries have been reported yet.

Crosman says the risk involves the Taiwan-made pistol’s plastic frame, and an explosion could occur if there is a full and pierced CO2 canister. The air pistols use a CO2 cartridge to propel plastic BBs and are used for recreational shooting. The air pistols are black, measure 8 ½ inches long and weigh 1 ½ lbs. Crosman’s name and partial address are printed in the “Warning” information on the left side of each pistol. If you own one of these, return it for a replacement. Complete info may be found here.