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Former Congressman Named In Investment Scam

Investors in Bidbay.com bilked, prosecutors charge

A former U.S. Congressman has indicted on federal money laundering and tax charges related to a investment fraud scheme that took more than $10 million fro...

A former U.S. Congressman has indicted on federal money laundering and tax charges related to a investment fraud scheme that took more than $10 million from victims, according to federal prosecutors.

Wester Cooley, who represented Oregon's 2nd Congressional District in the 1990s, was named in a seven-count indictment filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien. Cooley currently lives in Palm Springs.

The indictment outlines an alleged scheme in which Cooley, along with George Tannous and De Elroy Beeler Jr., reputedly solicited hundreds of victims across the country to purchase unregistered stock in Bidbay.com, Inc., also known as Auctiondiner.com, Inc., and several related shell companies. Cooley was the vice president of Bidbay.

The indictment alleges that victim investors were lured by several false statements, including claims that Bidbay.com and/or the shell companies would soon be acquired by Ebay, Inc. for $20 per share.

Ebay never had any intention of acquiring Bidbay.com and had even sued Bidbay.com for trademark infringement over the use of "bay" in its name, prosecutors said.

Cooley is charged with taking more than $1.1 million of investor money in 2002, laundering it to conceal the fraud scheme, and using much of the money for his own personal benefit.

The indictment further alleges that Cooley falsified his 2002 tax return to avoid the payment of taxes on the investor money he received by claiming a bogus deduction and failing to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service nearly a half-million dollars he received from investors.

The charges against Cooley relate to charges previously filed against Beeler and Tannous. Tannous pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of subscribing to a false tax return on May 19, 2008, and he is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson on April 20.

Beeler entered guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud on December 8, 2008 and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 22.

Cooley is charged with six counts of concealment money-laundering and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. If he is convicted of all seven counts, Cooley faces a statutory maximum sentence of 38 years in federal prison.

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Bank Of America Sued Over Internet Ponzi Scheme

Hundreds of millions of dollars collected in gigantic swindle

Victims of an Internet-based Ponzi scheme have filed a lawsuit against Bank of America and the organizers of the scheme in the U.S. District Court for the ...

January 30, 2009
Victims of an Internet-based Ponzi scheme have filed a lawsuit against Bank of America and the organizers of the scheme in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Using elaborate misrepresentations, including numerous video postings on YouTube, organizers induced victims from around the country to purchase so-called "ad packages" from the following entities: AdSurfDaily, AdSurfDaily Cash Generator, Golden Panda Ad Builder, and La Fuente Dinero.

The scheme promised that participants could earn large rebates for viewing web advertisements and commissions for referring additional participants.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were collected from approximately 140,000 victims across the country, in amounts ranging from $500 to $250,000 at large rallies and through online deposits.

"We intend to hold all defendants accountable for this Ponzi scheme, including the Bank of America, and secure the return of all funds that were lost by innocent victims, said Steven N. Berk, a partner in the law firm of Chavez & Gertler LLP and a former federal prosecutor representing the plaintiffs in this case.

How does Bank of America figure into all of this?

The complaint alleges that a scheme of this magnitude could not have been possible without the involvement of a financial institution like Bank of America.

At least one other financial institution closed the accounts of the organizers for suspicious activity, according to a sworn government complaint. VISA also considered the enterprise suspicious and would not process charges directed to the scheme by would be victims. And the very popular PayPal payment system rejected efforts by participants to purchase "ad packages" using their system.

Nevertheless, the suit charges Bank of America, in the face of tell-tale signs of money laundering and other criminal conduct, provided both the imprimatur of legitimacy to the scheme and the banking infrastructure that facilitated many thousands of transactions for over two years.

Beginning in November of 2006, Bank of America allegedly allowed the scheme's main perpetrator carte blanche at the bank. The complaint claims the scammers opened and maintained at least 10 separate accounts for running an unlawful Ponzi scheme. These accounts were opened at a tiny Bank of America branch in Quincy, Florida under various "doing business as" designations.

The suit claims Bank of America looked the other way when these accounts amassed deposits in the tens of millions of dollars from thousands of individual transactions.

"We expect to establish that Federal banking regulations, including the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act and related anti-money laundering regulations, clearly required Bank of America to scrutinize the legitimacy of the tens, if not hundred of millions of dollars deposited into a branch in Quincy, Florida to fuel this scheme. Red flag after red flag was ignored by Bank of America. And with the assistance of Bank of America, this fraudulent scheme needlessly expanded" said Steven N. Berk, Counsel for the Plaintiffs.

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The Most Expensive Coffee Isn't Necessarily the Best

Consumer Reports finds Eight O'Clock 100% Colombian coffee beats rivals

The Most Expensive Coffee Isn't Necessarily the Best...

Eight OClock Coffee 100% Colombian at $6.28 per pound ranked number one in Consumer Reports tests of 19 ground coffees, besting Folgers, Maxwell House, and Starbucks -- Americas best-selling ground coffees.

A CR Best Buy, Eight OClock costs less than half the price of Gloria Jeans, Peets and other more expensive brands. CRs coffee experts deemed it a complex blend of earthy and fruity, with a bright, pleasing sourness -- a good thing in coffee parlance.

Starbucks Coffee Colombia Medium, $11.53 per pound, didnt even place among the top regular coffees and trailed among decafs. While the Regular rated Good, testers noted it had flaws such as burnt and bitter flavors, though milk and sugar may help.

Following Eight OClock and also ranking Very Good were two Midwest brews: Caribou Coffee Colombia Timana, at $11.76 per pound, and Kickapoo Coffee Organic Colombia, at $14.33 per pound. Both had fruity aromas and beat an array of larger players among regular coffees. But both come at a hefty price.

Other trendy brands fared less well. Bucks County Coffee Co. Colombia, from Langhorne, Penn., tasted only OK, and Peets Coffee Colombia from Berkeley, Calif., was burnt and bitter, despite costing $14 per pound.

Among decafs, Dunkin Donuts Dunkin Decaf, $10.25 per pound, Millstone Decaf 100% Colombian Medium Roast, $11.59 per pound, and Folgers Gourmet Selections Lively Colombian Decaf Medium Roast were the front runners. But even the best decaffeinated coffees couldnt match the best regular brews in CRs taste tests.

The full results of the coffee ratings are available in the March issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands February 3rd and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

You dont have to spend a lot to get a great cup of coffee, despite what some coffee snobs may tell you, said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor, Consumer Reports. Several of CRs top coffees could save you $25 to $75 each year over pricier brands even if you just drank one 6-ounce cup a day.

CRs testers focused on 100% Colombian -- a best selling bean -- for regular coffee. Most of the six decaffeinated coffees tested are a blend of different beans. Testers consider a great cup of Colombian to have lots of aroma and flavor, some floral notes and fruitiness, a touch of bitterness, and enough body to provide a feeling of fullness in the mouth. Woody, papery, or burnt tastes are off-notes.

Weeks of sipping and swirling confirmed that even 100% Colombian coffee and its Juan Valdez logo dont guarantee quality. CRs testers unearthed other surprises: Chock full oNuts and Maxwell House have pushed coffee thats heavenly and good to the last drop since 1932 and 1907, respectively. But off-notes, little complexity, and for Chock full oNuts, variable quality, put both behind Eight OClock.

How to choose

• Consider how you take it. Coffees judged Very Good taste fine black. Milk and sugar can improve a mediocre coffee, but not even cream is likely to help the lowest-scoring coffees.

• Choose a good coffeemaker. The best rated by CR reached the 195 degrees to 205 degrees F required to get the best from the beans and avoid a weak or bitter brew. A top Michael Graves model costs just $40.

• Consider grinding for fresher flavor. Even the best pre-ground coffee just cant beat the best fresh ground when it comes to taste. One top grinder from CRs January 09 report, the Mr. Coffee IDS77 costs only $20.

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Fannie, Freddie Put Off Evictions until March

Moratorium applies to owners and renters in single-family homes

The moratorium on evicting residents from foreclosed properties, put in place by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in late 2008, has been extended until March....

The moratorium on evicting residents from foreclosed properties -- put in place by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in late 2008 -- has been extended until March.

The suspension applies to all single-family properties including owner-occupied properties that have been foreclosed upon as well as foreclosed properties occupied by renters.

Fannie Mae this month began implementing its National Real Estate Owned (REO) Rental Policy that allows qualified renters in Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed properties to stay in their homes. The new policy applies to renters occupying any type of single-family foreclosed properties at the time Fannie Mae acquires the property.

Eligible renters will be offered a new month-to-month lease with Fannie Mae or financial assistance for their transition to new housing should they choose to vacate the property. The properties must meet state laws and local code requirements for a rental property. On behalf of the company, property managers are contacting renters in Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed properties to notify them of their options.

Renters in Fannie Mae-owned properties can call 1-800-7-FANNIE for further information about their options.

Freddie Mac instituted a similar policy.

"First and foremost, Freddie Mac's REO Rental Option is intended to help cushion the impact of foreclosure on families who own or rent homes with Freddie Mac-owned mortgages," said David M. Moffett, Chief Executive Officer of Freddie Mac. "At the same time keeping foreclosed properties occupied and in better repair will support local property values and promote a faster recovery in the housing market."

Under the REO Rental Option, leases will be offered to current renters on a month-to-month basis at market rents or the rent amount they were paying prior to foreclosure, whichever is less. The rent for former owner-occupants will be the market rent, which will determined by the property management firm Freddie Mac contracted to manage the program.

To qualify, current tenants and former owner-occupants must be able to demonstrate they have adequate income to pay the monthly rental amount. The home must also meet applicable building codes, or can be affordably brought into compliance, to be eligible.

Freddie Mac will also explore loan modification options that may enable owner-occupants to retain ownership of their homes by reinstating their mortgage with modified terms.

"In about half of all foreclosure sales there is no conversation between the borrower and the mortgage servicer about workouts. Before starting the eviction process, we want to ensure there is one last effort to achieve a workout," said Ingrid Beckles, Senior Vice President of Default Asset Management at Freddie Mac.

In 2008 Freddie Mac approved more than 87,485 workouts, enabling three out of five of its seriously delinquent borrowers to avoid foreclosure.

 

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Peanut Recall Expands as Feds Release Findings

Peanut Corp. has long history of problems, FDA reports

Peanut Recall Expands as Feds Release Findings...

The company linked to the nationwide salmonella outbreak -- Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) -- has expanded its massive recall to include all peanuts and peanut products made at its Georgia facility since January 1, 2007.

The action comes hours after federal officials released an inspection report that detailed unsanitary conditions at PCA's Georgia plant -- including roaches and mold -- and confirmed the company shipped peanut products it knew were contaminated with salmonella.

PCA's latest recall now includes all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter, and peanut paste -- along with a warning to pet owners.

"Because some of our peanut products have been used by manufacturers of pet food," the company said, "we are also alerting the public that salmonella is an organism that can potentially be transferred to people handling pet treats."

PCA's products are not sold directly to consumers. They are distributed to long-term care facilities, universities, food service industries, and private label food companies in the United States, Canada, Haiti, Korea, and Trinidad.

U.S. food makers use the company's peanut butter and paste as ingredients in cookies, crackers, energy bars, ice cream, and other products.

Food makers have already recalled hundreds of products in the wake of this salmonella outbreak, which is blamed for the illnesses of more than 500 people in 43 states and may be linked to the deaths of eight others.

Salmonella

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, it can cause more severe illnesses, including arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

In pets, symptoms of salmonella infection include lethargy, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets, however, may have a decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.

Salmonella is carried by animal feces, health officials say. And foods can become contaminated if infected handlers do not wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom.

FDA's findings

The FDA's inspection report (pdf file) of PCA's Georgia plant describes a facility riddled with unsanitary conditions, including:

• "Failure to manufacture food under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for growth of microorganisms and contamination;"

• "Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination;"

• Failure to store finished food under conditions that would protect against microbial contamination;"

• "Failure to perform mechanical manufacturing steps so as to protect food against contamination;"

• "Effective measures are not being taken to protect against the contamination of food on the premises by pests."

The report also confirms the company shipped peanut butter products it knew were contaminated with various strains of salmonella 12 times in the past two year.

The salmonella strain Typhimurium is linked to the current outbreak.

According to the inspection report, PCA knew a sample of peanut paste -- identified as lot # 8278 -- tested positive salmonella Typhimurium. The company retested that sample and -- after it came back negative for salmonella -- shipped the peanut butter paste.

"This peanut paste was manufactured on 9/26/08 from (redacted) lb. totes of roasted peanuts received on 9/25/08," the report states. "The lots of roasted peanuts received on 9/25/08 were also used to produce the following products that were also shipped in interstate commerce: (redacted) totes used to manufacture (redacted) peanut butter under lot #8276; one tote was used to manufacture peanut butter for (redacted) under lot # 8277 and (redacted) under lot #8277."

Contaminated products shipped?

According the inspection report, PCA routinely shipped products that tested positive for salmonella.

It happened 11 other times since 2007.

Each time, the report states, PCA's products tested positive for salmonella. But after the company retested those products -- and they came back negative for salmonella -- PCA shipped the peanuts, peanut granules, and other peanut items.

PCA -- a family-owned business based in Virginia -- claims it "strives constantly to maintain an environment in compliance with federal, state and local regulations and guidelines to provide a clean, safe product."

But FDA investigators didn't find a clean and safe environment when they inspected the company's plant in January.

Dirty conditions

Consider some of the dirty and contaminated conditions they discovered:

• A live roach and several dead roaches in the facility's wash room during an inspection on January 9. This bathroom is next to the facility's production/packaging area, the report states.

• Mold growing on the ceiling and walls in the facility's cooler used to store finished products. "In addition, water stains were observed running down from the cooling unit fans in the cooler," the report states. "On 1/10/09, pallets of finished product were stored directly beneath this unit;"

• The company did not clean the peanut paste line after the strain of salmonella Typhimurium was isolated in peanut paste made at the plant on September 26, 2008 (lot 8278). "The firm continued to manufacturer peanut paste in this system from 9/26/08 to the beginning of this inspection on 1/9/09." The report adds: "There are no records to document the cleaning of the peanut paste line after salmonella was detected in peanut pasted manufactured on January 25, 2008. The firm continued to manufacturer peanut paste in this system;"

• PCA stored totes of finished peanut products within 15 feet from a crack in the floor that tested positive for salmonella Senftenberg on January 10, 2009;

• Finished peanut products were stored on pallets within three feet of a spot on the cooler floor that tested positive for salmonella Mbandaka on January 10, 2009;

• Water stains and water streaks were found on the ceiling and the edges of the skylights in the production/packaging room. "Totes of finished, roasted product and a roasted nut packaging line are located directly underneath these areas," according to the inspection report;

• The sink located in the peanut butter room is used "interchangeably" as a point for cleaning hands and utensils and for washing out mops;

• A mesh-type conveyor was stored in the company's equipment/utensil wash room, which was used as catch-all storage area for buckets, stainless steel pipes, and floor mats. "The insides and end rollers of this conveyor were covered with a slimy, black-brown residue," the report states. "Additionally, the bottom sections of the wash room walls had areas of mold."

PCA has halted production at its Georgia plant and says it's working with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their investigation of the salmonella outbreak.

Expanded recall

Hours after the FDA disclosed the unsanitary conditions at its Georgia facility, the company recalled all peanut butter and paste made at that plant in the paste two years.

The products included in this expanded recall are:

• Peanut Butter All Styles All Sizes All Lots beginning with 7, 8, or 9;
• Peanut Paste All Styles All Sizes All Lots beginning with 7,8, or 9;
• Peanut Meal All Styles All Sizes All lots beginning with 7, 8, or 9;
• Peanut Granules All Styles All Sizes All lots beginning with 7, 8 or 9.

"We have been devastated by this, and we have been working around the clock with the FDA to ensure any potentially unsafe products are removed from the market immediately," said Stewart Parnell, President of Peanut Corporation of America. "Additionally, we are working alongside state and federal food safety experts in every way we can to help them protect consumers, both now and in the future."

He added: "We want our customers and consumers to know that PCA is taking extraordinary measures, out of an abundance of caution, to identify and recall all products that have been identified as potential risks."

The company said it is not aware of any illnesses linked to the additional peanuts and peanut products included in this latest recall.

PCA said it will notify customers who received the recalled products. For more information on this action, consumers can contact the company at 1-877-564-7080.

The FDA now has a complete list of all products recalled in the salmonella outbreak on its Web site. Consumers can check that list to see if their favorite products are included in any recalls.

 



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Feds: Peanut Corporation Knew of Salmonella Problem

Company allegedly shipped its peanut butter knowing it could be contaminated

Feds: Peanut Corporation Knew of Salmonella Problem...

The company at the heart of the nationwide salmonella outbreak -- Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) -- shipped peanut butter it knew was contaminated 12 times in the past two years, federal officials say.

The news comes as food manufacturers nationwide continue to pull crackers, health bars, pet treats, and other products off store shelves because they contain potentially salmonella-tainted peanut butter or paste made at PCA's Georgia facility.

PCA's products are not sold directly to consumers, but they are used as ingredients to make cookies, crackers, pet treats, energy bars, ice cream, and other products.

Food makers have already removed hundreds of items from store shelves in the wake of this salmonella outbreak -- and the list continues to grow.

The outbreak is blamed for the illnesses of more than 500 people in 43 states and may be linked to the deaths of eight others.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, it can cause more severe illnesses, including arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

Federal officials on Tuesday confirmed that internal tests by PCA found salmonella in its products 12 times during 2007 and 2008, but the company still shipped the items.

In some cases, officials said, PCA had a different laboratory analyze the products -- and those tests came back negative for salmonella.

The Washington Post said health officials did not know about the problem because companies are not required to disclose internal tests to the Food and Drug Administration or state officials.

PCA, however, may still have violated federal law, an FDA official told the newspaper.

"Foods are supposed to be produced under conditions that do not render them damaging to health," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, according to the Post. He declined to say if the company could face criminal charges.

Federal officials on Tuesday also said they found four strains of salmonella at PCA's Georgia plant, including one in a sample taken from the floor near a bathroom, newspaper reported.

The only strain of salmonella linked to the current outbreak is Typhimurium.

"There is a salmonella problem at the plant," Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's division of food-borne, bacterial and mycotic diseases, told the Post.

FDA officials said they still do not know how PCA's plant was contaminated with salmonella -- or how the organism got into the peanuts.

Salmonella is carried by animal feces. Foods can also become contaminated if infected handlers do not wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom.

The bacteria usually thrive in a wet environment, like meats and eggs. But food experts discovered that salmonella can survive in a dormant state in peanut butter -- and reproduce when ingested by humans -- after the 2007 outbreak at a ConAgra facility that makes Peter Pan peanut butter.

State inspection reports of PCA's Georgia plant reveal a history of unsanitary conditions, according to the Post report. Inspectors flagged those problems, but said they were not required to do follow-up inspections. The newspaper found no indication that state officials had shut down the plant or penalized the company.

FDA officials have never inspected PCA's plant, the newspaper reported. Instead, the agency relied on Georgia's Department of Agriculture. FDA officials say the agency does not have enough inspectors to check the 65,520 food production facilities nationwide. FDA officials inspected 5,930 plants in 2008.

The last time state officials inspected PCA's Georgia plant was in October, according to the Associated Press. That is the same time the contaminated products were being produced. Inspectors, however, did not test the factory or the peanut products for salmonella.

"We do pull product samples from time to time, but we can only run 4,500 samples in a year, and we have 16,000 food-processing and food-sales stores in the state," Oscar Garrison, Georgia's assistant agriculture commissioner for consumer protection, told the Post.

The FDA is reviewing the state's inspection process, but said Georgia officials may not have found any salmonella contamination even if they'd tested some of the products.

"All inspections are a snapshot in time; they only reveal what is happening at the firm at that particular time," Michael Rogers, director of field investigations at the FDA, said.

Consumers Union, however, said the government could do a much better job protecting the public and preventing outbreaks like this.

"The average plant is inspected once every 10 years," Jean Halloran, director of food safety for Consumers Union, said. "This one was getting inspected a couple of times a year by Georgia, but neither they nor the FDA were taking enough enforcement action."

In the meantime, PCA said it is cooperating with the FDA in this investigation. "We have shared with them every record that they have asked for that is in our possession and we will continue to do so," the company said in a statement released on Tuesday.

PCA has also halted production at its Georgia plant.

More recalls

Meanwhile, the list of products recalled in the wake of this outbreak keeps growing.

Here are the latest products recalled because they contain potentially-tainted peanut butter or paste made by PCA:

Healthy-hide Deli-wrap 3-Pack 5" Peanut Butter-Filled Rawhide dog treats made by Salix.

The company sold the products at PetSmart, Target, and Wegman's Food stores in the United States and Canada. The products come in a clear plastic bag with a header card and the name Deli Wraps on the front. The package is a 3-count of 5" chew treats with the UPC of 0-91093-33354-0. All packages are marked with one of the following lot codes: A 08 208, A 08 212, A 08 232, A 08 234, A 08 263, A 08 264, A 08 268, A 08 275, A 08 276 or A 08 277. This code can be found on the back of the header card. Salmonella can be transferred to people handling pet treats, especially if they don't thoroughly wash their hands after handling the products or any surfaces exposed to the products.

Pets with salmonella may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets may have decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Well animals can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. Pets that have any of these symptoms should see a veterinarian. Salix has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers can return the recalled items for a full refund. For more information, can contact PetSmart at 1-888-839-9638; Target: at 1-800-440-0680, or Wegmans: 1-800-934-WEGMANS ext. 4760.

Several varieties of Carolina Prime Pet dog treats.

The recalled products, which were sold in the U.S. and Canada, are: 6" Beef Shank Peanut Butter, UPC 063725542007; 2pk Hooves Peanut Butter, UPC 063725542000, 4" Rawhide Bone Peanut Butter, UPC 063725542003, 6" Rawhide Bone Peanut Butter, UPC 063725542005, and 6" Healthy Hide Beef Shank Peanut Butter, UPC 09109333479. All the recalled products come in single unit packages with lot date codes between 081508 and 010909. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers can return the dog treats for a full refund. For more information, contact Carolina Prime Pet at 1-888-370-2360;

Jenny's Cuisine Anytime Peanut Butter Flavor Nutritional Bars by Jenny Craig.

The recalled products were distributed directly to consumers in the United States and Canada through Jenny Craig centres or the at-home Jenny Craig Direct program. The recalled items have the following BEST BEFORE DATES: MAY1209ALO, MAY1209BLO, MAY2409BLO, MAY2509BLO, MAY2509ALO, MAY2609ALO, and MAY2609BLO. They also have a UPC Code of 655447009347. Jenny Craig has removed these products from its inventory. Customers can return the bars for a replacement or "an adjustment" on their next order. For more information, contact Jenny Craig at 1-800-JennyCare.

Certain Sure-Pak 12 meals from SOPAKCO, Inc., of Mullins, South Carolina.

The recalled meals were sold by SOPAKCO to distributors and customers nationwide and in several foreign countries. Some of the meals were sold at stores specializing in emergency preparedness and camping gear and rations. The recall covers all meals with the following lot numbers: 8261, 8278, 8285, 8287, 8294, 8320, 8322, 8330, 8350, 8357, 8358, 9003, and 9012. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers who have these recalled items will be contacted by a SOPAKCO representative. Consumers contact the company at 423-278-1437 for more information about this action.

ALDI Cambridge cheese crackers with peanut butter and Grandessa Peanut Butter Cookies.

Some of the recalled cheese crackers were made by Kellogg's. Both ALDI and Kellogg's are recalling these crackers. The recalled crackers made by Kellogg's have a net weight of 7.44 oz (210 grams) on the package. The recalled crackers made by a second manufacturer ALDI used have a net weight of 7 1/3 oz (208 grams) on the package. Consumers can return any of these recalled items for a full refund. For more information, contact ALDI at 630-761-2740.

Chocolate Dipped Honey Peanut IsaLean bars from Isagenix International LLC.

The bars were sold by independent distributors across the county. The recalled products have the UPC 602410 and lot numbers 11390108, 11390208, 12390308 and 12390808. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these bars. For more information, contact the company at 877-877-8111.

Various nutrition bars made by Creative Energy Foods, under brand names including Can Do Kid, Isagenix IsaLean, Nestle, Zone, Think Thin, Promax 70, Promax, and Shaklee.

The products were distributed in California, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, and British Columbia, Canada. The recall includes:

Can Do Kid Cookies & Cream 102109

Can Do Kid Chocolate Crunch 102109

Isagenix IsaLean Choc. Dipped Honey Peanut 11390108

Isagenix IsaLean Choc. Dipped Honey Peanut 11390208

Isagenix IsaLean Choc. Dipped Honey Peanut 12390308

Isagenix IsaLean Choc. Dipped Honey Peanut 12390808

Nestle Optifast Honey Nut 'n Oat 83375007CA

Zone 3 Carb Chocolate Brownie 111109

Think Thin Chocolate Mudslide 122809

Think Thin Chocolate Mudslide 20410

Think Thin Dark Chocolate 122909

Think Thin Dark Chocolate 20510

Promax 70 Double Fudge Brownie 30-Dec-09

Promax 70 Cookies and Cream 5-Jan-10

Promax Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 20-Dec-09

Promax Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 20-Jan-10

Shaklee Cinch Lemon Cranberry CE8296

Shaklee Cinch Lemon Cranberry CE8353

Shaklee Cinch Peanut Butter Crunch CE8295

Shaklee Cinch Chocolate Decadence CE8294

Shaklee Cinch Chocolate Decadence CE8296

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. For more information about this recall, consumers can contact the company 510-567-1200.

Meanwhile, the makers of Skippy, Peter Pan and Jif say their products are safe and not included in any salmonella-related recall.

The FDA now has a complete list of all the products recalled in the salmonella outbreak on its Web site. Consumers can check that list to see if their favorite products are included in any recalls.

 



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Beware Of Super Bowl Scams

Annual tradition includes scams aimed at excited fans

"The scam letter, which implies that the contest is affiliated with the NFL and VISA, informs consumers that they have won a prize of $100,000 and two tick...


The Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals square off in Super Bowl XLIII Sunday, and fans in both Arizona and Pennsylvania are excited. They should also be on guard against another Super Bowl tradition the Super Bowl scam.

As most of his colleagues have when teams from their states play, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is cautioning consumers to be wary of potential scams -- including bogus sweepstakes offers, "too good to be true" travel packages or game-day ticket offers.

"The excitement surrounding another Super Bowl trip for the Pittsburgh Steelers may cause some fans to act quickly, without carefully reviewing all the details of a ticket offer or travel promotion," Corbett said. "Scam artists are counting on the fact that enthusiastic fans may not be as attentive as they should be."

Corbett said the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has received complaints about bogus Super Bowl contest notifications recently sent to Pennsylvania residents.

"The scam letter, which implies that the contest is affiliated with the NFL and VISA, informs consumers that they have won a prize of $100,000 and two tickets to the Super Bowl," Corbett said. "The letter also includes a check for several thousand dollars that consumers are supposed to use to pay the taxes for their prize -- wire transferring the money to a 'claim agent' who will verify their winnings."

Corbett said the criminals, mainly based in Canada or overseas, have been using these types of sweepstakes notifications to lure Pennsylvania consumers into cashing counterfeit checks and wire-transferring money for several months. The Attorney General's Office issued a warning to consumers about aggressive "easy money" lottery and sweepstakes scams last October.

"The lure of a large cash prize, combined with tickets to the Super Bowl, may be too much of a temptation for some consumers," Corbett said. "Unfortunately, consumers who try to claim their prize by sending money to these scam artists will quickly learn that there is no $100,000 jackpot, there are no Super Bowl tickets, and the check they were given to pay the taxes will eventually be returned as counterfeit or forged."

Corbett also encouraged Steelers fans considering a trip to Florida for the game to shop carefully for their travel packages or tickets:

• Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable travel agent and do not assume that ads offering travel deals are being offered by travel agencies.

• Pay particular attention to what the travel package does and does not offer. Do not assume that every package includes airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to get into the game.

• If the package includes airfare and a ticket to the game, federal rules apply. The travel agent must either have the game tickets in hand, or have a written contract to obtain the tickets before the agent can make the offer. If a ticket is offered, but never provided, you may be entitled to a full refund of the entire package price.

• Do not be pressured into making an immediate decision about a particular package.

• Research the hotel and its location. In some instances, consumers have been told that their hotel is within walking distance to the venue, when in reality it was too far to walk and required additional expenses to either rent a car or pay for other ground transportation.

• Get all the terms and conditions of your package in writing, including the cancellation policy in the event that you are unable to make the trip.

• Use a credit card to pay for travel packages and tickets. Do not use cash or wire money. You can dispute charges on a credit card and have little-to-no recourse when using cash.

• Be wary of unknown and private sellers who refuse to provide you with verifiable contact information.

• Be cautious of travel packages that appear to be extremely cheap or extremely expensive.

• Contact the Better Business Bureau or Attorney General's Office to see if the travel agency is in good standing.

"In the past, our office has heard from consumers who fell victim to phony travel agents and ticket sellers," Corbett said. "In several cases, consumers learned at the gate that their tickets were counterfeit and they were denied entry. In other cases, fans purchased hotel rooms that were inconveniently located. Still others told our office that they were quoted a certain amount on a Super Bowl package and were charged additional fees for services that they thought were included."

More Scam Alerts ...

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Senate Approves Delay In Digital TV Transition

Millions of consumers unable to meet Feb. 17 deadline

Senate Approves Delay In Digital TV Transition...

After more than a year of planning, the Senate has concluded the public still isn't ready for U.S. TV stations to switch to digital broadcasting. Lawmakers have approved a measure that would delay the switch until June 12.

Leaders in the House say they have the votes to approve the delay and President Obama says he will sign it.

The switch to digital broadcasting is currently scheduled to take place February 17, but the entire process has been mired in confusion and controversy. After the switch, consumers receiving TV over the airwaves not by cable or satellite will not be able to receive a signal unless they are using a digital TV.

Congress appropriated money to compensate consumers for the purchase of up to two digital converter boxes for their analog TVs, but many consumers were confused about whether they needed one or not. And it now turns out that even with a converter box, some of these consumers still won't be able to receive digital signals. Lawmakers say the delay will give engineers time to work out a solution.

Problems in the program began popping up early last year. The process has spawned a constant stream of consumer complaints.

Some consumers might wonder why the switch has to take place at all. The answer is money. The U.S. Government has already sold the old broadcast frequencies, which AT&T;, Verizon Wireless and other carriers will use to expand their mobile networks. Public safety agencies will also use some of the vacated spectrum space.

At the time, government officials concluded moving broadcasters to digital frequencies would be easy and painless. After all, weren't most consumers getting their TV from either cable or satellite?

Many, it turns out, aren't. Millions of consumers still get their TV directly over the air, on VHF and UHF channels, along the 700-MHz spectrum. Though some may prefer this form of reception, it is not hard to conclude that many others are of limited income, who cannot afford cable or satellite delivery.

The government's program to help consumers make the switch to digital TV recently ran out of money. That stopped the flow of vouchers consumers could use to purchase digital converter boxes.

Angry consumers

The most often-heard complaint among the hundreds received by ConsumerAffairs.com is that the government is sending out converter box coupons that either have already expired or are so close to their expiration date that the consumer can't use them — and can't get a replacement.

"We received our DTV Converter Box Coupons after the expiration date. When we called to get new one with correct expire dates, they sent us a letter stating that we received cards and there would be no others issued," said Charles of St. Louis. "This program has been mismanaged the way our economy has been mismanaged."

"It really is an eye opener as to where the government is heading. It should have been as simple as using a coded debit card specifically for the converter boxes. Simple program could have fixed this, but they inconvenience the consumers they want to support this major change in viewing. Pretty lame actually," Charles concluded.

R.L. of Lake Dallas, Texas, had a similar experience.

"I applied for a coupon for a converter box on 9-19-08. It NEVER arrived. When I checked the website (dtv2009.gov) for a status on the coupon, it said it was expired. I applied online for another coupon on 1-5-09 (we're supposedly entitled to two), it said that because program funding is not currently available, you will not receive coupons unless more funding becomes available," R.L. said.

"I thought the government was supposed to be helping us with this DTV transition.....what a SCAM!"

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Peanut Butter Recalls Taper Off

At least 7 deaths, 500 illnesses blamed on Salmonella-contaminated peanut products

Peanut Butter Recalls Taper Off...

Another company has recalled some of its peanut butter products in the wake of the nationwide salmonella outbreak.

The outbreak is blamed for the illnesses of nearly 500 people in 43 states and the possible deaths of seven others. The latest apparent victim is an elderly woman, who died on Saturday in a Minnesota long-term care facility.

The Food and Drug Administration has zeroed in peanut butter and paste made by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) as the likely culprit in the outbreak. Food makers nationwide that used ingredients made at PCA's Blakely, Georgia, facility, have recalled more than 350 peanut butter products, including crackers, cookies, ice cream, and dog treats.

On Monday, the Falcon Trading Company/SunRidge Farms of Pajaro, California, became the latest company to recall peanut butter products.

The company recalled its:

• Naturally Preferred Honey Nut Nuggets, UPC 011100372376, 8 oz. Bag, Lot Codes: Nov1209DD 19 cases total, Nov0209GB, 27 cases total, Aug3009DB,126 cases total, Jly 1709DA 125 cases total;
• SunRidge Tropical Golden Nugget, UPC 086700221570, 10 lb Case Lot Codes 2708, Total cases involved 34;
• SunRidge Chocolate Energy Bar, UPC 086700211168, 10 lb Case Lot Codes 2948, 3108, 3388, Total cases involved 93;
• SunRidge Energy Nuggets, UPC 086700680643, 8 oz. Bag Lot Codes 2490893, Total cases involved 31 (12 bags per case)

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, it can cause more severe illnesses, including arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

Falcon Trading Company/SunRidge Farms said it has not received any reports of illnesses linked to its products. The company, however, said it issued this recall to protect its customers.

"Falcon Trading Company/SunRidge Farms is committed to producing only the highest quality products, and our top priority is the safety of our customers," the company said in a written statement. "For this reason we are issuing this voluntary recall as a precautionary measure."

Customers who purchased these products can return for a full refund. For more information, consumers can contact Falcon Trading Company's customer service at 1-831-786-7000.

Meanwhile, the FDA now has a complete list of all the products recalled in the salmonella outbreak on its Web site . Consumers can check that list to see if their favorite products are included in any recalls.

Earlier recalls

Here are some of the products recalled earlier:

Supreme Protein brand Peanut Butter Crunch Bars and Caramel Nut Bars

These bars contain peanut paste from PCA's Georgia plant, but none have not tested positive for salmonella contamination. The following bars are included in this action: Supreme Protein brand Peanut Butter Crunch Bars (20, 43 and 86 gram sizes); Supreme Protein brand Caramel Nut Bars (20, 50, and 96 gram sizes); Supreme Protein brand Caramel Nut (Energy) Bars. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers who have these bars should destroy them. For more information on the recalled products -- or how to get a refund -- consumers can contact the company on its Web site .

ShopRite Peanut Butter on Toasty Crackers and ShopRite Peanut Butter and Cheese Cracker Snacks

Made by the Kellogg Company, these products contain paste made by PCA. The recalled sandwich crackers are: ShopRite Peanut Butter on Toasty Crackers, all sizes; ShopRite Peanut Butter and Cheese Cracker Snacks, all sizes. ShopRite sold the crackers in its stores in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The company has removed these products from its store shelves. Consumers with questions about the recall -- or those who would like a refund--can contact the company at 877-869-5633.

LRABAR and JamFrakas Peanut Butter Snack Bars made by General Mills

The products contain peanut butter from PCA. They were distributed nationwide under the LRABAR and JamFrakas brands and sold in grocery and specialty retail stores. The 15,000 cases of products included in this action are:

LRABAR Peanut Butter Cookie Individual Bar
JamFrakas Peanut Butter Blisscrisp snack bars

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers should immediately throw away these products and contact LRABAR or JamFrakas for a full refund. The company's number is 1-800-543-2147;

Carob Energee Nuggets made by Whole Foods Market

The products, which contain ingredients made by PCA, were distributed in Whole Foods Market stores in California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. They are sold in nine-ounce, clear plastic packages with a label reading "Whole Foods Carob Energee Nuggets." The recall includes all lots that have a UPC of 999482-000274. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers should return these products to the store for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-512-542-0656.

NUTRILITE Energy Bars made by Amway Global

The products, which contain peanut paste from PCA, are sold nationwide through direct sales. The energy bars included in this action are: Vanilla Pretzel Energy Bar, SKU/UPC 10-6529; lot numbers 8219A, 8242A, 8276A and 8304A; Peanut Butter Energy Bar, SKU/UPC 10-6530; lot numbers 8294A and 8340A; Chocolate Nut Roll Energy Bar, SKU/UPC 10-6528; lots numbers 8287A, 8357A and 8246A; Product Intro Kit, SKU/UPC E9745; lot numbers 8275BPS1, 8275BPS2, 8275BPS3, 8275MSN1, 8275MSN2 and 8275MSN3. Amway has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. For more information -- or to request a refund -- customers can contact the company at 800-253-6500 or at visit its Customer.support@amwayglobal.com Web site.

Two Varieties of Archer Farms Brand Cookies

Made by Brent and Sam's of Arkansas, the cookies, which contain peanut butter supplied by PCA, are sold at Target and Super Target stores nationwide. The recall covers: Archer Farms Brand Milk Chocolate Monster Chewy Soft Baked Cookies, 8.6oz, UPC 85239 09156, Recalled date codes include: 26Jan2009A, 31Jan2009A, 09Feb2009B, 09Feb2009A, 14Feb2009B2, 17Feb2009B2, 08Mar2009B2, 15Mar2009B2, 21Mar2009A2, 12Apr2009A2, 21Apr2009A2, 16May2009B2, 23May2009A2, 31May2009B2; Archer Farms Brand Double peanut Butter Chewy Soft Baked Cookies, 8.6oz, UPC code 85239 09811, Recalled date codes include: 01Feb2009, 07Feb2009A, 14Feb2009B2, 17Feb2009B2, 16Mar2009A2, 22Mar2009A2, 12Apr2009A2, Apr 18 2009, 06May2009B2, 19May2009B2, 25May2009A2, 02Jun2009A2, 13Jun2009B2. No other Archer Farms cookies are included in this action. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Brent and Sam's has destroyed its remaining supply of products received from PCA and stopped using that company as a supplier. Consumers can return the recalled cookies to Target for a refund. For more information, consumers can contact Brent and Sam's at 704-554-5548.

One variety of Sam's Choice Brand Cookies

Made by Brent and Sam's of Little Rock, Arkansas, the cookies, which contain peanut butter supplied by PCA, were sold in Wal-Mart stores nationwide until August, 2008, when the company discontinued this product. This recall covers Sam's Choice Brand Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, codes: A517Jan09, A5Jan242009. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these cookies. Consumers can return the products to Wal-Mart for a full refund. For more information, consumers can contact Brent and Sam's 704-554-5548.

Trader Joe's Sliced Green Apples With All Natural Peanut Butter

These recalled products contain peanut butter made by PCA. The products involved in this action were sold in 7-ounce container with the UPC of 92459 at Trader Joe's store nationwide. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. It has removed the items from its store shelves. Consumers can return the products to Trader Joe's for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at (626) 599-3817.

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars, Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars and Sutter's Formula Cookies

The recall specifically covers three products sold under Trader Joe's private label: Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars, 7.4-ounce (UPC 88713), Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars 7.4-ounce (UPC 88721) and Sutter's Formula Cookies, 16-ounce (SKU 00176). These products contain peanut butter made by PCA. The Sutter's Formula Cookies were sold in Trader Joe's stores in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. The Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars and Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars were sold in Trader Joe's stores nationwide. Consumers can return the recalled items to Trader Joe's for a full refund. For more information, consumers can contact the company at (626) 599-3817.

Various peanut butter products made by Parker Products, Inc.

The recall covers the following items: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, 1442, Manufactured on 11/6/08, lot code 08296, 30 pound case; Peanut Butter Cookies & Crme Organic Bark, 2348, Manufactured on 10/3/08, lot code 08277, 10 pound case; Peanut Butter Milk Blend, 2310, Manufactured on 07/31/08, lot code 08184, 30 pound case. These products, which contain peanut butter made by PCA, were sold nationwide in bulk pack cases and used as ingredients by manufacturers and companies for private labels. None of the products were sold directly to consumers. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. For more information, customers can contact Parker Products at 800-433-5749.

Some brands OK

Meanwhile, the makers of three popular brands of peanut butter want consumers to know their products are safe and not included in any recalls linked to the salmonella outbreak.

The maker of Skippy peanut butter, Unilever, posted a message on its Web site that states it does not source any ingredients from PCA, and added:.

"Therefore at this time the incident does not in any way relate to Unilever our products and/or our ingredients. Unilever places the highest priority on product quality and safety. As part of our normal course of business, we have in place robust quality assurances and processing procedures to help our product quality and safety."

ConAgra, which makes Peter Pan Peanut Butter, posted a similar message to its customers:

"We'd like to assure you that Peter Pan Peanut Butter is safe to eat and no varieties of Peter Pan Peanut Butter have been recalled," the company states. "ConAgra Foods, the maker of Peter Pan Peanut Butter, has confirmed that none of the ingredients used to make Peter Pan Peanut Butter come from Peanut Corporation of America, the company linked to the government's current salmonella investigation. We are extremely confident in the safety protocols, including stringent quality testing, for Peter Pan Peanut Butter."

The J. M. Smucker Company, which makes Jif Peanut Butter, also posted a message on the company's Web site stating all its products are safe to eat:

"The J. M. Smucker Company does not purchase peanuts or any ingredients from Peanut Corporation of America," the company said. "We are confident that our comprehensive product safety and quality assurance policies and procedures, including testing for the presence of Salmonella, ensure the safety of all of our products."

The FDA now has a complete list of all the products recalled in the salmonella outbreak on its Web site. Consumers can check that list to see if their favorite products are included in any recalls.

Earlier recalls

Earlier recalls include:

Arbonne

Certain lots of Arbonne Figure 8 Peanut Butter Chews made by Arbonne International, LLC. The company distributed these products nationwide through independent Arbonne consultants. The products included in this action were shipped between October 27, 2008 and January 19, 2009, and have the following lot numbers:

A8296-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009,
A8331-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009,
A8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
B8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
C8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
A8336-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009.

The products were sold in individual packages and as a component of the Go Figure 8 30-Day Program Set and the Figure 8 Ready, Set, Go! Vanilla product bundles. Consumers who have these recalled products should immediately destroy them. Arbonne said it will either replace the product with Arbonne Figure 8 Chocolate Chews or issue a refund. To obtain a refund, customers must provide the lot number of the recalled item. For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-800-ARBONNE.

Jimmy's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Inc.

Jimmy's Cookies and One Smart Cookie Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk come in 4 oz, 12.5 oz, and 18 oz. packages and cookie dough in 15 lb, 20 lb and 25 lb foodservice pack sizes with pack dates 12/4/08 - 1/14/09. The cookies were distributed in most eastern, southern and Midwestern states through supermarket grocery store bakeries, convenience stores, and lunch trucks. The packaging is clear plastic, round, rectangular, or octagonal, with a label bearing the brand name. No other Jimmy's Cookies or One Smart Cookie retail packages are included in this action. Consumers who purchased the recalled cookies should either destroy or return them to the store for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-937-5050 between the hours of 8AM and 5PM EST.

GNC

Certain lots of GNC Triflex Peanut Butter Soft Chews products sold by General Nutrition Centers, Inc. (GNC). The products come in 60 count containers and have lot numbers ending in 8275 and 8255. The product's ten digit lot number is on the bottom of the package. The recalled products also have a UPC code of 048107036942. No other GNC brand products are included in this recall. GNC is removing the products from its store shelves. Customers who have any of these recalled items should immediately destroy them. For more information on this action -- or how to obtain a refund -- customers can contact GNC at 1-888-462-2548, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Shurfine

Shurfine Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream (1.75 QT) and Meijer Peanut Butter Cup (16oz) made by Perry's Ice Cream. The company distributed the Shurfine Ice Cream in New York and Pennsylvania. The Peanut Butter Cups were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. This recall is an expansion of one the company announced on January 17, 2009. To date, the company has recalled the following ice cream products made between July 2008 and January 2009:

UPC Code Description Pack size

75767-39002 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Craze Ice Cream 1/2 Pint
75767-00226 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-00226 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
75767-29704 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.5 QT
75767-29704 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.75 QT
75767-50042 Perry's Peanut Butter Sundae Crunch Ice Cream Bar 24/3.5 fl oz
75767-00237 Perry's Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-00237 Perry's Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.75 QT
75767-22309 Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-22309 Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
N/A Perry's 3 GL Peanut Butter Cup 3 GL
N/A Perry's 3 GL YGT Peanut Butter Chip 3 GL
15400-22259 Shurfine Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
15400-22258 Shurfine Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT
77890-53531 Wegmans Chocolate Nutty Cone Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-52460 Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-60212 Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Pint 1.75 QT
77890-29723 Wegmans Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-29034 Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-53525 Wegmans Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-35369 Wegmans Peanut Butter Crunch Ice Cream Bar 6 Pack 6/3.5 oz each
77890-10466 Wegmans Peanut Butter Candy Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 Pack 4/6fl oz each 77890-10394
Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 Pack 4/6fl oz each 71928-39684
Meijer Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 16 Fl oz 16 Fl Oz

No illnesses are linked to any of these recalled products. Consumers who have purchased these ice creams should immediately destroy them. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can call Perry's Consumer Affairs Department at 1-800-873-7797 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday EST.

Kroger Private Selection

Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Light Ice Cream sold by The Kroger Company. The ice cream came in 1.75 quart (56-ounce) containers under the UPC Code Number: 1111054016 with a "Sell by" date of 8-13-09 followed by 49-70. The recalled ice cream was sold in City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC and Smith's retail stores. This recall is an expansion of action taken by Kroger on January 19.

Previously, Kroger recalled its: Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in 1.75 quart (56-ounce) containers under the UPC Code Number: 0001111052816 with a "Sell by" date of 8-13-09 followed by 49-70. Please note this "Sell by" date corrects the "Sell by" date previously announced of 8-11-09; Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in 48-ounce containers with a "Sell by" date of 9-13-09 under the following UPC Code Number: 0001111054437. That ice cream was sold in City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC and Smith's retail stores in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Customers who purchased any of these recalled products should return them to the store for a full refund or replacement. No other Kroger products -- including the company's brand of peanut butter -- are involved in this action. For more information about these recalls, customers can contact Kroger at (800) 632-6900 or check the company's www.kroger.com/recalls Web site.

Aspen Hills

Aspen Hills, Inc. is announcing a voluntary recall of certain cookie dough products. The products are sold nationwide in 3 lb. pails, and 3 lb. corrugated boxes to distributors who are involved in fund raising. The following products with the codes listed below are subject to this recall. No other products are impacted.

• Baker Jo's Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, and Monster 3 lb. pails Date codes: 08273, 08281
• Ovens of Ashley Monster 3 lb. pails Date code: 08273
• Gourmet Cookie Dough Peanut Butter, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk 3 lb. pails Date code: 08273
• Gigi's Peanut Butter 3 lb. pail Date code: 08281 Gigi's Peanut Butter 3 lb. corrugated box Date code: 08277
• Arizona Gold Peanut Butter, and I love Peanut Butter 3 lb. pails Date code: 08281
• ABC Dough Peanut Butter 3 lb. pails Date codes: 08261, 08263, 08268, 08277, 08288, 08297

Nash Finch

Nash Finch, the operator of stores named: SunMart Foods, Econofoods, Prairie Market, Avanza Supermarket, Food Bonanza, Wholesale Food Outlet, Family Fresh Market, Family Thrift Center, and Pick'n Save is taking the precautionary measure of voluntarily recalling the following products made in the bakery departments of its corporate operated stores because they contain peanut butter that was supplied by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella:

•Peanut Butter Cookies,
•Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies,
•Mini Peanut Butter Cookies,
•Monster Cookies,
•Peanut Butter Grand Brownies,
•Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies,
•Puppy Chow snack mix,
•Peanut Butter Rolls,
•Peanut Butter Rice Crisp Bar,
•Special K-Bar,
•Scotcheroos,
•Rolls and Cakes Iced with Peanut Butter Cream.

All sell-by dates are included in this recall. The products are sold in various packaging and quantities and have a price label attached bearing one of the above identified store names. All items should be destroyed or returned to the store where purchased for a full refund.

South Bend Chocolate

The South Bend Chocolate Company has extended their voluntary recall of candy to additional products because they contain peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America, which may be contaminated with Salmonella. These products were sold via internet sales, mail order and may have been sold nationwide through our distributors to retail stores.

Candy impacted by the recall is all sold under The South Bend Chocolate Company brand name and was produced on or after July 1, 2008. The candies under recall include:

• Assorted chocolates in 5 ounce (Products with labels reading 121 and 121R,UPC #4482300121)
• 8 ounce (Products with labels reading 122, 122DK and 122R, UPC #4482300122 are under recall)
• 12 ounce (Products with labels reading 123 and 123DK, UPC #4482300123) and
• 26 ounce (Product 124, UPC #4482300124) boxes.
• [Note: the sugar free assorted chocolates are not affected, and are not part of the recall].
• Hoosiers in 1.5 ounce (Product 010, UPC# 4482300011) and 3.0 ounce (Product 011, UPC# 4482300010. [Note: These are corrected sizes].
• Valentine Heart, 14 ounces (Products with labels reading 1020 and 1020R, UPC #4482310201 are under recall).
• Additionally Christmas gift boxes (CC, CCLG, CCXL and CCXXL) and any other gift baskets may have included the assorted chocolate boxes.

The following products are also under recall and are sold to retail stores in bulk for sales of smaller quantities to their customers:

• 4.5lb Peanut Butter Fudge, Product 228, UPC #4482300228
• 4 lb. Hoosiers, Product 410, UPC #4482300410
• 5 lb. Peanut Butter Meltaway, Milk Chocolate, Product 204, UPC #4482300204
• 5 lb. Peanut Butter Meltaways-Dark Chocolate, Product 204D, UPC #4482302044
• 4.5lb Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, Product 229, UPC #4482300229

Replacement products that are not under recall can be distinguished from recalled product by the presence of a round gold sticker, which we are placing on the bottom of the boxes and/or baskets of replacement products that are not under recall.

Rain Creek

Rain Creek Baking Corporation has announced a voluntary recall of Sinbad and Rain Creek Baking Company branded dessert products produced with peanut butter because the products have a potential of being contaminated with Salmonella.

Items affected by recall are listed below followed by the SKU (number next to bar code used for scanning)

• SinbadSweets.com 12pc Peanut Butter Princess 0 38105 10304 3
• Sinbad Special Baklava Assortment 0 38105 10933 0
• 19 pc Bakery and Sweets 0 38105 10985 4
• Sinbad Sweets Enrobed Peanut Butter Princesses 0 38105 10996 0
• Sinbad Sweets Enrobed Peanut Butter Baskets 0 77589 37133 0
• Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Princesses 0 38105 20013 1
• Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Turtles 0 38105 20026 1
• Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Turtle Shells 0 38105 20031 5
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20101 5
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20102 2
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20103 9
• Sinbad Galleta estilo Baklava 0 38105 20106 0
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20117 6
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20120 6
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20124 2
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20127 5
• Sinbad Sweets Peanut Butter Princess Baklava 0 38105 20128 2
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20129 9
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20130 5
• Sinbad Galletas estilo Baklava 0 38105 20180 0
• Rain Creek Baking Company Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 20211 1
• Rain Creek Baking Company Baklava Assortment 0 38105 20213 5
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21335 3
• Sinbad Sweets European Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 21339 1
• Sinbad Sweets Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21375 9
• Sinbad Sweets Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21382 7
• Sinbad Sweets Caffe Sweets 0 38105 22143 3
• Rain Creek Baking Corporation Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 22280 5
• Michael's Baklava Assortment 0 38105 22297 3
• Rain Creek Baking Corporation Hand Crafted Baklava 0 38105 22306 2

Chef Jay's

Chef Jay's Food Products has announced a voluntary recall of some of its branded food products that contain peanut butter because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Chef Jay's Food Products has identified (5) five items that contain the specified lots of peanut butter recalled by PCA. The following products, in all sizes and packages, with the "Best By" dates ranging from06/Sept/09 thru 16/Jan/10 are included in the recall:

• Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Duo Bar (100 gram)
• Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Cookie (85 gram)
• Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Tri-O-Plex Cookie (85 gram)
• Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Tri-O-Plex Lite Bites Cookie (57 gram)
• Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Brownie (85 gram)

NutriSystem

NutriSystem has announced a voluntary recall of its NutriSystem-branded Peanut Butter Granola Bar 1.41 ounces or 40 grams packaged in flexible film, because the product contains peanut butter which was manufactured by PCA.

The lot codes for the recalled NutriSystem bars are: TC08158A, TC08188A, TC09158A, TC09168A, TC09178A, TC11148A, and TC11178A

The peanut butter is the focus of an ongoing Salmonella investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). PCA is one of the suppliers of peanut ingredients to the company. NutriSystem is no longer using PCA as a peanut butter supplier.

There have been no cases of illness or adverse effects reported by any NutriSystem customers, and no other products within the NutriSystem food portfolio, including those made with peanut butter, are affected by this recall, the company said.

No Salmonella contamination has been detected in the NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar, the commpany said.

"We are urging all consumers who have purchased or are in possession of this product to immediately destroy them," said Sharon Tate, Vice President of Quality Assurance, NutriSystem, Inc. "Customers seeking a replacement bar are being asked to call a NutriSystem representative at 1-866-491-6425 or e-mail PBbar@Nutrisystem.com and a replacement bar will be issued in its place."

The peanut butter granola bar has been distributed directly to customers from the website or call center sales, residing in the United States by NutriSystem. The Peanut Butter Granola Bar (UPC 6 32674320162) is not available in retail stores, and not sold under any other name. This voluntary recall does not apply to NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar product sold in Canada.

Frozen cookie dough by Best Brands Corp. The Minnesota company sold the cookie dough to retail and grocery store bakeries and other foodservice outlets. The recalled items include: Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 22.5 lb case, 288 cookies per case (Item #1003-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1046-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 18.75 lb case, 240 cookies per case (Item #1046-02); Best Brands Corp. 2 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 25 lb case, 200 cookies per case (Item #1046-05); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1047-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1048-01); Best Brands Corp. 3 oz Original Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 21 lb case, 112 cookies per case (Item #1610-12); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4367-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4369-01); Best Brands Corp. Peanut Butter Frozen Cookie Dough, 18 lb pail (Item #5201-67. Consumers may have purchased the products as baked cookies of various sizes from trays in the bakery counter or in individual packages with grocery store labels. The name "Best Brands Corp." would not appear on the consumer package. No other Best Brand Corp. products are included in this action. "Best Brands Corp. prides itself in providing the specialty baking industry with high quality, safe products," the company said in a written statement. "We apologize for any inconvenience this precautionary recall may cause."

Peanut butter-chocolate candies made by Landies Candies.

The company distributed the candies in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The recalled candies are: Landies Premium Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, 11 oz. bags, sold at Wilson Farms stores, UPC 013065502167, lot # 345; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, 8 oz. tubs, UPC 77890 12946, lot # 273; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Medium Chocolate Holiday Platter, 23 oz., UPC 77890 15526, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter, 51 oz., UPC 77890 15529, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter with Sponge Candy, 49 oz., UPC 77890 15530, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, also available at Wegmans in bulk food bins and in random weight packages, Bin # 79966, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09.

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. "Landies Candies apologizes for any inconvenience to our customers," Lawrence R. Szrama, company president, said. "Landies Candies' product quality and consumer safety have been our top priority for over 23 years and our decision today reflects that tradition." Consumers can return the recalled product for a full refund. For more information, contact Landies Candies at 1-800-834-8212, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. For questions about the Wegmans brand products included in the recall, customers can contact the company at 1-800-WEGMANS, ext. 4760, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST;

Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers sold at Weis Markets. The recalled products are Weis Quality (WQ) Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56442), and Weis Quality Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56443). The crackers were distributed at Weis Markets stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. Weis Markets removed these products from its store shelves on January 16, 2009, and issued a stop scan order for them. No other Weis Quality products are involved in this action. Kellogg's Company made the crackers; Bremner Food Group was the supplier. Customers can return the recalled crackers to any Weis Markets' store for a full refund. For more information, consumers can call Kellogg's Consumer Response Center at 877-869-5633;

1,400 pounds of Blanton's Peanut Butter Sticks made by Blanton's Candies of Sweetwater, Tennessee. The products were distributed in retail stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. The recalled peanut butter sticks are packaged in 8 ounce cellophane bags and labeled in part: "Blanton's Homemade Candy, Sweetwater, TN 423-337-3487. The company has stopped making and distributing these products. It has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these peanut butter sticks. The company said consumers should immediately discard the products and take the packaging to the store for a full refund. For more information, customers can call the company at 1-423-337-3487;

Asian Marinated Flank Steak with Sesame Vegetable Stir Fry, Indonesian Chicken with Coconut Rice, and Chicken Satay & Bangkok Peanut Sauce with Jasmine Rice Meals made in November and December by Dinners Ready of Meridian, Idaho. The marinades used for the protein portions of the meals contain peanut butter recalled by PCA. The recalled meals were distributed in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers can return the recalled meals to the store for a replacement. For more information, contact the company at (208) 888-6828;

Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars made by Lovin Oven of California. The recalled products were distributed nationwide and includes Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars, 6.1 oz box, # 0-35742 15483-4, Lot codes 13JUN09, 14JUN09, 28JUL09, (the lot code can be found on the left hand side of the top panel). No reports of illnesses are linked to these products. Consumers can return the recalled items for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-434-4246 (7 am 5 pm Mountain Time).

POCO PAC and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter and peanut butter and jelly combination products made by Boca Grande Foods. The company distributed POCO PAC, and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter products nationally for use in foodservice institutions. The products were distributed in 0.5 oz., 0.75 oz., 1 oz., 1.12 oz., 2 oz., 2.25 oz. and 3 oz. individual plastic containers labeled with POCO PAC, or GRANDE GOURMET. Some of the products were also distributed in unbranded 16 oz., 5 lb. and 50 lb. bulk plastic containers. Customers who received these recalled products will be contacted by a Boca Grande Foods customer service representative. For more information, customers can contact the company at 800-788-8026, extension 15;

Several varieties of TWISTED and TITAN nutrition bars made by Premier Nutrition. The recall includes: TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Vanilla, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Chocolate, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Peanut Butter, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Variety Packs 15 and 24 count DATED: 07/01/09 (July 1, 2009) through 01/09/10 (January 9, 2010); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (80g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (25g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009).

The nutrition bars were sold nationwide in grocery, warehouse, and other retail stores and on the Internet. No other PREMIER NUTRITION flavors, brands or products are included in this recall. "We regret the need to take this action, but the complete safety of our customers and consumers is our highest priority," said Chris Geist, chief operating officer for Premier Nutrition. Customers should destroy the recalled bars, the company said. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can contact the company at 888-836-8977 or visit Premier Nutrition's Web site.

 



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Travel Sites Agree to Improve Service to Disabled Consumers

Hotels.com, Expedia will add features for the disabled

Travel Sites Agree to Improve Service to Disabled Consumers...

January 26, 2009
Under a settlement announced today, Hotels.com and Expedia.com, two of the worlds leading online travel companies, have agreed to add features to their online travel reservation systems so that millions of travelers with disabilities can use their online services to search for and reserve hotel rooms that have the accommodations they need.

As part of the settlement, Hotels.com and Expedia.com will gather information about hotels accessibility features, and will then incorporate that information into their websites so that travelers can both search for hotels with rooms that offer the particular accommodations they need, and make special requests online to book those accessible rooms.

Each special request will be given individual attention by a trained customer service representative, who will work with the customer to accommodate his or her needs. These new features will be rolled out later this year.

For years, travelers with disabilities have been unable to take advantage of the convenience and low cost options of booking hotel rooms online, said plaintiff Bonnie Lewkowicz. Now, for the first time, I will be able to reserve a hotel room online that meets my needs, just like anyone else.

Lewkowicz and co-plaintiff Judith Smith are members of AXIS Dance Company, a not-for-profit company of professional dancers with and without disabilities based in Oakland, Calif. Ms. Smith and Ms. Lewkowicz both rely on wheelchairs for mobility.

By adding website features to meet the needs of disabled consumers, Hotels.com and Expedia are showing that they are true leaders in the hospitality industry added Victoria Ni , a staff attorney at Public Justice, a public interest law firm specializing in cutting-edge litigation nationwide. We hope and believe that other online travel agencies will follow their lead.

In 2006, American online consumer travel sales generated $79 billion. For American travelers, the Internet is an indispensable resource for planning trips and booking lodgings and transportation.

Adults with disabilities spend over $10 billion annually on travel, and almost half of them consult the Internet to support their travel needs.

Wheelchair users need wide doorways and grab bars and accessible bathrooms. People with visual or hearing impairments also need accessible features, such as Braille signage or a text telephone.

Plaintiffs in the California lawsuit Smith v. Hotels.com L.P. were represented by the public interest law firms of Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and Public Justice, and a leading class action law firm in Mill Valley, Calif., Chavez & Gertler LLP.

This settlement ushers in a new era in the online travel industry. A wheelchair user who reserves a hotel room online will no longer have to worry that she or he literally might not be able to enter the room after they arrive, said Kevin Knestrick, an attorney with DRA, a non-profit law center based in Berkeley, Calif., that specializes in high-impact lawsuits on behalf of people with disabilities.

No damages were sought in the case, which was filed in the California Superior Court for Alameda County.



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Peanut Butter Health Bars, Candies, Cookies Recalled

More recalls of health bars, candies, cookies, other products

Peanut Butter Health Bars, Candies, Cookies Recalled...

The salmonella outbreak has apparently claimed its seventh victim an elderly woman in Minnesota who died on Saturday.

Her death comes amid news that a growing number of companies continue to recall peanut butter products -- including health bars, candies, and cookies -- made with ingredients from the Peanut Corporation of America's (PCA) Blakely, Georgia, facility.

PCA's peanut butter and paste are the focus of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) investigation into this outbreak, which has sickened nearly 500 people in 43 states.

Meanwhile, the makers of three popular brands of peanut butter say their products are safe and not linked to any salmonella-related recalls.

Back in Minnesota, health officials confirmed a woman in her 80's died over the weekend from the strain of salmonella linked to this outbreak -- Salmonella Typhimurium.

The woman lived in a long-term health facility. Officials have not released her name and age -- or the exact cause of her death.

King Nut suspected

An investigation by Minnesota health officials, however, suggests King Nut brand creamy peanut butter as the likely source of the salmonella infections that have sickened many people in that state.

King Nut is made by PCA at its Georgia facility.

Minnesota health officials isolated that strain of salmonella from an open 5-pound container of King Nut brand creamy peanut butter used in a long-term care facility in the state.

King Nut creamy peanut butter is distributed in several states to long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools, universities, restaurants, cafeterias, and bakeries. It is not sold directly to consumers.

Health officials in Connecticut also linked that same strain of salmonella to an unopened 5-pound containers of King Nut brand peanut butter in that state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , King Nut peanut butter is the only brand used in facilities where clusters of the salmonella outbreak have been identified.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, it can cause more severe illnesses, including arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

PCA has temporarily shut down its Georgia facility and is no long making any peanut butter or paste.

Those products, however, were used as ingredients in cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, ice cream, and pet treats sold nationwide.

In recent weeks, food manufacturers across the country have recalled more than 350 products that contain potentially-tainted PCA peanut butter and paste.

Latest recalls

Here are the latest products recalled in this nationwide salmonella outbreak:

Supreme Protein brand Peanut Butter Crunch Bars and Caramel Nut Bars

These bars contain peanut paste from PCA's Georgia plant, but none have not tested positive for salmonella contamination. The following bars are included in this action: Supreme Protein brand Peanut Butter Crunch Bars (20, 43 and 86 gram sizes); Supreme Protein brand Caramel Nut Bars (20, 50, and 96 gram sizes); Supreme Protein brand Caramel Nut (Energy) Bars. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers who have these bars should destroy them. For more information on the recalled products -- or how to get a refund -- consumers can contact the company on its Web site .

ShopRite Peanut Butter on Toasty Crackers and ShopRite Peanut Butter and Cheese Cracker Snacks

Made by the Kellogg Company, these products contain paste made by PCA. The recalled sandwich crackers are: ShopRite Peanut Butter on Toasty Crackers, all sizes; ShopRite Peanut Butter and Cheese Cracker Snacks, all sizes. ShopRite sold the crackers in its stores in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The company has removed these products from its store shelves. Consumers with questions about the recall -- or those who would like a refund--can contact the company at 877-869-5633.

LRABAR and JamFrakas Peanut Butter Snack Bars made by General Mills

The products contain peanut butter from PCA. They were distributed nationwide under the LRABAR and JamFrakas brands and sold in grocery and specialty retail stores. The 15,000 cases of products included in this action are:

LRABAR Peanut Butter Cookie Individual Bar
JamFrakas Peanut Butter Blisscrisp snack bars

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers should immediately throw away these products and contact LRABAR or JamFrakas for a full refund. The company's number is 1-800-543-2147;

Carob Energee Nuggets made by Whole Foods Market

The products, which contain ingredients made by PCA, were distributed in Whole Foods Market stores in California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. They are sold in nine-ounce, clear plastic packages with a label reading "Whole Foods Carob Energee Nuggets." The recall includes all lots that have a UPC of 999482-000274. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers should return these products to the store for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-512-542-0656.

NUTRILITE Energy Bars made by Amway Global

The products, which contain peanut paste from PCA, are sold nationwide through direct sales. The energy bars included in this action are: Vanilla Pretzel Energy Bar, SKU/UPC 10-6529; lot numbers 8219A, 8242A, 8276A and 8304A; Peanut Butter Energy Bar, SKU/UPC 10-6530; lot numbers 8294A and 8340A; Chocolate Nut Roll Energy Bar, SKU/UPC 10-6528; lots numbers 8287A, 8357A and 8246A; Product Intro Kit, SKU/UPC E9745; lot numbers 8275BPS1, 8275BPS2, 8275BPS3, 8275MSN1, 8275MSN2 and 8275MSN3. Amway has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. For more information -- or to request a refund -- customers can contact the company at 800-253-6500 or at visit its Customer.support@amwayglobal.com Web site.

Two Varieties of Archer Farms Brand Cookies

Made by Brent and Sam's of Arkansas, the cookies, which contain peanut butter supplied by PCA, are sold at Target and Super Target stores nationwide. The recall covers: Archer Farms Brand Milk Chocolate Monster Chewy Soft Baked Cookies, 8.6oz, UPC 85239 09156, Recalled date codes include: 26Jan2009A, 31Jan2009A, 09Feb2009B, 09Feb2009A, 14Feb2009B2, 17Feb2009B2, 08Mar2009B2, 15Mar2009B2, 21Mar2009A2, 12Apr2009A2, 21Apr2009A2, 16May2009B2, 23May2009A2, 31May2009B2; Archer Farms Brand Double peanut Butter Chewy Soft Baked Cookies, 8.6oz, UPC code 85239 09811, Recalled date codes include: 01Feb2009, 07Feb2009A, 14Feb2009B2, 17Feb2009B2, 16Mar2009A2, 22Mar2009A2, 12Apr2009A2, Apr 18 2009, 06May2009B2, 19May2009B2, 25May2009A2, 02Jun2009A2, 13Jun2009B2. No other Archer Farms cookies are included in this action. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Brent and Sam's has destroyed its remaining supply of products received from PCA and stopped using that company as a supplier. Consumers can return the recalled cookies to Target for a refund. For more information, consumers can contact Brent and Sam's at 704-554-5548.

One variety of Sam's Choice Brand Cookies

Made by Brent and Sam's of Little Rock, Arkansas, the cookies, which contain peanut butter supplied by PCA, were sold in Wal-Mart stores nationwide until August, 2008, when the company discontinued this product. This recall covers Sam's Choice Brand Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, codes: A517Jan09, A5Jan242009. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these cookies. Consumers can return the products to Wal-Mart for a full refund. For more information, consumers can contact Brent and Sam's 704-554-5548.

Trader Joe's Sliced Green Apples With All Natural Peanut Butter

These recalled products contain peanut butter made by PCA. The products involved in this action were sold in 7-ounce container with the UPC of 92459 at Trader Joe's store nationwide. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. It has removed the items from its store shelves. Consumers can return the products to Trader Joe's for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at (626) 599-3817.

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars, Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars and Sutter's Formula Cookies

The recall specifically covers three products sold under Trader Joe's private label: Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars, 7.4-ounce (UPC 88713), Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars 7.4-ounce (UPC 88721) and Sutter's Formula Cookies, 16-ounce (SKU 00176). These products contain peanut butter made by PCA. The Sutter's Formula Cookies were sold in Trader Joe's stores in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. The Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars and Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars were sold in Trader Joe's stores nationwide. Consumers can return the recalled items to Trader Joe's for a full refund. For more information, consumers can contact the company at (626) 599-3817.

Various peanut butter products made by Parker Products, Inc.

The recall covers the following items: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, 1442, Manufactured on 11/6/08, lot code 08296, 30 pound case; Peanut Butter Cookies & Crme Organic Bark, 2348, Manufactured on 10/3/08, lot code 08277, 10 pound case; Peanut Butter Milk Blend, 2310, Manufactured on 07/31/08, lot code 08184, 30 pound case. These products, which contain peanut butter made by PCA, were sold nationwide in bulk pack cases and used as ingredients by manufacturers and companies for private labels. None of the products were sold directly to consumers. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. For more information, customers can contact Parker Products at 800-433-5749.

Some brands OK

Meanwhile, the makers of three popular brands of peanut butter want consumers to know their products are safe and not included in any recalls linked to the salmonella outbreak.

The maker of Skippy peanut butter, Unilever, posted a message on its Web site that states it does not source any ingredients from PCA, and added:.

"Therefore at this time the incident does not in any way relate to Unilever our products and/or our ingredients. Unilever places the highest priority on product quality and safety. As part of our normal course of business, we have in place robust quality assurances and processing procedures to help our product quality and safety."

ConAgra, which makes Peter Pan Peanut Butter, posted a similar message to its customers:

"We'd like to assure you that Peter Pan Peanut Butter is safe to eat and no varieties of Peter Pan Peanut Butter have been recalled," the company states. "ConAgra Foods, the maker of Peter Pan Peanut Butter, has confirmed that none of the ingredients used to make Peter Pan Peanut Butter come from Peanut Corporation of America, the company linked to the government's current salmonella investigation. We are extremely confident in the safety protocols, including stringent quality testing, for Peter Pan Peanut Butter."

The J. M. Smucker Company, which makes Jif Peanut Butter, also posted a message on the company's Web site stating all its products are safe to eat:

"The J. M. Smucker Company does not purchase peanuts or any ingredients from Peanut Corporation of America," the company said. "We are confident that our comprehensive product safety and quality assurance policies and procedures, including testing for the presence of Salmonella, ensure the safety of all of our products."

The FDA now has a complete list of all the products recalled in the salmonella outbreak on its Web site. Consumers can check that list to see if their favorite products are included in any recalls.

Earlier recalls

Earlier recalls include:

Arbonne

Certain lots of Arbonne Figure 8 Peanut Butter Chews made by Arbonne International, LLC. The company distributed these products nationwide through independent Arbonne consultants. The products included in this action were shipped between October 27, 2008 and January 19, 2009, and have the following lot numbers:

A8296-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009,
A8331-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009,
A8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
B8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
C8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
A8336-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009.

The products were sold in individual packages and as a component of the Go Figure 8 30-Day Program Set and the Figure 8 Ready, Set, Go! Vanilla product bundles. Consumers who have these recalled products should immediately destroy them. Arbonne said it will either replace the product with Arbonne Figure 8 Chocolate Chews or issue a refund. To obtain a refund, customers must provide the lot number of the recalled item. For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-800-ARBONNE.

Jimmy's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Inc.

Jimmy's Cookies and One Smart Cookie Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk come in 4 oz, 12.5 oz, and 18 oz. packages and cookie dough in 15 lb, 20 lb and 25 lb foodservice pack sizes with pack dates 12/4/08 - 1/14/09. The cookies were distributed in most eastern, southern and Midwestern states through supermarket grocery store bakeries, convenience stores, and lunch trucks. The packaging is clear plastic, round, rectangular, or octagonal, with a label bearing the brand name. No other Jimmy's Cookies or One Smart Cookie retail packages are included in this action. Consumers who purchased the recalled cookies should either destroy or return them to the store for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-937-5050 between the hours of 8AM and 5PM EST.

GNC

Certain lots of GNC Triflex Peanut Butter Soft Chews products sold by General Nutrition Centers, Inc. (GNC). The products come in 60 count containers and have lot numbers ending in 8275 and 8255. The product's ten digit lot number is on the bottom of the package. The recalled products also have a UPC code of 048107036942. No other GNC brand products are included in this recall. GNC is removing the products from its store shelves. Customers who have any of these recalled items should immediately destroy them. For more information on this action -- or how to obtain a refund -- customers can contact GNC at 1-888-462-2548, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Shurfine

Shurfine Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream (1.75 QT) and Meijer Peanut Butter Cup (16oz) made by Perry's Ice Cream. The company distributed the Shurfine Ice Cream in New York and Pennsylvania. The Peanut Butter Cups were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. This recall is an expansion of one the company announced on January 17, 2009. To date, the company has recalled the following ice cream products made between July 2008 and January 2009:

UPC Code Description Pack size

75767-39002 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Craze Ice Cream 1/2 Pint
75767-00226 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-00226 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
75767-29704 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.5 QT
75767-29704 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.75 QT
75767-50042 Perry's Peanut Butter Sundae Crunch Ice Cream Bar 24/3.5 fl oz
75767-00237 Perry's Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-00237 Perry's Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.75 QT
75767-22309 Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-22309 Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
N/A Perry's 3 GL Peanut Butter Cup 3 GL
N/A Perry's 3 GL YGT Peanut Butter Chip 3 GL
15400-22259 Shurfine Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
15400-22258 Shurfine Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT
77890-53531 Wegmans Chocolate Nutty Cone Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-52460 Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-60212 Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Pint 1.75 QT
77890-29723 Wegmans Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-29034 Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-53525 Wegmans Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-35369 Wegmans Peanut Butter Crunch Ice Cream Bar 6 Pack 6/3.5 oz each
77890-10466 Wegmans Peanut Butter Candy Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 Pack 4/6fl oz each 77890-10394
Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 Pack 4/6fl oz each 71928-39684
Meijer Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 16 Fl oz 16 Fl Oz

No illnesses are linked to any of these recalled products. Consumers who have purchased these ice creams should immediately destroy them. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can call Perry's Consumer Affairs Department at 1-800-873-7797 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday EST.

Kroger Private Selection

Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Light Ice Cream sold by The Kroger Company. The ice cream came in 1.75 quart (56-ounce) containers under the UPC Code Number: 1111054016 with a "Sell by" date of 8-13-09 followed by 49-70. The recalled ice cream was sold in City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC and Smith's retail stores. This recall is an expansion of action taken by Kroger on January 19.

Previously, Kroger recalled its: Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in 1.75 quart (56-ounce) containers under the UPC Code Number: 0001111052816 with a "Sell by" date of 8-13-09 followed by 49-70. Please note this "Sell by" date corrects the "Sell by" date previously announced of 8-11-09; Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in 48-ounce containers with a "Sell by" date of 9-13-09 under the following UPC Code Number: 0001111054437. That ice cream was sold in City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC and Smith's retail stores in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Customers who purchased any of these recalled products should return them to the store for a full refund or replacement. No other Kroger products -- including the company's brand of peanut butter -- are involved in this action. For more information about these recalls, customers can contact Kroger at (800) 632-6900 or check the company's www.kroger.com/recalls Web site.

Aspen Hills

Aspen Hills, Inc. is announcing a voluntary recall of certain cookie dough products. The products are sold nationwide in 3 lb. pails, and 3 lb. corrugated boxes to distributors who are involved in fund raising. The following products with the codes listed below are subject to this recall. No other products are impacted.

• Baker Jo's Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, and Monster 3 lb. pails Date codes: 08273, 08281
• Ovens of Ashley Monster 3 lb. pails Date code: 08273
• Gourmet Cookie Dough Peanut Butter, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk 3 lb. pails Date code: 08273
• Gigi's Peanut Butter 3 lb. pail Date code: 08281 Gigi's Peanut Butter 3 lb. corrugated box Date code: 08277
• Arizona Gold Peanut Butter, and I love Peanut Butter 3 lb. pails Date code: 08281
• ABC Dough Peanut Butter 3 lb. pails Date codes: 08261, 08263, 08268, 08277, 08288, 08297

Nash Finch

Nash Finch, the operator of stores named: SunMart Foods, Econofoods, Prairie Market, Avanza Supermarket, Food Bonanza, Wholesale Food Outlet, Family Fresh Market, Family Thrift Center, and Pick'n Save is taking the precautionary measure of voluntarily recalling the following products made in the bakery departments of its corporate operated stores because they contain peanut butter that was supplied by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella:

•Peanut Butter Cookies,
•Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies,
•Mini Peanut Butter Cookies,
•Monster Cookies,
•Peanut Butter Grand Brownies,
•Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies,
•Puppy Chow snack mix,
•Peanut Butter Rolls,
•Peanut Butter Rice Crisp Bar,
•Special K-Bar,
•Scotcheroos,
•Rolls and Cakes Iced with Peanut Butter Cream.

All sell-by dates are included in this recall. The products are sold in various packaging and quantities and have a price label attached bearing one of the above identified store names. All items should be destroyed or returned to the store where purchased for a full refund.

South Bend Chocolate

The South Bend Chocolate Company has extended their voluntary recall of candy to additional products because they contain peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America, which may be contaminated with Salmonella. These products were sold via internet sales, mail order and may have been sold nationwide through our distributors to retail stores.

Candy impacted by the recall is all sold under The South Bend Chocolate Company brand name and was produced on or after July 1, 2008. The candies under recall include:

• Assorted chocolates in 5 ounce (Products with labels reading 121 and 121R,UPC #4482300121)
• 8 ounce (Products with labels reading 122, 122DK and 122R, UPC #4482300122 are under recall)
• 12 ounce (Products with labels reading 123 and 123DK, UPC #4482300123) and
• 26 ounce (Product 124, UPC #4482300124) boxes.
• [Note: the sugar free assorted chocolates are not affected, and are not part of the recall].
• Hoosiers in 1.5 ounce (Product 010, UPC# 4482300011) and 3.0 ounce (Product 011, UPC# 4482300010. [Note: These are corrected sizes].
• Valentine Heart, 14 ounces (Products with labels reading 1020 and 1020R, UPC #4482310201 are under recall).
• Additionally Christmas gift boxes (CC, CCLG, CCXL and CCXXL) and any other gift baskets may have included the assorted chocolate boxes.

The following products are also under recall and are sold to retail stores in bulk for sales of smaller quantities to their customers:

• 4.5lb Peanut Butter Fudge, Product 228, UPC #4482300228
• 4 lb. Hoosiers, Product 410, UPC #4482300410
• 5 lb. Peanut Butter Meltaway, Milk Chocolate, Product 204, UPC #4482300204
• 5 lb. Peanut Butter Meltaways-Dark Chocolate, Product 204D, UPC #4482302044
• 4.5lb Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, Product 229, UPC #4482300229

Replacement products that are not under recall can be distinguished from recalled product by the presence of a round gold sticker, which we are placing on the bottom of the boxes and/or baskets of replacement products that are not under recall.

Rain Creek

Rain Creek Baking Corporation has announced a voluntary recall of Sinbad and Rain Creek Baking Company branded dessert products produced with peanut butter because the products have a potential of being contaminated with Salmonella.

Items affected by recall are listed below followed by the SKU (number next to bar code used for scanning)

• SinbadSweets.com 12pc Peanut Butter Princess 0 38105 10304 3
• Sinbad Special Baklava Assortment 0 38105 10933 0
• 19 pc Bakery and Sweets 0 38105 10985 4
• Sinbad Sweets Enrobed Peanut Butter Princesses 0 38105 10996 0
• Sinbad Sweets Enrobed Peanut Butter Baskets 0 77589 37133 0
• Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Princesses 0 38105 20013 1
• Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Turtles 0 38105 20026 1
• Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Turtle Shells 0 38105 20031 5
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20101 5
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20102 2
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20103 9
• Sinbad Galleta estilo Baklava 0 38105 20106 0
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20117 6
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20120 6
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20124 2
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20127 5
• Sinbad Sweets Peanut Butter Princess Baklava 0 38105 20128 2
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20129 9
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20130 5
• Sinbad Galletas estilo Baklava 0 38105 20180 0
• Rain Creek Baking Company Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 20211 1
• Rain Creek Baking Company Baklava Assortment 0 38105 20213 5
• Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21335 3
• Sinbad Sweets European Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 21339 1
• Sinbad Sweets Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21375 9
• Sinbad Sweets Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21382 7
• Sinbad Sweets Caffe Sweets 0 38105 22143 3
• Rain Creek Baking Corporation Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 22280 5
• Michael's Baklava Assortment 0 38105 22297 3
• Rain Creek Baking Corporation Hand Crafted Baklava 0 38105 22306 2

Chef Jay's

Chef Jay's Food Products has announced a voluntary recall of some of its branded food products that contain peanut butter because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Chef Jay's Food Products has identified (5) five items that contain the specified lots of peanut butter recalled by PCA. The following products, in all sizes and packages, with the "Best By" dates ranging from06/Sept/09 thru 16/Jan/10 are included in the recall:

• Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Duo Bar (100 gram)
• Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Cookie (85 gram)
• Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Tri-O-Plex Cookie (85 gram)
• Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Tri-O-Plex Lite Bites Cookie (57 gram)
• Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Brownie (85 gram)

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Earlier Recalls

More than 125 peanut butter products were recalled earlier, as companies continue to pull peanut butter candies, health bars, and crackers off stores shelves after learning their products contain ingredients made by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

NutriSystem

NutriSystem has announced a voluntary recall of its NutriSystem-branded Peanut Butter Granola Bar 1.41 ounces or 40 grams packaged in flexible film, because the product contains peanut butter which was manufactured by PCA.

The lot codes for the recalled NutriSystem bars are: TC08158A, TC08188A, TC09158A, TC09168A, TC09178A, TC11148A, and TC11178A

The peanut butter is the focus of an ongoing Salmonella investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). PCA is one of the suppliers of peanut ingredients to the company. NutriSystem is no longer using PCA as a peanut butter supplier.

There have been no cases of illness or adverse effects reported by any NutriSystem customers, and no other products within the NutriSystem food portfolio, including those made with peanut butter, are affected by this recall, the company said.

No Salmonella contamination has been detected in the NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar, the commpany said.

"We are urging all consumers who have purchased or are in possession of this product to immediately destroy them," said Sharon Tate, Vice President of Quality Assurance, NutriSystem, Inc. "Customers seeking a replacement bar are being asked to call a NutriSystem representative at 1-866-491-6425 or e-mail PBbar@Nutrisystem.com and a replacement bar will be issued in its place."

The peanut butter granola bar has been distributed directly to customers from the website or call center sales, residing in the United States by NutriSystem. The Peanut Butter Granola Bar (UPC 6 32674320162) is not available in retail stores, and not sold under any other name. This voluntary recall does not apply to NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar product sold in Canada.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

Other recalls

In addition to NutriSystem, the following companies have recalled products containing peanut butter made by PCA:

Frozen cookie dough by Best Brands Corp. The Minnesota company sold the cookie dough to retail and grocery store bakeries and other foodservice outlets. The recalled items include: Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 22.5 lb case, 288 cookies per case (Item #1003-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1046-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 18.75 lb case, 240 cookies per case (Item #1046-02); Best Brands Corp. 2 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 25 lb case, 200 cookies per case (Item #1046-05); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1047-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1048-01); Best Brands Corp. 3 oz Original Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 21 lb case, 112 cookies per case (Item #1610-12); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4367-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4369-01); Best Brands Corp. Peanut Butter Frozen Cookie Dough, 18 lb pail (Item #5201-67. Consumers may have purchased the products as baked cookies of various sizes from trays in the bakery counter or in individual packages with grocery store labels. The name "Best Brands Corp." would not appear on the consumer package. No other Best Brand Corp. products are included in this action. "Best Brands Corp. prides itself in providing the specialty baking industry with high quality, safe products," the company said in a written statement. "We apologize for any inconvenience this precautionary recall may cause."

Peanut butter-chocolate candies made by Landies Candies.

The company distributed the candies in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The recalled candies are: Landies Premium Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, 11 oz. bags, sold at Wilson Farms stores, UPC 013065502167, lot # 345; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, 8 oz. tubs, UPC 77890 12946, lot # 273; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Medium Chocolate Holiday Platter, 23 oz., UPC 77890 15526, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter, 51 oz., UPC 77890 15529, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter with Sponge Candy, 49 oz., UPC 77890 15530, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, also available at Wegmans in bulk food bins and in random weight packages, Bin # 79966, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09.

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. "Landies Candies apologizes for any inconvenience to our customers," Lawrence R. Szrama, company president, said. "Landies Candies' product quality and consumer safety have been our top priority for over 23 years and our decision today reflects that tradition." Consumers can return the recalled product for a full refund. For more information, contact Landies Candies at 1-800-834-8212, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. For questions about the Wegmans brand products included in the recall, customers can contact the company at 1-800-WEGMANS, ext. 4760, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST;

Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers sold at Weis Markets. The recalled products are Weis Quality (WQ) Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56442), and Weis Quality Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56443). The crackers were distributed at Weis Markets stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. Weis Markets removed these products from its store shelves on January 16, 2009, and issued a stop scan order for them. No other Weis Quality products are involved in this action. Kellogg's Company made the crackers; Bremner Food Group was the supplier. Customers can return the recalled crackers to any Weis Markets' store for a full refund. For more information, consumers can call Kellogg's Consumer Response Center at 877-869-5633;

1,400 pounds of Blanton's Peanut Butter Sticks made by Blanton's Candies of Sweetwater, Tennessee. The products were distributed in retail stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. The recalled peanut butter sticks are packaged in 8 ounce cellophane bags and labeled in part: "Blanton's Homemade Candy, Sweetwater, TN 423-337-3487. The company has stopped making and distributing these products. It has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these peanut butter sticks. The company said consumers should immediately discard the products and take the packaging to the store for a full refund. For more information, customers can call the company at 1-423-337-3487;

Asian Marinated Flank Steak with Sesame Vegetable Stir Fry, Indonesian Chicken with Coconut Rice, and Chicken Satay & Bangkok Peanut Sauce with Jasmine Rice Meals made in November and December by Dinners Ready of Meridian, Idaho. The marinades used for the protein portions of the meals contain peanut butter recalled by PCA. The recalled meals were distributed in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers can return the recalled meals to the store for a replacement. For more information, contact the company at (208) 888-6828;

Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars made by Lovin Oven of California. The recalled products were distributed nationwide and includes Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars, 6.1 oz box, # 0-35742 15483-4, Lot codes 13JUN09, 14JUN09, 28JUL09, (the lot code can be found on the left hand side of the top panel). No reports of illnesses are linked to these products. Consumers can return the recalled items for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-434-4246 (7 am 5 pm Mountain Time).

POCO PAC and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter and peanut butter and jelly combination products made by Boca Grande Foods. The company distributed POCO PAC, and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter products nationally for use in foodservice institutions. The products were distributed in 0.5 oz., 0.75 oz., 1 oz., 1.12 oz., 2 oz., 2.25 oz. and 3 oz. individual plastic containers labeled with POCO PAC, or GRANDE GOURMET. Some of the products were also distributed in unbranded 16 oz., 5 lb. and 50 lb. bulk plastic containers. Customers who received these recalled products will be contacted by a Boca Grande Foods customer service representative. For more information, customers can contact the company at 800-788-8026, extension 15;

Several varieties of TWISTED and TITAN nutrition bars made by Premier Nutrition. The recall includes: TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Vanilla, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Chocolate, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Peanut Butter, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Variety Packs 15 and 24 count DATED: 07/01/09 (July 1, 2009) through 01/09/10 (January 9, 2010); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (80g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (25g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009).

The nutrition bars were sold nationwide in grocery, warehouse, and other retail stores and on the Internet. No other PREMIER NUTRITION flavors, brands or products are included in this recall. "We regret the need to take this action, but the complete safety of our customers and consumers is our highest priority," said Chris Geist, chief operating officer for Premier Nutrition. Customers should destroy the recalled bars, the company said. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can contact the company at 888-836-8977 or visit Premier Nutrition's Web site.

 



More

Dozens More Peanut Butter Products Recalled

Suspect peanut paste spreads through the food chain

Dozens More Peanut Butter Products Recalled...

Food manufacturers continue announcing recalls of products containing peanut butter, over concern they may be tainted with Salmonella. The outbreak is being blamed on peanut paste from Peanut Corporation of America.

These products are in addition to the more than 125 peanut butter products already under recall in the wake of the country's salmonella outbreak.

Arbonne

Certain lots of Arbonne Figure 8 Peanut Butter Chews made by Arbonne International, LLC. The company distributed these products nationwide through independent Arbonne consultants. The products included in this action were shipped between October 27, 2008 and January 19, 2009, and have the following lot numbers:

A8296-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009,
A8331-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009,
A8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
B8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
C8331-8309 / EXPIRATION DATE 11/2009,
A8336-8291 / EXPIRATION DATE 10/2009.

The products were sold in individual packages and as a component of the Go Figure 8 30-Day Program Set and the Figure 8 Ready, Set, Go! Vanilla product bundles. Consumers who have these recalled products should immediately destroy them. Arbonne said it will either replace the product with Arbonne Figure 8 Chocolate Chews or issue a refund. To obtain a refund, customers must provide the lot number of the recalled item. For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-800-ARBONNE.

Jimmy's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Inc.

Jimmy's Cookies and One Smart Cookie Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk come in 4 oz, 12.5 oz, and 18 oz. packages and cookie dough in 15 lb, 20 lb and 25 lb foodservice pack sizes with pack dates 12/4/08 - 1/14/09. The cookies were distributed in most eastern, southern and Midwestern states through supermarket grocery store bakeries, convenience stores, and lunch trucks. The packaging is clear plastic, round, rectangular, or octagonal, with a label bearing the brand name. No other Jimmy's Cookies or One Smart Cookie retail packages are included in this action. Consumers who purchased the recalled cookies should either destroy or return them to the store for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-937-5050 between the hours of 8AM and 5PM EST.

GNC

Certain lots of GNC Triflex Peanut Butter Soft Chews products sold by General Nutrition Centers, Inc. (GNC). The products come in 60 count containers and have lot numbers ending in 8275 and 8255. The product's ten digit lot number is on the bottom of the package. The recalled products also have a UPC code of 048107036942. No other GNC brand products are included in this recall. GNC is removing the products from its store shelves. Customers who have any of these recalled items should immediately destroy them. For more information on this action -- or how to obtain a refund -- customers can contact GNC at 1-888-462-2548, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Shurfine

Shurfine Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream (1.75 QT) and Meijer Peanut Butter Cup (16oz) made by Perry's Ice Cream. The company distributed the Shurfine Ice Cream in New York and Pennsylvania. The Peanut Butter Cups were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. This recall is an expansion of one the company announced on January 17, 2009. To date, the company has recalled the following ice cream products made between July 2008 and January 2009:

UPC Code Description Pack size

75767-39002 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Craze Ice Cream 1/2 Pint
75767-00226 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-00226 Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
75767-29704 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.5 QT
75767-29704 Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.75 QT
75767-50042 Perry's Peanut Butter Sundae Crunch Ice Cream Bar 24/3.5 fl oz
75767-00237 Perry's Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-00237 Perry's Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.75 QT
75767-22309 Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT
75767-22309 Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
N/A Perry's 3 GL Peanut Butter Cup 3 GL
N/A Perry's 3 GL YGT Peanut Butter Chip 3 GL
15400-22259 Shurfine Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
15400-22258 Shurfine Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT
77890-53531 Wegmans Chocolate Nutty Cone Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-52460 Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-60212 Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Pint 1.75 QT
77890-29723 Wegmans Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-29034 Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-53525 Wegmans Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream 1.75 QT 1.75 QT
77890-35369 Wegmans Peanut Butter Crunch Ice Cream Bar 6 Pack 6/3.5 oz each
77890-10466 Wegmans Peanut Butter Candy Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 Pack 4/6fl oz each 77890-10394
Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 Pack 4/6fl oz each 71928-39684
Meijer Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 16 Fl oz 16 Fl Oz

No illnesses are linked to any of these recalled products. Consumers who have purchased these ice creams should immediately destroy them. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can call Perry's Consumer Affairs Department at 1-800-873-7797 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday EST.

Kroger Private Selection

Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Light Ice Cream sold by The Kroger Company. The ice cream came in 1.75 quart (56-ounce) containers under the UPC Code Number: 1111054016 with a "Sell by" date of 8-13-09 followed by 49-70. The recalled ice cream was sold in City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC and Smith's retail stores. This recall is an expansion of action taken by Kroger on January 19.

Previously, Kroger recalled its: Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in 1.75 quart (56-ounce) containers under the UPC Code Number: 0001111052816 with a "Sell by" date of 8-13-09 followed by 49-70. Please note this "Sell by" date corrects the "Sell by" date previously announced of 8-11-09; Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in 48-ounce containers with a "Sell by" date of 9-13-09 under the following UPC Code Number: 0001111054437. That ice cream was sold in City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC and Smith's retail stores in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Customers who purchased any of these recalled products should return them to the store for a full refund or replacement. No other Kroger products -- including the company's brand of peanut butter -- are involved in this action. For more information about these recalls, customers can contact Kroger at (800) 632-6900 or check the company's www.kroger.com/recalls Web site.

Aspen Hills

Aspen Hills, Inc. is announcing a voluntary recall of certain cookie dough products. The products are sold nationwide in 3 lb. pails, and 3 lb. corrugated boxes to distributors who are involved in fund raising. The following products with the codes listed below are subject to this recall. No other products are impacted.

Baker Jo's Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, and Monster 3 lb. pails Date codes: 08273, 08281
Ovens of Ashley Monster 3 lb. pails Date code: 08273
Gourmet Cookie Dough Peanut Butter, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk 3 lb. pails Date code: 08273
Gigi's Peanut Butter 3 lb. pail Date code: 08281 Gigi's Peanut Butter 3 lb. corrugated box Date code: 08277
Arizona Gold Peanut Butter, and I love Peanut Butter 3 lb. pails Date code: 08281
ABC Dough Peanut Butter 3 lb. pails Date codes: 08261, 08263, 08268, 08277, 08288, 08297

Nash Finch

Nash Finch, the operator of stores named: SunMart Foods, Econofoods, Prairie Market, Avanza Supermarket, Food Bonanza, Wholesale Food Outlet, Family Fresh Market, Family Thrift Center, and Pick'n Save is taking the precautionary measure of voluntarily recalling the following products made in the bakery departments of its corporate operated stores because they contain peanut butter that was supplied by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella:

Peanut Butter Cookies,
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies,
Mini Peanut Butter Cookies,
Monster Cookies,
Peanut Butter Grand Brownies,
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies,
Puppy Chow snack mix,
Peanut Butter Rolls,
Peanut Butter Rice Crisp Bar,
Special K-Bar,
Scotcheroos,
Rolls and Cakes Iced with Peanut Butter Cream.

All sell-by dates are included in this recall. The products are sold in various packaging and quantities and have a price label attached bearing one of the above identified store names. All items should be destroyed or returned to the store where purchased for a full refund.

South Bend Chocolate

The South Bend Chocolate Company has extended their voluntary recall of candy to additional products because they contain peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America, which may be contaminated with Salmonella. These products were sold via internet sales, mail order and may have been sold nationwide through our distributors to retail stores.

Candy impacted by the recall is all sold under The South Bend Chocolate Company brand name and was produced on or after July 1, 2008. The candies under recall include:

Assorted chocolates in 5 ounce (Products with labels reading 121 and 121R,UPC #4482300121)
8 ounce (Products with labels reading 122, 122DK and 122R, UPC #4482300122 are under recall)
12 ounce (Products with labels reading 123 and 123DK, UPC #4482300123) and
26 ounce (Product 124, UPC #4482300124) boxes.
[Note: the sugar free assorted chocolates are not affected, and are not part of the recall].
Hoosiers in 1.5 ounce (Product 010, UPC# 4482300011) and 3.0 ounce (Product 011, UPC# 4482300010. [Note: These are corrected sizes].
Valentine Heart, 14 ounces (Products with labels reading 1020 and 1020R, UPC #4482310201 are under recall).
Additionally Christmas gift boxes (CC, CCLG, CCXL and CCXXL) and any other gift baskets may have included the assorted chocolate boxes.

The following products are also under recall and are sold to retail stores in bulk for sales of smaller quantities to their customers:

4.5lb Peanut Butter Fudge, Product 228, UPC #4482300228
4 lb. Hoosiers, Product 410, UPC #4482300410
5 lb. Peanut Butter Meltaway, Milk Chocolate, Product 204, UPC #4482300204
5 lb. Peanut Butter Meltaways-Dark Chocolate, Product 204D, UPC #4482302044
4.5lb Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, Product 229, UPC #4482300229

Replacement products that are not under recall can be distinguished from recalled product by the presence of a round gold sticker, which we are placing on the bottom of the boxes and/or baskets of replacement products that are not under recall.

Rain Creek

Rain Creek Baking Corporation has announced a voluntary recall of Sinbad and Rain Creek Baking Company branded dessert products produced with peanut butter because the products have a potential of being contaminated with Salmonella.

Items affected by recall are listed below followed by the SKU (number next to bar code used for scanning)

SinbadSweets.com 12pc Peanut Butter Princess 0 38105 10304 3
Sinbad Special Baklava Assortment 0 38105 10933 0
19 pc Bakery and Sweets 0 38105 10985 4
Sinbad Sweets Enrobed Peanut Butter Princesses 0 38105 10996 0
Sinbad Sweets Enrobed Peanut Butter Baskets 0 77589 37133 0
Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Princesses 0 38105 20013 1
Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Turtles 0 38105 20026 1
Rain Creek Baking Company Peanut Butter Turtle Shells 0 38105 20031 5
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20101 5
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20102 2
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20103 9
Sinbad Galleta estilo Baklava 0 38105 20106 0
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20117 6
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20120 6
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20124 2
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20127 5
Sinbad Sweets Peanut Butter Princess Baklava 0 38105 20128 2
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20129 9
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 20130 5
Sinbad Galletas estilo Baklava 0 38105 20180 0
Rain Creek Baking Company Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 20211 1
Rain Creek Baking Company Baklava Assortment 0 38105 20213 5
Sinbad Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21335 3
Sinbad Sweets European Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 21339 1
Sinbad Sweets Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21375 9
Sinbad Sweets Baklava & Sweets 0 38105 21382 7
Sinbad Sweets Caffe Sweets 0 38105 22143 3
Rain Creek Baking Corporation Baklava Assortment * 0 38105 22280 5
Michael's Baklava Assortment 0 38105 22297 3
Rain Creek Baking Corporation Hand Crafted Baklava 0 38105 22306 2

Chef Jay's

Chef Jay's Food Products has announced a voluntary recall of some of its branded food products that contain peanut butter because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Chef Jay's Food Products has identified (5) five items that contain the specified lots of peanut butter recalled by PCA. The following products, in all sizes and packages, with the "Best By" dates ranging from06/Sept/09 thru 16/Jan/10 are included in the recall:

Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Duo Bar (100 gram)
Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Cookie (85 gram)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Tri-O-Plex Cookie (85 gram)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Tri-O-Plex Lite Bites Cookie (57 gram)
Peanut Butter Tri-O-Plex Brownie (85 gram)

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Earlier Recalls

More than 125 peanut butter products were recalled earlier, as companies continue to pull peanut butter candies, health bars, and crackers off stores shelves after learning their products contain ingredients made by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

NutriSystem

NutriSystem has announced a voluntary recall of its NutriSystem-branded Peanut Butter Granola Bar 1.41 ounces or 40 grams packaged in flexible film, because the product contains peanut butter which was manufactured by PCA.

The lot codes for the recalled NutriSystem bars are: TC08158A, TC08188A, TC09158A, TC09168A, TC09178A, TC11148A, and TC11178A

The peanut butter is the focus of an ongoing Salmonella investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). PCA is one of the suppliers of peanut ingredients to the company. NutriSystem is no longer using PCA as a peanut butter supplier.

There have been no cases of illness or adverse effects reported by any NutriSystem customers, and no other products within the NutriSystem food portfolio, including those made with peanut butter, are affected by this recall, the company said.

No Salmonella contamination has been detected in the NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar, the commpany said.

"We are urging all consumers who have purchased or are in possession of this product to immediately destroy them," said Sharon Tate, Vice President of Quality Assurance, NutriSystem, Inc. "Customers seeking a replacement bar are being asked to call a NutriSystem representative at 1-866-491-6425 or e-mail PBbar@Nutrisystem.com and a replacement bar will be issued in its place."

The peanut butter granola bar has been distributed directly to customers from the website or call center sales, residing in the United States by NutriSystem. The Peanut Butter Granola Bar (UPC 6 32674320162) is not available in retail stores, and not sold under any other name. This voluntary recall does not apply to NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar product sold in Canada.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

Other recalls

In addition to NutriSystem, the following companies have recalled products containing peanut butter made by PCA:

Frozen cookie dough by Best Brands Corp. The Minnesota company sold the cookie dough to retail and grocery store bakeries and other foodservice outlets. The recalled items include: Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 22.5 lb case, 288 cookies per case (Item #1003-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1046-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 18.75 lb case, 240 cookies per case (Item #1046-02); Best Brands Corp. 2 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 25 lb case, 200 cookies per case (Item #1046-05); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1047-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1048-01); Best Brands Corp. 3 oz Original Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 21 lb case, 112 cookies per case (Item #1610-12); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4367-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4369-01); Best Brands Corp. Peanut Butter Frozen Cookie Dough, 18 lb pail (Item #5201-67. Consumers may have purchased the products as baked cookies of various sizes from trays in the bakery counter or in individual packages with grocery store labels. The name "Best Brands Corp." would not appear on the consumer package. No other Best Brand Corp. products are included in this action. "Best Brands Corp. prides itself in providing the specialty baking industry with high quality, safe products," the company said in a written statement. "We apologize for any inconvenience this precautionary recall may cause."

Peanut butter-chocolate candies made by Landies Candies.

The company distributed the candies in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The recalled candies are: Landies Premium Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, 11 oz. bags, sold at Wilson Farms stores, UPC 013065502167, lot # 345; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, 8 oz. tubs, UPC 77890 12946, lot # 273; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Medium Chocolate Holiday Platter, 23 oz., UPC 77890 15526, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter, 51 oz., UPC 77890 15529, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter with Sponge Candy, 49 oz., UPC 77890 15530, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, also available at Wegmans in bulk food bins and in random weight packages, Bin # 79966, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09.

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. "Landies Candies apologizes for any inconvenience to our customers," Lawrence R. Szrama, company president, said. "Landies Candies' product quality and consumer safety have been our top priority for over 23 years and our decision today reflects that tradition." Consumers can return the recalled product for a full refund. For more information, contact Landies Candies at 1-800-834-8212, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. For questions about the Wegmans brand products included in the recall, customers can contact the company at 1-800-WEGMANS, ext. 4760, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST;

Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers sold at Weis Markets. The recalled products are Weis Quality (WQ) Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56442), and Weis Quality Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56443). The crackers were distributed at Weis Markets stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. Weis Markets removed these products from its store shelves on January 16, 2009, and issued a stop scan order for them. No other Weis Quality products are involved in this action. Kellogg's Company made the crackers; Bremner Food Group was the supplier. Customers can return the recalled crackers to any Weis Markets' store for a full refund. For more information, consumers can call Kellogg's Consumer Response Center at 877-869-5633;

1,400 pounds of Blanton's Peanut Butter Sticks made by Blanton's Candies of Sweetwater, Tennessee. The products were distributed in retail stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. The recalled peanut butter sticks are packaged in 8 ounce cellophane bags and labeled in part: "Blanton's Homemade Candy, Sweetwater, TN 423-337-3487. The company has stopped making and distributing these products. It has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these peanut butter sticks. The company said consumers should immediately discard the products and take the packaging to the store for a full refund. For more information, customers can call the company at 1-423-337-3487;

Asian Marinated Flank Steak with Sesame Vegetable Stir Fry, Indonesian Chicken with Coconut Rice, and Chicken Satay & Bangkok Peanut Sauce with Jasmine Rice Meals made in November and December by Dinners Ready of Meridian, Idaho. The marinades used for the protein portions of the meals contain peanut butter recalled by PCA. The recalled meals were distributed in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers can return the recalled meals to the store for a replacement. For more information, contact the company at (208) 888-6828;

Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars made by Lovin Oven of California. The recalled products were distributed nationwide and includes Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars, 6.1 oz box, # 0-35742 15483-4, Lot codes 13JUN09, 14JUN09, 28JUL09, (the lot code can be found on the left hand side of the top panel). No reports of illnesses are linked to these products. Consumers can return the recalled items for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-434-4246 (7 am 5 pm Mountain Time).

POCO PAC and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter and peanut butter and jelly combination products made by Boca Grande Foods. The company distributed POCO PAC, and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter products nationally for use in foodservice institutions. The products were distributed in 0.5 oz., 0.75 oz., 1 oz., 1.12 oz., 2 oz., 2.25 oz. and 3 oz. individual plastic containers labeled with POCO PAC, or GRANDE GOURMET. Some of the products were also distributed in unbranded 16 oz., 5 lb. and 50 lb. bulk plastic containers. Customers who received these recalled products will be contacted by a Boca Grande Foods customer service representative. For more information, customers can contact the company at 800-788-8026, extension 15;

Several varieties of TWISTED and TITAN nutrition bars made by Premier Nutrition. The recall includes: TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Vanilla, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Chocolate, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Peanut Butter, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Variety Packs 15 and 24 count DATED: 07/01/09 (July 1, 2009) through 01/09/10 (January 9, 2010); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (80g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (25g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009).

The nutrition bars were sold nationwide in grocery, warehouse, and other retail stores and on the Internet. No other PREMIER NUTRITION flavors, brands or products are included in this recall. "We regret the need to take this action, but the complete safety of our customers and consumers is our highest priority," said Chris Geist, chief operating officer for Premier Nutrition. Customers should destroy the recalled bars, the company said. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can contact the company at 888-836-8977 or visit Premier Nutrition's Web site.

 

 

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Consumers Urged to Avoid Quickie Tax Refund Loans

Advocates warn of high costs and hidden fees

Consumers Urged to Avoid Quickie Tax Refund Loans...


Some of America's most cash-strapped taxpayers — those from low- and moderate-income families — spent about $900 million in the latest year recorded for what is almost always an unnecessary product: the so-called "refund anticipation loan" at income tax time.

With the opening of another tax season, consumer advocates at the National Consumer Law Center and Consumer Federation of America are warning taxpayers to steer clear of refund anticipation loans, which they call one of the most avoidable tax-time expenses.

New figures reveal that RALs drained the refunds of 8.67 million American taxpayers in 2007, costing them $833 million in loan fees, plus over $68 million in other fees. In addition, another 11.2 million taxpayers spent $336 million on related financial products to receive their refunds.

"In tough economic times, quick money may be tempting. But American taxpayers need every dollar of their refunds, and waiting just a week or two will put more money in their pockets," advised NCLC Staff Attorney Chi Chi Wu.

RALs examined

RALs are bank loans secured by the taxpayer's expected refund — loans that last about 7-14 days until the actual IRS refund repays the loan. That's a good indication of just how needless most RALs are: Most taxpayers could have their refund in two weeks or less even without the costly loan.

"If you want your refund fast, file electronically and have your refund direct deposited to your own bank account," said Jean Ann Fox, Director of Financial Services for CFA.

Taxpayers who have a bank account can avoid the expense of a RAC - generally about $30 - by having their refunds direct deposited into their account, which is just as fast. H&R; Block customers who received the Block Emerald Card in a prior year can have their refunds direct deposited onto those cards, and avoid a RAL or RAC.

Price of RALs

How much will taxpayers pay if they get a quickie tax loan? The price of a RAL includes several components:

• A loan fee ranging from $34 to $130, which is usually broken down into a "Refund Account" fee and a "Bank Fee."

• Some tax preparers may charge one or more separate add-on fees, sometimes called "application," "administrative," "e-filing," "service bureau," "transmission," or "processing" fees. Add-on fees can range from $25 to several hundred dollars. Add-on fees are not charged by H&R; Block, Jackson Hewitt or Liberty Tax.

In general, the effective annual interest rate (APR) for a RAL can range from about 50 percent to nearly 500 percent. If a $40 add-on fee is charged and included in the calculation, the effective APRs range from about 85 percent to nearly 1,300 percent.

RAL loan fees can vary significantly. H&R; Block and JPMorgan Chase generally have lower RAL fees. In fact, they claim that these loans bear an effective APR of 36 percent, which is the traditional small loan rate cap in many states.

However, these figures do not include the "Refund Account" fee, which they claim is for the temporary account into which the taxpayer's refund is later deposited to repay the RAL. If the Refund Account Fee is included, it more than doubles the APR.

Nonetheless, there are some real and significant price differences between various RAL outlets. For example, a RAL in the amount of $3,000, which is typical, costs from $62 to $110. Taxpayers should avoid RALs in the first place; but if they insist on getting one, they should shop around for RAL costs before selecting a commercial preparer.

Tax preparers and their bank partners also offer an "instant" same day RAL for an additional fee, from $25 to $55. Some of the APRs for an instant RAL of around $1,500 are 185 percent (Block) and 211 percent (Chase).

Finally, consumers who do not use one of the commercial chains should also ask if the preparer charges any add-on fees. Mystery shopper testing conducted during the 2008 tax season revealed that some independent preparers charge several add-on fees for both RALs and RACs.

One preparer charged $324 in add-on fees; several others charged $45. Santa Barbara Bank & Trust allegedly limits tax preparers to $40 in add-on fees; however, the preparer that charged $324 in add-on fees used Santa Barbara as its lender.

Return of the pay stub RAL

Last year saw the demise of "pay stub" and "holiday" RALs. These were RALs made prior to the tax-filing season, before taxpayers received their IRS Form W-2s and could file their returns. Unfortunately, this demise was short-lived. Both H&R; Block and Jackson Hewitt are promoting loans made before the tax season based on anticipated refunds.

Jackson Hewitt's version is called the iPower Line of Credit, up to $500, issued by MetaBank. MetaBank charges a 1.5 percent fee for the first advance from the line, and a 10 percent charge per advance thereafter, plus 18 percent periodic interest. If a taxpayer borrows the entire $500 in the first advance, she would be charged a $57.65 fee. If the iPower loan is repaid in one month, the total fee would be $65.15. A one month, closed-end loan with the same loan amount and fee would have an APR of 177 percent.

H&R; Block's version uses its Emerald Advance Line of Credit. This is a line of credit that Block had offered previously to its Emerald Card customers, and is available for some customers on a year-round basis, for up to $1,000. This year, however, Block explicitly promoted the Emerald Advance as a tax-related pre-season loan and made it available to new customers.

The Emerald Line of Credit carries an interest rate of 36 percent plus an annual fee of $45. For a $500 advance repaid in one month, the total fee is $60. A one-month, closed-end loan with the same loan amount and fee would have an APR of 158 percent, if the annual fee were to be included in the finance charge (which Truth in Lending does not require).

If however, the borrower keeps the line open after tax season, the interest rate is lowered to nine percent, but requires either payroll direct deposit to Block's Emerald Card or a savings account linked to the card.

RALs based on pay stubs present risks to taxpayers, because they are based on estimated tax returns before the taxpayer receives final tax information from a W-2. For example, before filing the tax return, the preparer will not have any information if the IRS is planning to seize all or part of the taxpayer's refund to pay a child support or student loan debt. H&R; Block does state that it conducts underwriting for its loans based on considerations other than the estimated refunds.

In addition, Jackson Hewitt in the past appeared to force pay stub RAL borrowers to return to the same office to have their taxes prepared, preventing these taxpayers from going to competitors or seeking free volunteer assistance.

The MetaBank agreement appears to assume the taxpayer will return to Jackson Hewitt for tax preparation and requires the borrower to have her RAL, RAC or tax refund loaded onto the iPower card. In addition, Jackson Hewitt may be charging a $25 or $35 "tax planning fee" for iPower loans.



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Feds Charge Mortgage Broker In Potential Data Breach

Broker allegedly left private data in public dumpsters

Feds Charge Mortgage Broker In Potential Data Breach...

January 22, 2009
The Federal Trade Commission has charged a mortgage broker with discarding consumers' tax returns, credit reports, and other sensitive personal and financial information in an unsecured dumpster, in violation of federal law.

According to the FTC, in December 2006, approximately 40 boxes containing consumer records were found in a publicly-accessible dumpster. The records included tax returns, mortgage applications, bank statements, photocopies of credit cards and drivers' licenses, and at least 230 credit reports.

The agency says that Gregory Navone of Las Vegas, who has owned numerous companies that handle sensitive consumer information, kept the documents in an insecure manner in his garage before improperly disposing of them.

As charged in the FTC's complaint, the defendant has failed to implement and monitor policies and procedures requiring secure disposal of credit reports; ensure that employees or third parties assigned to transport such documents for disposal are qualified to do so and have received appropriate guidance or training; alert employees or third parties to such documents' sensitive nature or instruct them to take precautions; and oversee the transport of such documents for disposal, or otherwise confirm that the documents are disposed of in a way that ensures that they cannot practicably be read or reconstructed.

The complaint also alleges that the defendant provided customers of two mortgage brokerage companies that he owned — First Interstate Mortgage Corporation and Nevada One Corporation — with a written statement claiming that the companies maintained "physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards that comply with federal standards to store and secure information about you from unauthorized access, alteration and destruction."

Navone is charged with violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the rule regarding Disposal of Consumer Report Information and Records by failing to take reasonable measures to protect consumer information derived from consumer reports against unauthorized access in connection with its disposal. He is also charged with violating the FTC Act by falsely representing that FIM and Nevada One implemented reasonable and appropriate measures to protect sensitive consumer information from unauthorized access, and that the companies contractually required service providers to safeguard customers' information and use it only to provide services for FIM and Nevada One.

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Peanut Butter Recall Continues to Expand

Candy, snacks, weight-loss meals, dog food on growing recall list

Peanut Butter Recall Continues to Expand...

More than 125 peanut butter products are now under recall in the wake of the country's salmonella outbreak, and more companies continue to pull peanut butter candies, health bars, and crackers off stores shelves after learning their products contain ingredients made by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

NutriSystem has announced a voluntary recall of its NutriSystem-branded Peanut Butter Granola Bar 1.41 ounces or 40 grams packaged in flexible film, because the product contains peanut butter which was manufactured by PCA.

The lot codes for the recalled NutriSystem bars are: TC08158A, TC08188A, TC09158A, TC09168A, TC09178A, TC11148A, and TC11178A

The peanut butter is the focus of an ongoing Salmonella investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). PCA is one of the suppliers of peanut ingredients to the company. NutriSystem is no longer using PCA as a peanut butter supplier.

There have been no cases of illness or adverse effects reported by any NutriSystem customers, and no other products within the NutriSystem food portfolio, including those made with peanut butter, are affected by this recall, the company said.

No Salmonella contamination has been detected in the NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar, the commpany said.

"We are urging all consumers who have purchased or are in possession of this product to immediately destroy them," said Sharon Tate, Vice President of Quality Assurance, NutriSystem, Inc. "Customers seeking a replacement bar are being asked to call a NutriSystem representative at 1-866-491-6425 or e-mail PBbar@Nutrisystem.com and a replacement bar will be issued in its place."

The peanut butter granola bar has been distributed directly to customers from the website or call center sales, residing in the United States by NutriSystem. The Peanut Butter Granola Bar (UPC 6 32674320162) is not available in retail stores, and not sold under any other name. This voluntary recall does not apply to NutriSystem Peanut Butter Granola Bar product sold in Canada.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

Other recalls

In addition to NutriSystem, the following companies have recalled products containing peanut butter made by PCA:

Frozen cookie dough by Best Brands Corp. The Minnesota company sold the cookie dough to retail and grocery store bakeries and other foodservice outlets. The recalled items include: Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 22.5 lb case, 288 cookies per case (Item #1003-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1046-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.25 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 18.75 lb case, 240 cookies per case (Item #1046-02); Best Brands Corp. 2 oz Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 25 lb case, 200 cookies per case (Item #1046-05); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1047-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #1048-01); Best Brands Corp. 3 oz Original Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 21 lb case, 112 cookies per case (Item #1610-12); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4367-01); Best Brands Corp. 1.5 oz ZT Custom Reese's Peanut Butter Precut Frozen Cookie Dough, 20.25 lb case, 216 cookies per case (Item #4369-01); Best Brands Corp. Peanut Butter Frozen Cookie Dough, 18 lb pail (Item #5201-67. Consumers may have purchased the products as baked cookies of various sizes from trays in the bakery counter or in individual packages with grocery store labels. The name "Best Brands Corp." would not appear on the consumer package. No other Best Brand Corp. products are included in this action. "Best Brands Corp. prides itself in providing the specialty baking industry with high quality, safe products," the company said in a written statement. "We apologize for any inconvenience this precautionary recall may cause."

Peanut butter-chocolate candies made by Landies Candies.

The company distributed the candies in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The recalled candies are: Landies Premium Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, 11 oz. bags, sold at Wilson Farms stores, UPC 013065502167, lot # 345; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, 8 oz. tubs, UPC 77890 12946, lot # 273; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Medium Chocolate Holiday Platter, 23 oz., UPC 77890 15526, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter, 51 oz., UPC 77890 15529, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter with Sponge Candy, 49 oz., UPC 77890 15530, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09; Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups, also available at Wegmans in bulk food bins and in random weight packages, Bin # 79966, sold between 10-31-08 and 1-21-09.

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. "Landies Candies apologizes for any inconvenience to our customers," Lawrence R. Szrama, company president, said. "Landies Candies' product quality and consumer safety have been our top priority for over 23 years and our decision today reflects that tradition." Consumers can return the recalled product for a full refund. For more information, contact Landies Candies at 1-800-834-8212, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. For questions about the Wegmans brand products included in the recall, customers can contact the company at 1-800-WEGMANS, ext. 4760, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST;

Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers sold at Weis Markets. The recalled products are Weis Quality (WQ) Cheese Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56442), and Weis Quality Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, 11-ounce, (UPC 41497-56443). The crackers were distributed at Weis Markets stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. Weis Markets removed these products from its store shelves on January 16, 2009, and issued a stop scan order for them. No other Weis Quality products are involved in this action. Kellogg's Company made the crackers; Bremner Food Group was the supplier. Customers can return the recalled crackers to any Weis Markets' store for a full refund. For more information, consumers can call Kellogg's Consumer Response Center at 877-869-5633;

1,400 pounds of Blanton's Peanut Butter Sticks made by Blanton's Candies of Sweetwater, Tennessee. The products were distributed in retail stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. The recalled peanut butter sticks are packaged in 8 ounce cellophane bags and labeled in part: "Blanton's Homemade Candy, Sweetwater, TN 423-337-3487. The company has stopped making and distributing these products. It has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these peanut butter sticks. The company said consumers should immediately discard the products and take the packaging to the store for a full refund. For more information, customers can call the company at 1-423-337-3487;

Asian Marinated Flank Steak with Sesame Vegetable Stir Fry, Indonesian Chicken with Coconut Rice, and Chicken Satay & Bangkok Peanut Sauce with Jasmine Rice Meals made in November and December by Dinners Ready of Meridian, Idaho. The marinades used for the protein portions of the meals contain peanut butter recalled by PCA. The recalled meals were distributed in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers can return the recalled meals to the store for a replacement. For more information, contact the company at (208) 888-6828;

Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars made by Lovin Oven of California. The recalled products were distributed nationwide and includes Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars, 6.1 oz box, # 0-35742 15483-4, Lot codes 13JUN09, 14JUN09, 28JUL09, (the lot code can be found on the left hand side of the top panel). No reports of illnesses are linked to these products. Consumers can return the recalled items for a full refund. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-434-4246 (7 am 5 pm Mountain Time).

POCO PAC and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter and peanut butter and jelly combination products made by Boca Grande Foods. The company distributed POCO PAC, and GRANDE GOURMET peanut butter products nationally for use in foodservice institutions. The products were distributed in 0.5 oz., 0.75 oz., 1 oz., 1.12 oz., 2 oz., 2.25 oz. and 3 oz. individual plastic containers labeled with POCO PAC, or GRANDE GOURMET. Some of the products were also distributed in unbranded 16 oz., 5 lb. and 50 lb. bulk plastic containers. Customers who received these recalled products will be contacted by a Boca Grande Foods customer service representative. For more information, customers can contact the company at 800-788-8026, extension 15;

Several varieties of TWISTED and TITAN nutrition bars made by Premier Nutrition. The recall includes: TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Vanilla, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Chocolate, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Peanut Butter, BEST BY: AUG 01 2009A (August 1, 2009), through JAN 09 2010A (January 9, 2010); TWISTED Nutrition Bar, Variety Packs 15 and 24 count DATED: 07/01/09 (July 1, 2009) through 01/09/10 (January 9, 2010); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (80g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009); TITAN Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Crunch (25g size), BEST BY: SEP 04 2009A (September 4, 2009) through DEC 17 2009A (December 17, 2009).

The nutrition bars were sold nationwide in grocery, warehouse, and other retail stores and on the Internet. No other PREMIER NUTRITION flavors, brands or products are included in this recall. "We regret the need to take this action, but the complete safety of our customers and consumers is our highest priority," said Chris Geist, chief operating officer for Premier Nutrition. Customers should destroy the recalled bars, the company said. For more information about the recall or a refund, customers can contact the company at 888-836-8977 or visit Premier Nutrition's Web site.

 



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Airlines Cut Capacity to Reduce Empty Seats

Cuts to flights also in offing as carriers struggle

United said it would cut an additional 1,000 jobs beyond the 1,500 previously announced layoffs. When all is said and done, United will have trimmed its wo...

In the early months of 2008, U.S. airlines were crowded with passengers but losing money because of skyrocketing fuel costs. In 2009, fuel prices are much lower, but carriers continue to struggle as the recession discourages people from flying.

To cope, both United and American have announced plans to cut capacity in the face of falling demand. United announced its plans as it reported a fourth quarter pre-tax loss of $547 million.

"Our industry continues to be challenged by a volatile fuel and revenue environment, and against that backdrop, we are delivering strong cost results even as we reduce capacity and improve quality," said John Tague, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

United said it would cut an additional 1,000 jobs beyond the 1,500 previously announced layoffs. When all is said and done, United will have trimmed its workforce by 30 percent.

Both United and American said they would announce reductions in flights later in the first quarter, and throughout the rest of 2009. United said it expected to remove 100 aircraft from its fleet this year, meaning a reduction in the number of flights available to consumers.

American also reported fourth quarter earnings, showing a loss of $340 million. A year ago it lost $69 million in the same period.

The company said it expects its full-year mainline capacity to decrease by more than 6.5 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, with a reduction of domestic capacity of approximately 9 percent and a reduction of international capacity of more than 2.5 percent compared to 2008 levels. On a consolidated basis, American said it expects full-year capacity to decrease by nearly seven percent in 2009 compared to 2008.

AMR expects mainline capacity in the first quarter of 2009 to decrease by more than 8.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008, with domestic capacity expected to decline by more than 11.5 percent and international capacity expected to decline by nearly 4 percent compared to first quarter 2008 levels. AMR expects consolidated capacity in the first quarter of 2009 to decrease by more than 8.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008.

"Our fourth quarter and full-year 2008 results reflect the difficulties all airlines faced last year, but we believe our steps to reduce capacity, bolster liquidity, and improve revenue helped us better manage the challenges of record fuel prices and a weak economy," said AMR Chairman and CEO Gerard Arpey. "We believe these actions and our fleet renewal efforts have put us on sounder footing as we face continued economic uncertainty, slower travel demand, and fuel price volatility in 2009. We intend to continue managing our business — from capacity and fleet planning to balance sheet repair, fuel hedging and revenue initiatives — conservatively and with discipline. I want to thank employees for their commitment during a difficult 2008. While significant hurdles remain, I am guardedly optimistic we can regain momentum in 2009."

 



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Peanut Butter Dog Treats Recalled Due to Salmonella

More health bars also recalled as outbreak widens

Peanut Butter Dog Treats Recalled Due to Salmonella...

The nationwide salmonella outbreak has now spread to peanut butter flavored dog treats.

PetSmart on Tuesday recalled seven of its Grreat Choice Dog Biscuit products because they contain peanut paste made by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). That company is the focus of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) investigation into salmonella contamination of peanut butter and paste made at its Blakely, Georgia facility.

FDA officials say this salmonella outbreak has sickened more than 470 people in 43 states and may be linked to the deaths of six others.

PetSmart recalled the following Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits sold between Aug. 21, 2008 and Jan. 19, 2009:

• Small Assorted 32 oz., UPC 73725702900

• Small/Medium Assorted 4 lb., UPC 73725700601

• Small/Medium Assorted 8 lb., UPC 73725700605

• Small/Medium Assorted 10 lb., UPC 73725702755

• Large Assorted 8 lb., UPC 73725700638

• Extra Large Assorted 8 lb., UPC 73725700779

• Peanut Butter 4 lb., UPC 73725700766

The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products and has removed them from its store shelves and Web site.

Consumers who bought these treats should not feed them to their pets and return them to the store for a full refund.

For more information about this action, consumer can contact PetSmart's Customer Service at 1-888-839-9638 or visit the company's Web site.

The salmonella outbreak has also prompted the recalls of peanut butter products made by three other companies. The companies said their products contain ingredients sourced by PCA.

The recalled products are:

• Peanut butter flavor Optimum Energy Bars made by Nature's Path Organic Foods of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. The recalled products are marked with the BEST BEFORE DATE OF 01OCT09A and sold in 2 oz (56 g) individually wrap bar with UPC code of 0 58449 77715 1. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. No other products made by Nature's Path are included in this action. Consumers should return the recalled energy bars to the store for a full refund. For more information, customers can call the company at 1-866-880-7284.

• 2-pound packages of Classic Breaks Peanut Butter Cookie Dough made by Country Maid Inc. The company distributed the recalled products nationwide — between October 6, 2008 and January 9, 2009 — through various fundraising groups. The product come in a 2 pound rectangular-shaped package with a white wrapper. The following lot numbers are included in this action: 26208, 26308, 29808, 33808, 36508. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. No Country Maid or Classic Breaks products or flavors are included in this recall. Customers can contact the company at 1-888-460-6904 for a full refund. More information about the recall can be found on the company's www.classic-breaks.com Web site;

• Peanut Butter Cookies and Peanut Butter Bars made by Evening Rise Bread company. The company distributed the products in retail stores through Evening Rise Bread Co., McCall, Idaho; First Idaho Bank, McCall, Idaho; Roadhouse Java, New Meadows, Idaho; Mountain Java Coffee Shop, McCall, Idaho; Common Ground Coffee Shop, McCall, Idaho; and Moxy Java Coffee Shop, McCall, Idaho. The products are individually packaged in clear Cellophane bags and the label has a sticker with the Evening Rise name. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Customers can return the products for a full refund. For more information, consumers can call the company at 1-208-634-5031;

• Five varieties of celery and apples with peanut butter made by Ready Pac Foods. The company distributed the products to retailers in California, Utah, Illinois, Washington, Texas, New Jersey, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. The products included in this action are: Ready Pac Cool Cuts Celery with Peanut Butter 12/6.75 oz, By Dates of 12/27/08 to 2/2/09 and UPC: 077745-22415-2; Trader Joe's Celery with Peanut Butter 12/6.75 oz, By Dates of 12/27/08 to 2/2/09 and UPC: 0048-5401; Trader Joe's Celery with Peanut Butter 30/6.75 oz, By Dates of 12/27/08 to 2/2/09 and UPC: 0048-5401; Eating Right Apples with Peanut Butter 12/6.75 oz, By Dates of 12/27/08 to 2/2/09 and UPC: 0-79893-70175-2, Eating Right Celery with Peanut Butter 12/6.75 oz By Dates of 12/27/08 to 2/2/09 and UPC: 0-79893-70172-1. The company has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products. Consumers with questions can call Ready Pac at 1-800-800-7822.

• Peanut Butter Granola Bars made by NutriSystem Inc. The bars included in this action have lot codes TC08158A, TC08188A, TC09158A, TC09168A, TC09178A, TC11148A, and TC11178A. The company distributed these products directly to customers in the United States through its Web site or call center sales. The company's peanut butter granola bars sold in Canada are not included in this recall. NutriSystem has not received any reports of illnesses linked to these products and none of its other products are included in this action. The company said consumers should immediately discard the granola bars. For more information, contact NutriSystem at 1-866-491-6425 or check the company's Web site.

"I don't feel safe eating these anymore"

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems, according to the FDA. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, the organism can enter the bloodstream and cause more severe illnesses, including arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

Because the number of products potentially involved in this latest outbreak continues to grow, the FDA has urged consumers to "postpone eating commercially-prepared or manufactured peanut butter-containing products and institutionally-served peanut butter until further information becomes available about which products may be affected."

Some consumers, though, say that warning came too late.

A Rhode Island consumer told us she contacted the maker of Little Debbie snacks last week — a few days before the company recalled some of its peanut butter sandwich crackers.

"I was told that I could eat my eat my crackers and that there was no way they would be recalled because of the supplier," the consumer told us. "Well, today (Sunday) after eating some of the crackers and feeling secure in the knowledge that I was told they were safe, I get a recall notice from the FDA. Now I'm scared of getting sick and I did my part by asking before I ate them I do not feel safe eating these items anymore because of how it's been handled."

Another consumer told us she became sick in late November after eating some of the peanut butter crackers now included in the nationwide recall. She's now worried that she ate some salmonella-tainted snacks.

"The week before Thanksgiving 2008 I ate several packages of the Austin PB and J crackers and the Great Value peanut butter on sandwiches," said Cheryl S. of Ames, Iowa. "The day before Thanksgiving I became violently ill with vomiting every half hour throughout the night. (I had) severe cramping, weakness, sweating, and diarrhea. I knew it wasn't just the flu because I had never been this sick before and it lasted a week. I missed Thanksgiving and work for a week and still had lingering problems after that."

She added: "I lost full time work for a week and could only work part time after that. I still suffer from daily headaches, fatigue, dizzy spells and am just not feeling right."

Girl Scout cookies safe — for now

One popular brand of cookies now being distributed across the country is not included in this recall action.

ConsumerAffairs.com has learned the company that makes Girl Scout cookies does not source its peanut butter ingredients from PCA or King Nut, another producer of potentially tainted peanut butter.

ABC Bakers of Richmond, Virginia, is the "Official Girl Scout Cookies Bakers." That company said its peanut butter supplier is Hampton Farms, which tests it peanut butter products before they are used in Girl Scout cookies.

The FDA has a complete list of all the products recalled in the salmonella outbreak on its Web site. Consumers can check that list to find out if their favorite products are included in this action.

 



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FDA Warns of Skin Numbing Product Dangers

Topical anesthetics can have life-threatening side effects

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a Public Health Advisory to alert consumers, patients, health care professionals, and caregivers. ...

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Circuit City Reassures Service Contract Holders

Customers won't lose ability to get warranty repairs

"Circuit City Advantage Protection Plans have been backed by third-party independent companies for more than 15 years and as a result, are not impacted by ...

With bankrupt retailer Circuit City's announcement that it's going out of business, 34-thousand employees in the U.S. are losing their jobs. But Circuit City customers who purchased service contracts from the firm are also wondering about their future.

"Due to the bankruptcy and store closings, what will happen with a three year extended warranty I purchased in August for a new laptop computer?" Annette, of Croyden, Pa., asked ConsumerAffairs.com. "Will a third party take over the contract or is there a way to get my money back as this was a very expensive warranty — approximately $450."

The answer from Circuit City is that Annette and other service contract holders have nothing to worry about.

"Circuit City Advantage Protection Plans have been backed by third-party independent companies for more than 15 years and as a result, are not impacted by Circuit City's closing," the company said.

In other words, Circuit City just sold the "warranties," but was never the company that stood behind them. The company says all Circuit City Advantage Protection Plans are fully backed by the Assurant Solutions companies.

"Assurant Solutions operates as Federal Warranty Service Corporation, Sureway, Inc., and United Service Protection, Inc. Assurant Solutions is part of Assurant, Inc. (NYSE: AIZ), and its extended service contacts are backed by an Assurant insurance subsidiary rated A "Excellent" by A.M. Best Co.," the company said in a statement.

Even though Circuit City is closing its remaining 567 U.S. stores, it will continue to operate in Canada. The company says Canadian operations are not affected. Circuit City employees about 3,000 people in Canada.

 

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Peanut Butter Recall Spreads To More Products

Cookies, crackers, ice cream products included in expanded recall

Peanut Butter Recall Spreads To More Products...

Two years ago, when ConAgra recalled Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter over possible Salmonella poisoning, it sent consumers scampering to their pantries to see if they had any of the recalled product on their shelves.

This month's King Nut peanut butter recall is different. That brand isn't sold directly to the public, so consumers don't have any sitting on their shelves. But on the other hand, it might be contained in some other products in their pantries, which could make it even more dangerous.

A week after King Nut began recalling its peanut butter, sold to manufacturers and institutions like schools and nursing homes, other food manufacturers that use peanut butter are following suit.

Little Debbie

McKee Foods Corporation today recalled two varieties of peanut butter sandwich crackers because of possible salmonella contamination. The recalled products are:

• Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty sandwich crackers all sizes.
• Little Debbie Peanut Butter Cheese sandwich crackers all sizes.

Both varieties of crackers were made on or after July, 1, 2008.

The Tennessee-based company said it took the action because Kellogg's make the sandwich crackers. McKee Foods said it has not received any reports of illnesses liked to these crackers. The company said it does not buy peanut paste or peanut butter from PCA, and no other Little Debbie products containing peanut butter are involved in this action.

Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee Inc. is voluntarily recalling the following products made in its bakery departments because they contain peanut butter that has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella:

• Peanut Butter Cookies
• Monster Cookies
• Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces Cookies
• Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Lunchbox Reese's Pieces Cookies
• Lunchbox Peanut Butter Cookies
• People Chow Party Mix and
• Assorted Truffle Fudge.

The company says all sell-by dates are included in this recall. The products are sold in various packaging and quantities and have a Hy-Vee price label attached. All items should be destroyed or returned to Hy-Vee for a full refund.

Perry's

Meanwhile, Perry's Ice Cream has announced a voluntary recall of select ice cream products containing peanut butter because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Peanut Corporation of America, maker of King Nut peanut butter, is one of Perry's suppliers.

Perry's is recalling ice cream products containing peanut butter sauce, which have been recalled by PCA. The company has not received any consumer illness complaints about these products. The products below have been distributed in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

Products affected by the recall are as follows:

• Perry's Premium Peanut Butter Cup Craze Ice Cream 1/2 Pint
• Perry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT, 1.75 QT AND 3 GL
• Perry's Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt 1.5 QT, 1.75 QT and 3 GL
• Perry's Peanut Butter Sundae Crunch Ice Cream Bar Bulk 24 pack
• Perry's Premium Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream 1.5 QT and 1.75 QT
• Perry's Perfectly Churned Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.5 QT and 1.75 QT
• Perry's Light Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
• Shurfine Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT
• Wegmans Chocolate Nutty Cone Ice Cream 1.75 QT
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 1.75 QT and Pint
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream 1.75 QT
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Ice Cream 1.75 QT
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream 1.75 QT
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Crunch Ice Cream Bar 6 pack
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Candy Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 pack
• Wegmans Peanut Butter Sundae Cup Ice Cream 4 pack

"Product quality and consumer safety have been our top priority for over 90 years and our decision today reflects that tradition," said Robert Denning, president and CEO, Perry's Ice Cream. "We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers."

Kellogg's

The peanut butter recall has also impacted food giant Kellogg's, which announced a voluntary recall of certain Austin and Keebler branded Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and select snack-size packs of Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies and Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies because the products have the potential to be contaminated.

On January 14, Kellogg announced a precautionary hold on the sandwich crackers while FDA and other authorities investigated PCA.

Last week, the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Health released lab results that confirmed a "genetic match" between the strains of salmonella bacteria found in a container of King Nut peanut butter — served in one of the state's long-term care facilities — and the strains linked to the nationwide outbreak of salmonella.

Minnesota health officials discovered the salmonella bacteria in an open 5-pound container of King Nut creamy peanut butter used in a long-term care facility.

One of the facility's residents — and 29 other people in Minnesota — had fallen ill from that strain of salmonella, health officials said.

Lab tests linked that strain of salmonella to the strains of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with the illnesses of hundreds of people nationwide.

Minnesota and Virginia health officials also confirmed a link between the outbreak and three deaths that occurred in those states.

Health officials say those individuals had salmonella when they died, although it was not the conclusive cause of death in all three cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, says salmonella may have been a factor.

 



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West Virginia Settles with Arizona Telemarketer

Company claimed overpriced goods would help handicapped veterans

West Virginia Settles with Arizona Telemarketer: Company claimed overpriced goods, such as trash bags and light bulbs, would help handicapped veterans....

Beverly Burdette was suspicious when her 82 year old father, Fred Burdette, purchased overpriced household items that he did not need, such as trash bags and light bulbs, as well as items he did not like, from a telemarketer. The telemarketer told him that the money would go to help "handicapped veterans."

Because he was a disabled World War II veteran and felt the money was going to a good cause, Fred agreed to purchase several items.

Beverly's initial suspicions were confirmed when the company, I Glo Workshop, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona began billing her father for other items that he did not purchase. After receiving a complaint from Fred Burdette, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office began an investigation.

As a result, I Glo agreed to settle pending charges by the state.

In the agreement, I Glo agreed to obtain a license and surety bond and to inform consumers of their unconditional right under West Virginia law to cancel telemarketing sales within seven days. I Glo also agreed to refund all payments it collected from West Virginia consumers, which resulted in refunds of $5,828.89 and canceled debts of $4,832.06 for 99 West Virginia consumers.

"Consumers should always be wary when receiving calls from telemarketers offering deals on goods and services that sound too good to be true," McGraw said. "Consumers should insist that the terms of the sale be disclosed in writing before making a purchase. If the telemarketer refuses to disclose the terms in writing, the consumer should walk away or, in this case, hang up the phone."

In order to avoid unwanted telemarketing calls, consumers may register their telephone numbers with the Federal Trade Commission's National "Do Not Call" Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 or by visiting www.donotcall.gov.

More Scam Alerts ...

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Menthol Cigarettes May Be More Addictive

New study finds lower quit rates among minority smokers

Menthol Cigarettes May Be More Addictive...

Health officials have long suspected that some cigarettes are more addictive than others. Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey now say there's something to that — menthol cigarettes are harder to quit, particularly among African American and Latino smokers, they say.

The research team conducted a study that examined the effects of menthol on quit rates among a diverse group of nearly 1,700 smokers attending a Tobacco Dependence Clinic at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health.

"Lower quit rates among African-American and Latino menthol cigarette smokers at a tobacco treatment clinic" appears in next month's print edition of The International Journal of Clinical Practice.

"We previously found that menthol cigarette smokers take in more nicotine and carbon monoxide per cigarette. This study shows that menthol smokers also find it harder to quit, despite smoking fewer cigarettes per day," said study author Kunal Gandhi, MBBS, MPH, a researcher in the division of addiction psychiatry at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

"These results build on growing evidence suggesting that menthol is not a neutral flavoring in cigarettes," said Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program. "It masks the harshness of the nicotine and toxins, affects the way the cigarette is smoked and makes it more deadly and addictive."

According to Foulds, more than 80 percent of the African American smokers attending the clinic smoke menthols, and have half the quit rate of African Americans who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.

The researchers believe the cooling effect of the menthol makes it easier to inhale more nicotine from each cigarette and, therefore, to obtain a stronger and more addictive nicotine dose.

"That may be part of the reason why African-Americans have much higher rates of lung cancer," Foulds said.

The researchers also are concerned that more young and Latino smokers are becoming addicted to menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry may target its marketing of menthol cigarettes to groups with less cash to spend, such as youths, with the aim of getting them hooked even on fewer cigarettes per day, they said.

Their study findings may have implications for future regulation of cigarettes. Recent legislation in New Jersey and pending federal legislation bans fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes but allows menthol to be added.

 



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2008 Foreclosure Activity Jumps 81 Percent

One in 54 homes received a foreclosure filing last year

2008 Foreclosure Activity Jumps 81 Percent...

You could call it "the year of the foreclosure." 2008 shaped up as a bad one for the nation's housing market, with a total of 3,157,806 foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — reported on 2,330,483 U.S. properties during the year.

That's an 81 percent increase in total properties from 2007 and a 225 percent increase in total properties from 2006. The report also shows that 1.84 percent of all U.S. housing units — one in 54 — received at least one foreclosure filing during the year, up from 1.03 percent in 2007.

The data was supplied in a monthly compilation by RealtyTrac, a real estate firm specializing in marketing foreclosed property.

Foreclosure filings were reported on 303,410 U.S. properties in December, up 17 percent from the previous month and up nearly 41 percent from December 2007. Despite the spike in December, foreclosure activity for the fourth quarter was down nearly 4 percent from the previous quarter but still up nearly 40 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007.

"State legislation that slowed down the onset of new foreclosure activity clearly had an effect on fourth quarter numbers overall, but that effect appears to have worn off by December," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "The big jump in December foreclosure activity was somewhat surprising given the moratoria enacted by both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, along with programs from some of the major lenders and loan servicers aimed at delaying foreclosure actions against distressed homeowners.

"Clearly the foreclosure prevention programs implemented to date have not had any real success in slowing down this foreclosure tsunami. And the recent California law, much like its predecessors in Massachusetts and Maryland, appears to have done little more than delay the inevitable foreclosure proceedings for thousands of homeowners."

The California law, which requires lenders to provide written notice of their intent to initiate foreclosure proceedings 30 days prior to issuing a notice of default (NOD), resulted in a reduction of NODs from 44,278 in August to 21,665 in September. Notice of Default filings then surged by 122 percent, to over 42,000, in December. Similar patterns have occurred in other states, such as Massachusetts and Maryland, where similar types of foreclosure prevention legislation has been enacted.

Nevada, Florida, Arizona post top state foreclosure rates

More than 7 percent of Nevada housing units (one in 14) received at least one foreclosure notice in 2008, giving it the nation's highest state foreclosure rate for the year. A total of 77,693 Nevada properties received a foreclosure filing during the year, an increase of nearly 126 percent from 2007 and an increase of nearly 530 percent from 2006.

Florida registered the nation's second highest state foreclosure rate in 2008, with 4.52 percent of its housing units (one in 22) receiving at least one foreclosure filing during the year, and Arizona registered the nation's third highest state foreclosure rate, with 4.49 percent of its housing units (one in 22) receiving at least one foreclosure filing during the year.

Other states with Top 10 foreclosure rates for 2008 were California, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois and New Jersey.

California, Florida, Arizona post highest 2008 foreclosure totals

A total of 523,624 California properties received a foreclosure filing in 2008, the nation's highest state total. Foreclosure activity in the state increased nearly 110 percent from 2007 and nearly 498 percent from 2006.

With 385,309 properties receiving a foreclosure filing in 2008, Florida documented the second highest state total. Florida foreclosure activity increased 133 percent from 2007 and nearly 412 percent from 2006.

Arizona's 2008 total of 116,911 properties receiving a foreclosure filing was third highest among the states. Foreclosure activity in Arizona increased 203 percent from 2007 and 655 percent from 2006.

Other states with Top 10 totals for 2008 were Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, Nevada and New Jersey.

Sunbelt cities plus Detroit land on top 10 metro foreclosure rates list

With 9.46 percent of its housing units (one in 11) receiving a foreclosure filing during the year, Stockton, Calif., registered the highest foreclosure rate among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas in 2008. Other California cities in the top 10 were Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 3 (8.02 percent, or one in 12 housing units); Bakersfield and No. 4 (6.17 percent, or one in 16 housing units); and Sacramento at No. 9 (5.20 percent, or one in 19 housing units).

Las Vegas documented the second highest metro foreclosure rate in 2008, with 8.89 percent of its housing units (one in 11) receiving a foreclosure filing during the year.

More than 6 percent of Phoenix housing units (one in 17) received a foreclosure filing during the year, giving the city the fifth highest metro foreclosure rate in 2008.

The foreclosure rate in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranked No. 6, with 5.95 percent of the metro area's housing units (one in 17) receiving a foreclosure filing in 2008. Other Florida cities in the top 10 were Orlando at No. 7 (5.48 percent, or one in 18 housing units) and Miami at No. 8 (5.21 percent, or one in 19 housing units).

With 4.52 percent of its housing units (one in 22) receiving a foreclosure filing during the year, Detroit registered the tenth highest metro foreclosure rate in 2008.

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Giant Recalls TCR, SL Bicycles

Giant Recalls TCR, SL Bicycles...

January 14, 2009
Giant Bicycle, Inc. is recalling about 1,000 bicycle. The affected models are 2009 model year TCR Advanced SL and SL (ISP) Bicycles and Frames.

The density of the steerer tubes can cause the forks to crack and break, posing a fall hazard to the consumer.

Giant Bicycle has received one report of the fork cracking with no reported injuries.

This recall involves 2009 TCR Advanced SL Team, SL 0, SL 1, SL 2, and SL (ISP) model bicycles and frames in silver, charcoal, blue and red. The words Giant and TCR Advanced SL are printed on the frame. Steerer tubes with B, N or P at the end of the serial number are not included in this recall. Other TCR model bicycles are not included in the recall.

The bicycles were sold by authorized Giant Bicycle dealers nationwide from August 2008 through December 2008 for between $3,300 and $7,500. They were made in Taiwan.

Consumers should stop riding these bicycles immediately and contact an authorized Giant Bicycle dealer for a free inspection and replacement fork.

For additional information, contact Giant Bicycle toll-free at (866) 458-2555 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or visit the firms Web site at www.giant-bicycles.com.

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Chinese Experts Confirm Melamine-Kidney Stone Link

Despite official denials, melamine suspected in U.S. illnesses

Chinese Experts Confirm Melamine-Kidney Stone Link...

Drinking milk tainted with the chemical melamine increases the risk of developing kidney stones, health experts in China have confirmed.

The research is the first to positively link the plastic-making chemical with kidney problems, though doctors had strongly suspected a causal relationship. Melamine-tainted milk is blamed for the deaths of six children in China and making another 290,000 people sick.

Melamine-tainted candy is suspected in the illness of a Virginia girl and in the unexplained illness and deaths of thousands of family pets throughout the United States.

The chemical, used by some Chinese food manufacturers to register a higher nutritional value, is the source of a major scandal in China and has strained relations with its major trading partners.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says melamine-tainted food was not imported into the U.S., though anecdotal — meaning real-life — evidence suggests some products containing the chemical did in fact make it to U.S. shores.

In 2007 thousands of U.S. pets were killed or sickened because of melamine contained in pet food that imported from China. Unexplained animal deaths and illnesses continue to this day, without noticeable action or concern by agencies responsible for protecting the public.

In the kidney stone study, Chinese researchers analyzed urine sample of 15 Chinese children with kidney stones. The samples were compared to those from other children who consumed the tainted milk but did not develop kidney stones.

They concluded that melamine alone can lead to the creation of kidney stones, whose size are directly related with the amount of melamine that is consumed. Not everyone who comes in contact with melamine develops kidney stones, however. The researchers say there is a "safe level," above which the risk escalates.

Melamine is used to make fertilizers, plastics and other industrial goods. It is rich in nitrogen and can fool tests for protein in food products, leading unscrupulous food processors to use it in food and dairy products.

The study was published in the International Journal of Clinical Chemistry and Diagnostic Laboratory Medicine.

Halloween candy

In Virginia, a mother is convinced her six-year-old daughter received some melamine-tainted candy on Halloween — and those goodies caused the little girl's recent kidney problems. Maria H. of Suffolk says her six-year-old daughter, Jordan, never had any health problems until she ate some chocolates she received on Halloween.

Since then, Maria said, her daughter has experienced symptoms that doctors and the World Health Organization say are consistent with melamine poisoning — irritability, lethargy, pain in her right flank, high blood pressure, and crystals in her urine.

"My daughter had more than 20,000 crystals in her urine," Maria told ConsumerAffairs.com. "She was very sick (in mid-November) and refused to eat or drink for a week. She continued to get sicker and sicker. The doctor said it was the flu and she should be fine in a few days."

But Jordan's condition did not improve.

"She started having pain in her right flank," Maria said, adding her daughter was nauseous, vomiting, and had high blood pressure. "She was in an extreme amount of pain. The doctors thought she might have appendicitis."

Maria rushed her daughter to the emergency room.

"The E.R. staff was stumped," she said of Jordan's illness. "They took a CAT scan and were just about ready to send her home when her lab results came back. That's when we learned she had more than 20,000 crystals in her urine...the doctor seemed alarmed by that many crystals in urine."

The cause of all those crystals, however, baffled the emergency room physicians and staff.

"They said 'your daughter has suffered some kidney problems and has some crystals and a high amount of protein in her urine,' " Maria says, adding she pushed for the urinalysis. "But we don't know what they are or what's causing them."

The doctors tried to rule out some likely suspects.

"They asked if she drank soda and I said: 'No.' They asked about a high sodium diet. I said we have no sodium in our house. We eat all healthy, organic foods. I asked them what else could cause this and they said they didn't know.

"We've called every relative to see any has had any kidney problems," Maria added. "There is no family history of kidney stones. I've eliminated every possibility."

That's how Maria pinpointed the Halloween candy as the culprit of her daughter's illness. "We're sure it was the candy; it has to be."

The emergency room doctors didn't downplay her suspicions. "They said melamine in Chinese-made infant formula and other milk products had caused kidney problems in children in that country."

Difficult to prove

As ConsumerAffairs.com has reported, melamine-tainted milk products are blamed for last year's deaths of at least six babies in China and the urinary-related problems in nearly 300,000 other children in that country.

Chinese officials discovered some dairy plants added melamine — a chemical used to make plastic and fertilizer — to powered milk products to make them appear to have higher protein levels.

Melamine is not approved for use in foods sold in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, recently concluded that melamine levels below 2.5 parts per million (ppm) do not raise health concerns.

The only exception is infant formula. The FDA now says melamine levels of 1 ppm or less in infant formula are safe.

The tentacles of China's melamine-tainted milk scandal spread to scores of other products sold in the United States and around the world, including eggs, yogurt, liquid milk, teas, and chocolates.

And those tainted products, Maria says, ultimately made their way to her quiet neighbor in Virginia and into her daughter's Halloween bag.

That's her theory, anyway. Proving it, however, is going to be difficult.

"There's no way to test the candy because my daughter ate it all," Maria said. "But we're sure the candy was tainted with melamine because our daughter has been healthy her whole life and this (Halloween candy) was the only thing new in her diet."

Maria also recalled seeing pieces of candy in her daughter's Halloween bag that looked like the melamine-tainted White Rabbit Creamy Candy, which were imported from China and distributed in the United States last September.

"I think what she ate were those little bunny candies that look like Tootsie Rolls," Marie says. "She probably ate several of them and that's what made her sick. Children don't just randomly get kidney stones. Something causes them. In this case, it has to be that tainted candy."

She added, "I have a three-year-old son. He doesn't like the same candy as Jordan. He likes the hard candies and she love chocolates. My son didn't eat those chocolates and he didn't get sick. There's no doubt in my mind what happened."

Maria contacted the FDA about her daughter's illness, but says the agency ignored her concerns. "They didn't take me seriously. They didn't seem concerned at all. They didn't take a report. The only agency that took a report was my local health department."

Maria said she contacted ConsumerAffairs.com to warn other parents about this potential danger — a job she says the FDA isn't doing.

"The FDA says on its Web site that no American children haven been affected by melamine. But that's not true. My daughter was affected badly. We thought we were going to lose her."

ConsumerAffairs.com contacted the FDA about Maria's concerns. The agency did not return our calls.

"This case should be investigated"

ConsumerAffairs.com also contacted Dr. Leslie Spry, a spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation. He wouldn't comment specifically on Jordan's case or make a diagnosis.

But the Nebraska-based nephrologist said Jordan's symptoms should be investigated further.

"Crystalluria (crystals in the urine) is a very uncommon event, especially in children," Dr. Spry told us. "I'd have her go to a pediatric nephrologist to find out if there is any damage to the kidneys. I'd want to know if there are still any crystals in the little girl's urine, what type of crystals, and if they've caused any damage."

Dr. Spry said Maria should also find out if there is any acid in her daughter's urine.

"If there is acid in the urine that might hint that maybe there is melamine," he said. "What we want is the pH level and a description of the crystals. Some are needle-like; others are hexagon-shaped. They all look different under a microscope.

"This [case] should be investigated."

Dr. Spry also confirmed that "melamine intoxication" can damage the kidneys. "I have not seen a case of melamine intoxication that I was aware of, but it does indeed cause kidney damage by producing crystals in the urine."

Melamine, however, isn't the only source of that problem.

"There are a number of other causes of crystalluria," Dr. Spry said. "(They) include drinking antifreeze (ethylene glycol) or vitamin C overdose (which causes oxalate crystals to be seen in the urine). Uric acid crystals can be seen in patients with certain kinds of leukemia and cancers in children. Uric acid crystals look different in the urine depending on the pH (amount of acid) in the urine."

Back in Virginia, Maria continues to dig for answers to her daughter's illness.

She ruled out Dr. Spry's possibilities, saying there isn't any antifreeze around her home, her children don't take vitamins, and her daughter doesn't have cancer.

Maria next plans to take Jordan to a kidney specialist, just like Dr. Spry recommended."I've already called and talked to several people at the hospital about the lab results. They said they didn't know what types of crystals were in my daughter's urine."

Maria is still waiting for copies of those lab reports. In the meantime, she's contacted parents in her neighborhood to see if their children experienced similar health problems as Jordan's.

"I've learned that three kids on my street all had flu-like symptoms — just like Jordan's — shortly after Halloween. There were all sick the same week (in mid-November). Those moms were all concerned, but they didn't take their kids to the emergency room and get a urinalysis."

She adds, "A lot of parents might be told their children have the flu and they should just wait it out. My daughter was initially diagnosed with the flu. It was only when we took her to the children's hospital — and I pushed for a urinalysis — that we learned she didn't have the flu. She had kidney stones."

Maria is worried about the long-term effects this illness will have on her daughter.

"She hasn't been the same since Halloween," she said. "She's thin, pale, has bags under her eyes, and complains of a stomach ache every day. She's also paranoid every time she gets a stomach ache that we're going to have to take her back to the emergency room. This whole thing is very scary."

 

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Video: Tax Tips New Tax Breaks For Your 2008 Return

Take advantage of every deduction coming your way

Video: Tax Tips New Tax Breaks For Your 2008 Return...

January 13, 2009

When it comes to filing your tax return, this is not a year to leave money on the table. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service wants you to take advantage of all the tax breaks you have coming to you — and there may be more of them this tax season. Mark Huffman reports on what to look for, and how to expedite your return.

Tax News

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BBB's New Rating System Draws Fire

Critic says BBB's "Pay for OK" scheme should get a failing grade

BBB's New Rating System Draws Fire...

 

Richard Berman

The Better Business Bureau's (BBB) stamp of approval has historically provided a high comfort level for consumers.

In the past, the bureau labeled businesses "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" for resolving consumer complaints. In 2009, the business watchdog is employing a new rating system.

Starting this month, businesses will be rated based on 16 weighted categories with a scale from AAA to F. The BBB Reliability Report's algorithm calculating a company's ranking revolves around a set of subjective characteristics including the nature of business, length of time since opening, whether the business is "problematic in the industry," and BBB accreditation, i.e., are they a paying member.

Certainly the years in business category yields information. But a new high-end restaurant could get a lower grade than a ten-year-old hole in the wall. Using the new grading system for six "cookie cutter" chain Taco Bells we checked, three received B's, one got a CCC, and two received CC's. Yet all reports from these Santa Barbara locations show no consumer complaints.

Beyond fast food, world famous chef Wolfgang Puck's week-in-advance booked restaurant, Spago, in Beverly Hills only earns a subpar B under the new system.

Comparing consumer reviews on Tripadvisor.com, Joe's Caf ranks 101st out of 288 Santa Barbara restaurants. Conversely, Spago matched expectations scoring 4th out of 182 Beverly Hills establishments. So how is the BBB's score possible?

Businesses with Bureau accreditation, such as Joe's Caf receive AAA scores. Just like Spago's, the restaurant has no complaints. The only difference, Joe's Caf is older and a paying member of the BBB. (Without the expensive "Pay for OK" accreditation, there is apparently no way to achieve the AAA ranking.)

Reaching beyond L.A.'s restaurant industry, many Los Angeles area retailers including Gucci, Ferrari, and Cartier are also now sporting the weak B grade.

If you are a non-paying BBB member, a single complaint can plummet scores. With just one complaint Ferrari Maserati of Beverly Hills, Porsche of Downtown LA, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada were downgraded to CC's and D's. At the same time, SavePlus, a wholesale retailer of discount clothes (who also has one complaint on record), enjoys the AAA rating. (Coincidently, SavePlus is a paying BBB member).

And there is more. If the entire industry product or service is "bad" in the eyes of the BBB, it may be extremely difficult to get above a C. You start at a depressed level and can only go down. The 90-point calculation determining the total grade subtracts as many as 41 points just for "type of business."

We conducted a survey of several BBB offices around the country to discover who these unfavorable industries were. Adding greater confusion, there was no general consensus from office to office. The BBB claims negatively assessed "types of businesses" are based on levels of complaints. But none of the offices we contacted named construction, banks or car dealers, the largest complaint industries according to the Bureau's own published list.

Some of the named targets from our calls include movers, credit and loan companies, and psychics (how do you judge their reliability?). Other criticized businesses could soon join the list such as taverns, cigar stores, ice cream shops (think "obesity"), and gun retailers. Even the best of companies in these industries will not rise up to the "B" level or "A" stratosphere once their industry has fallen into the BBB crosshairs.

What's the solution? Every business stop paying the BBB to support their bogus rating system. At least that will level the playing field.

---

Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Co., a Washington, D.C. based public affairs and communications firm

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More Consumers Delaying New Car Purchases

Weak economy means more buyers waiting longer to buy vehicles

More Consumers Delaying New Car Purchases...

Nearly half of Americans reported that they would wait longer before their next vehicle purchase, according to the results of Consumer Reports' 2009 Auto Brand Perception Survey.

The weak economy is forcing consumers to assess the value of their current vehicle. The number one reason people delayed purchase is that their vehicle is in good shape. The other top reasons are:

• Vehicles have become too expensive.

• General concern for the weak economy.

• Consumers are waiting for fuel-saving technologies, like hybrids to become more affordable.

• Interest rates for vehicle financing are too high.

Delaying a car purchase is more apparent in lower-income households, where difficulty in obtaining financing is an issue for nearly a quarter of those respondents.

"Car owners are considering the real costs and risks in buying a new model, emphasizing needs over wants," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy online automotive editor, Consumer Reports. "The shift in behavior comes at a time when the economy has put jobs and household budgets in peril. And for those looking to buy, the finance crunch has made it more difficult to secure a loan. These factors have pushed consumers to change priorities and have influenced brand perceptions."

The survey asked which brands consumers thought were the leader in each of seven categories: Design/Style, Performance, Quality, Safety, Technology/Innovation, and Value. In rank order, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Cadillac, and Mercedes-Benz dominated overall scores for brand perception.

Americans rated Toyota and Honda highest in overall brand perception, at 193 and 149 points, respectively. Those brands also led in quality, value, and environmental friendliness. Overall brand perception is an index calculated as the total number of times that the particular make was mentioned as an exemplar across all seven categories, divided by the total unaided mentions.

Among the seven factors in the survey, Safety stood out as the most important when shopping for a new vehicle. It was rated number one by 25 percent of respondents. The top ranking was fueled by women, who responded at a 2:1 ratio versus men in support of Safety. For men, quality was the leading factor by a significant margin. Consumers perceive Volvo leads the Safety category. No other brand in any category can boast such a commanding lead over the 2nd ranked brand in a given category.

Twenty-one percent cited Quality as a most significant factor in choosing a new model. As with last year's survey, Toyota and Honda are perceived to lead in Quality. In perceptions of Quality, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac also made the top-5 list.

In tough economic times, getting the most for your money is important. Nearly half of respondents agreed, with 49 percent considering Value as a leading factor. Consumers feel Honda delivers the best value, scoring 29 percent this year and 30 percent last year. Toyota shows a slight increase to 27 percent. Kia also moved up the rankings to 27 percent, from 23 percent last year.

Porsche, at 29 percent, and BMW, at 28 percent, top the performance category. Toyota has earned its placement in this ranking with increasingly powerful and fuel-efficient powertrains. Chevrolet and Ford round out the group, with each brand offering strong V6 and V8 engines.

Toyota continues to own the "green car" concept in the public's eyes, propelled by the Prius hybrid. Honda has long nurtured a reputation for good fuel economy and low emissions. Chevrolet, Ford, and GMC round out the top five in a tie at 11 percent each.

Lexus captured the lead from Mercedes-Benz with its eight-percentage point increase over last year despite a product line that has seen few changes. On the other hand, Mercedes-Benz slid from 24 percent to 19 percent.

Green and luxury brands lead in Technology/Innovation, with Toyota improving over last year's 30 percent score and taking top honors. Cadillac and Lexus tie for second at 22 percent. Ultimately, Technology/Innovation is the lowest priority for general consumers when shopping for their next new car based on a ranking of the seven factors in this survey.

While some brands earn a deserved reputation over time, others may influence their perception through design and marketing. Perception is not reality, and it pays for consumers to review available research rather than risk a false assumption.

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IRS Offers Help to Financially Stressed Taxpayers

Agency makes policy changes to help those in trouble

IRS Offers Help to Financially Stressed Taxpayers...

January 8, 2009
The federal government's efforts to cushion the blow of the economic meltdown extend all the way to the Internal Revenue Service. The tax collection agency is showing a kindler and gentler face to those hit hardest by the economy.

The IRS has kicked off the 2009 tax filing season by announcing a number of new steps to help financially distressed taxpayers maximize their refunds and speed payments while providing additional help to people struggling to meet their tax obligations.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman encouraged taxpayers to take advantage of several new tax credits and deductions this filing season and announced a major enhancement to the Free File program that will allow nearly all taxpayers to e-file for free and accelerate their refunds.

"With so many people facing financial difficulties, we want taxpayers to get all the tax credits they're entitled to as quickly as they can," Shulman said. "In addition, we are creating new protections to help people trying to meet their tax obligations. The IRS will do everything it can to help during these tough times."

Help for people who owe taxes

With many people facing additional financial difficulties, the IRS is taking several additional steps to help people who owe back taxes.

"We need to ensure that we balance our responsibility to enforce the law with the economic realities facing many American citizens today," Shulman said. "We want to go the extra mile to help taxpayers, especially those who've done the right thing in the past and are facing unusual hardships."

On a wide range of situations, IRS employees have flexibility to work with struggling taxpayers to assist them with their situation. Depending on the circumstances, taxpayers in hardship situations may be able to adjust payments for back taxes, avoid defaulting on payment agreements or possibly defer collection action.

The IRS reminds taxpayers who are behind on tax payments and need assistance to contact the phone numbers listed on their IRS correspondence. There could be additional help available for these taxpayers facing unusual hardship situations. Among the areas where the IRS can provide assistance:

Postponement of Collection Actions: IRS employees will have greater authority to suspend collection actions in certain hardship cases where taxpayers are unable to pay. This includes instances when the taxpayer has recently lost a job, is relying solely on Social Security or welfare income or is facing devastating illness or significant medical bills. If an individual has recently encountered this type of financial problem, IRS assistors may be able to suspend collection without documentation to minimize burden on the taxpayer.

Added Flexibility for Missed Payments: The IRS is allowing more flexibility for previously compliant individuals in existing Installment Agreements who have difficulty making payments because of a job loss or other financial hardship. The IRS may allow a skipped payment or a reduced monthly payment amount without automatically suspending the Installment Agreement. Taxpayers in a difficult financial situation should contact the IRS.

Additional Review for Offers in Compromise on Home Values: An Offer in Compromise (OIC), an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer's tax debt for less than the full amount owed, may be a viable option for taxpayers experiencing economic difficulties. However, the equity taxpayers have in real property can be a barrier to an OIC being accepted. With the uncertainty in the housing market, the IRS recognizes that the real-estate valuations used to assess ability to pay may not be accurate. So in instances where the accuracy of local real-estate valuations is in question or other unusual hardships exist, the IRS is creating a new second review of the information to determine if accepting an offer is appropriate.

Prevention of Offer in Compromise Defaults: Taxpayers who are unable to meet the periodic payment terms of an accepted OIC will be able to contact the IRS office handling the offer for available options to help them avoid default.

Expedited Levy Releases: The IRS will speed the delivery of levy releases by easing requirements on taxpayers who request expedited levy releases for hardship reasons. Taxpayers seeking expedited releases for levies to an employer or bank should contact the IRS number shown on the notice of levy to discuss available options. When calling, taxpayers requesting a levy release due to hardship should be prepared to provide the IRS with the fax number of the bank or employer processing the levy.

Taxpayers with financial problems who discover they can't pay when they file their 2008 tax returns also have options available. IRS.gov has a list of "What If?" scenarios that deal with payment and other financial problems. These scenarios, in question-and-answer format, provide information on specific actions taxpayers can take. Taxpayers unable to pay in full can likewise contact the IRS to discuss additional options to pay.

Maximizing refunds and speeding refund delivery

This filing season, there are several steps taxpayers can take to maximize their refunds and speed the delivery of money from the IRS.

Taxpayers should look into the numerous tax breaks available and take every credit, deduction and exclusion for which they qualify. People who had less income in 2008 could find they qualify for credits for which they previously did not qualify. And there are several new benefits this year:

First-Time Homebuyer Credit: Those who bought a principal residence recently or are considering buying one should take note. This unique credit of up to $7,500 works much like a 15-year interest-free loan. IRS.gov has more details and answers to common questions.

The Recovery Rebate Credit: This credit is figured like last year's Economic Stimulus Payment except that Recovery Rebate Credit amounts are based on tax year 2008 instead of 2007. Most people already received their full benefit in the form of the Economic Stimulus Payment. However, a taxpayer may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit, if, for example, he or she did not get an Economic Stimulus Payment, had a child in 2008 or had a change in income level. If you receive this credit, it will be included in your refund and will not be issued as a separate payment. See the Form 1040 Instructions, Fact Sheet 2009-3 or the information center on IRS.gov for details.

Standard Deduction for Real Estate Taxes: Taxpayers can claim an additional standard deduction, based on the state or local real estate taxes paid in 2008. The maximum deduction is $500, or $1,000 for joint filers.

Mortgage Workouts and Foreclosures: For most homeowners, these are now tax-free. Eligible homeowners can exclude debt forgiven on their principal residence if the balance of the loan was less than $2 million. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return. See Form 982 and its instructions for details.

IRS.gov, the official IRS Web site, has more information on these and other popular credits, such as the child tax credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and alternative fuel vehicle credit.

E-File, E-Pay and Direct Deposit

This year, electronic filing options will speed the payment of refunds to millions of taxpayers. Taxpayers who e-file and choose direct deposit for their refunds, for example, will get their refunds in as few as 10 days. That compares to approximately six weeks for people who file a paper return and get a traditional paper check.

This year, taxpayers can begin filing electronically on Jan. 16.

The IRS in 2009 is again offering free tax preparation and filing through the Free File program. Anyone with an adjusted gross income up to $56,000 can use the standard Free File options this year — that is approximately 98 million Americans. The program also has usability improvements, including a standardized set of electronic forms that are most frequently used by Free File-eligible taxpayers.

This year the IRS and its partners are offering a new option, Free File Fillable Tax Forms, that opens up Free File to virtually everyone, even those whose incomes exceed $56,000.

Free File Fillable Tax Forms allows taxpayers to fill out and file their tax forms electronically, just as they would on paper. This option does not include an "interview" process like the other Free File offerings, but it does allow taxpayers to enter their tax data, perform basic math calculations, sign electronically, print their returns for record keeping and e-file their returns. It may be just right for those who are comfortable with the tax law or those who use electronic software to prepare their returns but file using paper forms.

Both the fillable-forms option and the previously available Free File offerings are available only through the IRS.gov Web site. More information will be available in mid-January.

1040 Central and taxpayer-friendly features

When they visit the IRS.gov Web site this filing season, taxpayers may notice the new "rotating spotlight" feature on the homepage. The spotlights, which change every few seconds, give the taxpaying public direct access to more of the IRS Web site's vast amount of content.

Also on the homepage, taxpayers can click on 1040 Central to find help preparing and filing their tax returns. Like last year, this popular section of IRS.gov has a wide range of offerings that address taxpayer needs.

Finally, the IRS is producing a number of podcasts this filing season that will be available on IRS.gov. In addition to Tax Tips, Fact Sheets and News Releases, these short audio interviews cover a wide range of topics and are a way for the IRS to reach out to a new generation of taxpayers.

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Countrywide Accused of Gouging Active-Duty Military

Suit charges lender ignored federal law requiring lowered interest for active-duty servicemembers

Countrywide Accused of Gouging Active-Duty Military...

Consumer Protection for Active Duty Military Bank of America's Countrywide Home Loans Inc. faces a lawsuit charging that it failed to grant members of the armed forces the discounted interest rates that they are entitled to by law.

The suit, which seeks class action status, was filed in New Jersey U.S. District Court on behalf of U.S. Navy reservist Michael Fourte, who had a $680,000 mortgage with Countrywide when he was called to active duty in September 2006.

The Soldiers and Sailors Credit Relief Act (SCRA) provides that when a servicemember is called to active duty, his or her lenders are required by law to immediately reduce the interest rate on mortgages, car loans, credit card and other debts to 6 percent when the servicemember provides written notification and a copy of the mobilization orders.

But Fourte said Countrywide ignored his pleas for a reduction in the interest rate on his mortgage and on a home-equity line of credit when he notified them that he had received orders calling him to active duty, as required by the SCRA. Instead, Countrywide allegedly said its policy was to wait until the servicemember had actually entered active duty.

Fourte, a recent law school graduate, said he advised Countrywide that its policies were in violation of the law but was ignored.

The suit charges that in December 2006, while Fourte was deployed overseas, Countrywide sent him a letter contesting his claim that he was on active duty. Fourte said he provided the documentation but in February 2007, Countrywide increased the interest rate on his mortgage to 8.25 percent.

Fourte's lawyer, Barry Gainey, said Countrywide holds mortgages on the homes of more than 17,000 servicemembers who have been called to active duty.

Gainey said his investigation has found that Fourte's case is not unusual. He charged that Countrywide routinely delays action for "a month or two" after a servicemember is called to duty. When it finally reduces the interest rate, it does not always reduce the actual payment, simply adjusting the percentage of the payment applied to the principal of the loan.

Gainey noted that Countrywide recently settled other claims made the the attorneys general of 11 states for more than $3.5 billion but refuses to give servicemembers the relief they are entitled to by law.

"If Countrywide agreed to give each servicemember $1,000 to settle the lawsuit ... the settlement would be approximately $17 million, which is less than one-half of one percent of the $3.5 billion settlement they agreed to earlier this month for the regular citizens of 11 states," Gainey said.

"Now that Bank of America owns Countrywide, perhaps they will re-evaluate their treatment of U.S. servicemembers and their families," Gainey said.

Servicemembers who believe they are in a similar situation to Fourte can contact Gainey at 201 225-9001, he said.

 

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2008 Data Breach Total Soars

47 percent increase in incidents from 2007

It seems 2008 was a year of ups and downs, with home values and stock prices going down, but reports of data breaches increasing dramatically during the ye...

January 7, 2009
It seems 2008 was a year of ups and downs, with home values and stock prices going down, but reports of data breaches increasing dramatically during the year.

The Identity Theft Resource Center's (ITRC) 2008 breach report reached 656 reported breaches at the end of 2008, reflecting an increase of 47 percent over last year's total of 446.

In terms of sub-divisions by type of entity, the rankings have not changed between 2007 and 2008 within the five groups that ITRC monitors. The financial, banking and credit industries have remained the most proactive groups in terms of data protection over all three years.

The Government/Military category has dropped nearly 50 percent since 2006, moving from the highest number of breaches to the third highest.

According to ITRC reports, only 2.4 percent of all breaches had encryption or other strong protection methods in use. Only 8.5 percent of reported breaches had password protection. It is obvious that the bulk of breached data was unprotected by either encryption or even passwords.

The ITRC tracks five categories of data loss methods: data on the move, accidental exposure, insider theft, subcontractors, and hacking. Subcontractor breaches, while counted as one breach each, in some cases affected dozens of companies. It is important to note that the number of breaches reported does not reflect the number of companies affected.

These trends continue to plague companies and government alike, despite education on safer information handling, new laws and regulations. Mal-attacks, hacking and insider theft, account for 29.6 percent of those breaches that reported the causal factor. Insider theft, now at 15.7 percent, has more than doubled between 2007 and 2008.

On the other hand, data on the move and accidental exposure, both human error categories, showed noteworthy improvement, but still account for 35.2 percent of those breaches that indicate cause.

Electronic breaches continue to outnumber paper breaches. While there were 35.7 million records potentially breaches according to the notification letters and information provided by breached entities, 41.9 percent went unreported or undisclosed making the total number of affected records an unreliable number to use for any accurate reporting.

Based on the breach reports from the past 3 years, the ITRC strongly advises all agencies and companies to:

• Minimize personal with access to personal identifying information.

• Require all mobile data storage devices that contain identifying information encrypt sensitive data.

• Limit the number of people who may take information out of the workplace, and set into policy safe procedures for storage and transport.

• When sending data or back-up records from one location to another, encrypt all data before it leaves the sender and create secure methods for storage of the information, whether electronic or paper.

• Properly destroy all paper documents prior to disposal. If they are in a storage unit that is relinquished, ensure that all documents are removed.

• Verify that your server and/or any PC with sensitive information is secure at all times. In addition to physical security, you must update anti-virus, spyware and malware software at least once a week and allow your software to update as necessary in between regular maintenance dates.

• Train employees on safe information handling until it becomes second nature.

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Staying Healthy in a Sick Economy

How to find good health care in tough times

Staying Healthy in a Sick Economy...

Looking at last year's 401(k) statement may make you feel a bit queasy, but what happens if you actually do get sick? Will you still have access to health care?

Visits to doctors are down 10 percent to 15 percent and many individuals are not taking their medicines as prescribed, according to officials at the University of Michigan Medical School. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to lessen the burden while facing tough economic times.

While many individuals are dealing with cutbacks, it is important that health care remain a top priority, says A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and professor of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health.

Approximately one in nine individuals is cutting pills, taking them every other day or doing something the doctor did not recommend, Fenrick says.

"Cutting back on health care without consulting your clinician is a very risky decision," Fendrick said. "It may not only have an impact on your health, but also have a worsening economic consequence that will lead to greater costs down the road when minor health concerns become major health issues."

Fendrick suggests that people continue to follow up with their recommended screenings and immunizations and consult their clinicians before cutting back on health care. Although these preventative measures may cost you now, they are among the most important investments you can make to protect your health and may save you money in the long run.

While some people may find themselves without health insurance, Fendrick says there are affordable programs available to help individuals facing economic difficulties. He says you should ask your doctor's office or search online for information about decreasing or eliminating the costs of health insurance and prescription medications.

He also discourages people without insurance coverage from seeking routine medical care at hospital emergency rooms.

"You should really think about going to your primary care physician who knows your medical history, coordinates your follow up care and interacts with other doctors to make sure you're getting the highest quality care possible at the lowest cost," said Fendrick.

While the economy is forcing individuals to make difficult choices Fendrick puts it in perspective: "Remember your health is your most important asset, not your money."

Tips for healthy health care spending include:

• Continue to adopt healthy lifestyles: diet and exercise can help stave off many diseases.

• Ask your doctor if prescription medications are available in generic forms.

• Keep up-to-date with recommended screening tests, such as mammograms, colonoscopies or immunizations.

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Groups Claim Bank Uses Bailout Funds for Predatory Loans

California bank accused of using TARP money for tax refund loans

Groups Claim Bank Uses Bailout Funds for Predatory Loans...

January 6, 2009
Consumer groups say Santa Barbara Bank & Trust's refund anticipation loan (RAL) program is a predatory lending practice. To make matters worse, the groups claim the bank is using taxpayer money, from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), to help make the high-priced loans.

On November 21, 2008, Treasury approved Santa Barbara as a recipient of $180 million from the TARP program.

"Santa Barbara is feeding off of taxpayer money twice in making RALs this upcoming tax season," said Peter Skillern, Executive Director of the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina. "First, Santa Barbara is skimming off hundreds of millions in refund dollars in making RALs to working families. Second, it is funding its RAL loans using tax dollars from the bailout."

Santa Barbara is one in the handful of banks that makes RALs and partners with tax preparer Jackson Hewitt. RALs are loans secured by a taxpayer's federal refund, lasting only one to two weeks. They cost between $32 to $130 in loan fees, plus the ancillary fees, and can translate into high Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 50 percent to 500 percent. Nearly 9 million taxpayers received RALs in 2006, costing them nearly $1 billion in loan fees.

RALs target low-income taxpayers, especially recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a special tax benefit for working families. Nearly two thirds of RAL borrowers are EITC recipients, yet they make up only about 17 percent of taxpayers.

Santa Barbara made 1.83 million RALs in 2007, earning $118 million in fees. It is one of the higher-priced RAL lenders, charging about 40 percent more than some of its competitors. The bank relies heavily on revenue from RALs and a related product, refund anticipation checks, and these products at one point constituted 56 percent of its after-tax income.

"Californians are disappointed to see a supposed community bank in wealthy Santa Barbara take federal money while continuing to offer predatory tax refund loans to Earned Income Tax Credit recipients and other Californians in financial need," said Alan Fisher, Executive Director of the California Reinvestment Coalition.

In order to make these RALs, Santa Barbara must have adequate sources of funding while they maintain certain capital levels required by banking regulators. According to Santa Barbara's own statements, TARP funds will help the bank maintain capital levels while it makes triple digit APR loans to working poor families.



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Fiber-Optic Providers Are Leading Choices for Broadband

Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse lead latestConsumer Reportssurvey

Fiber-Optic Providers Are Leading Choices for Broadband...

Consumers looking to cut costs without sacrificing satisfaction for Internet, television, and telephone service should consider bundling with Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-verse, according to Consumer Reports latest survey of major telecom providers and bundled services.

In the survey, featured in the magazine's February issue, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, whose networks are fiber-optic based, were the most consistently satisfying providers for their Internet, television, and telephone services.

Because Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse are not available everywhere, many consumers must consider other options for Internet, phone and TV services. The article also includes ratings of these three services, which are typically bundled, from various providers.

In areas where telco-delivered service is not available, a highly-rated cable company is the next-best choice for many households. Consumers may not have an option when choosing a cable provider because a majority of homes only have one cable company available in their area.

According to Consumer Reports survey, better cable companies include Cox, Cablevision and the smaller Bright House and Wow, which are fine alternatives to fiber-optic service providers for all three services in areas that they are available and also offer Internet and telephone services.

If television service is a priority and fiber-optic service isnt available, satellite service may be a fine option. Consumer Reports suggests opting for a bundle that includes DirecTV. It scored higher than all the major cable companies and Dish Network, the other major provider of satellite service, for TV picture, sound and channel selection. It is also offered in hybrid bundles along with DSL Internet and landline phone service from some telephone providers.

Bundling prices decline

Intense competition for cable and satellite customers between AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS high-speed fiber providers has driven down rates for Internet, phone and TV service and is likely the reason that companies allow these savings to continue past the promotional period. In the past year, bundles of the three services have dropped in price by up to 20 percent, to as low as $80 a month.

Bundling makes sense for many households, especially for those consumers who are served by one of the fiber carriers or one of the better cable companies. Consumer Reports latest survey found that subscribers were very satisfied with Internet, phone and TV from the best telecomm providers.

However, bundling doesnt come without some problems. The survey revealed a high incidence of complaints about billing, and fees with some providers triple-play packages. Despite its high marks overall, Verizon FiOS was below average for customer service to its triple-play customers. Cable companies that bundle services had fewer customer-service problems overall.

How to choose



Check alternatives. Only a small percentage of homes have two cable companies to choose from; most only have one. Satellite is more widely available, provided a home has an unobstructed view of the horizon to the southwest. DSL is widely available in urban and suburban neighborhoods. While fiber-optic service, such as Verizon FiOS and U-Verse from AT&T, is spreading fast, it is still only available in about 8.5 million homes in about one-third of the states.

Weigh the case for bundling. With most providers, signing up for more services equals more savings. Bundles allow for integrated services, such as display of callers phone numbers on the TV screen, which is offered with some phone/cable packages. Triple-play offers often come sweetened with more extras, such as free installation. Consumers may also be guaranteed low rates for a longer period of time with triple-play than when subscribing to services one at a time.

Dont rule out a la carte. Taking fewer than three services from any one provider allows flexibility. Spreading service among a few carriers also eliminates the possibility that a network or equipment failure will knock out all telecomm services. Although bundles usually ensure maximum savings, Consumer Reports found at least one instance where the cost of the service taken individually was actually lower than when it was part of a package.

Consider phone safety. Cable, VoIP and fiber phone service require a battery back-up to use during power outages. These battery backups may be provided or have to be purchased for an additional fee. Additionally, if an outage lasts longer than the battery backup, consumers may be left without a phone for the remainder of the outage. Emergency 911 service varies among technologies. Consumer Reports recommends supplementing VoIP service with basic landline service for use in 911 calls.

Fine-tune by other attributes. Consumer Reports ratings reveal that providers differ in more than their customers overall satisfaction. Consumers should determine which TV providers carry programming they desire. Keep in mind that fiber and satellite usually have a termination fee but cable does not. How to get the best price

Check rates, then check again. Consumers should scour the providers Web site for the best deals, and ask a customer rep if the price quoted is the companys absolute best offer. Consider checking again. Consumer Reports found that rates could change, seemingly by the representative who took the call.

Negotiate. It can pay off, particularly in areas where theres competition between a cable provider and a traditional telephone company, and when a promotional rate is expiring. Ask for a reduced price or free extras, such as installation or a premium channel at no cost.

Ask for sample bills. Before finalizing a deal, ask for a summary of all charges for the first and subsequent months. Confirm that the figures include all taxes and fees, and one-time expenses such as a charge to keep an existing phone number. Try to get all the information in writing. Check the figures later against the actual bills.

Fine-tune extras.As a rule, consumers shouldnt pay more for higher-speed Internet service unless they are doing a lot of downloading or sharing of lengthy videos or other very large files. Most VoIP and fiber-based phone plans include caller ID, answering service, and unlimited local and long-distance calling in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and sometimes other countries. Check that these features dont disappear or that the bill doesnt increase once the promotional period ends.

The complete report and Ratings are available in the February 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, wherever magazines are sold. Portions of the story are available for free online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

 

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Indiana Puppy Breeder Shut Down

Some animals put down as state seizes company assets

Indiana Puppy Breeder Shut Down: The State of Indiana has seized the assets of a dog breeding company, effectively shutting it down....

January 5, 2009
The State of Indiana has seized the assets of a dog breeding company, effectively shutting it down. The state acted on a tax issue, but Attorney General Steve Carter says state officials also raised serious questions about the animals' welfare, as well as other consumer issues.

Late last month the Indiana Attorney General's office, the Owen County Sheriff's office and the Indiana Department of Revenue (IDR) served Tammy Gilchrist, the owner of Kritter Haven, with a search warrant for business and tax records dating back to 1998. Gilchrist was also served a jeopardy assessment authorizing the state to immediately collect tax the Indiana Department of Revenue finds is in danger of being recovered if standard assessment and collection procedures are followed.

When she was unable to produce payment, Carter said Gilchrist was served with a jeopardy levy, enabling the state to seize her bank accounts and inventory of animals including 74 dogs and four horses.

Three veterinarians and 15 volunteers from the Humane Society of the United States and local animal care and rescue organizations were on site to assist with safe removal of the animals from Gilchrist's property. Many of the dogs were emaciated and suffered from obvious medical ailments such as open sores and severe skin conditions. One of the dogs had to be euthanized due to its poor condition. The other animals were placed with multiple humane organizations in throughout the state.

Judge Frank Nardi signed a temporary restraining order today, preventing Gilchrist, and Kritter Haven co-operator Julie Herrick, from continuing operation. A hearing will be held on January 12 to determine if the temporary order will become permanent.

In addition to the temporary restraining order, Gilchrist will also be served with a five-day notice from the Indiana Department of Revenue stating that her tax debt must be paid to the state by January 7 or her retail merchant license will be revoked.

"Our previous seizure of the animals effectively put her out of business," said Carter. "Judge Nardi's order puts the court's authority behind that action."

The Attorney General's office has received complaints about Gilchrist failing to deliver puppies offered for sale, misrepresenting the health or age of puppies, failing to deliver registration papers, failing to refund shipping fees, failing to obtain a kennel license and/or selling puppies with various viruses that died a few days after delivery.

Since October 2003, Gilchrist offered puppies of various breeds for sale to consumers through advertisements on various websites. She has conducted business as AKA Kennel, TEKS Kennel, Puppysrus and Affordable Pups, with a principal place of business in Owen County, located at 11231 Highway 231, Cloverdale, Indiana.

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Don't Let Just Anyone Do Your Taxes

Poor choices in preparers could lead to trouble

Don't Let Just Anyone Do Your Taxes...

January 5, 2009
It's tax time again, and considering the complexity of the tax code, a growing number of taxpayers seek help in filing their returns. Here's some advice from the Internal Revenue Service — may sure you pick someone who knows what they're doing. Otherwise, it's you who could end up in hot water.

In fact, the IRS says you should choose your tax preparer as carefully as you would a doctor or lawyer. Even when someone else prepares your tax return, you, the taxpayer, are ultimately responsible for all the information on the return.

For that reason, you should thoroughly review the completed return before signing it and ask questions on entries you don't understand. And it should go without saying, never sign a blank tax form.

Most tax return preparers provide honest service to their clients, the IRS says, but it's always a good idea to be careful. When seeking someone to prepare your tax returns, there are several red flags that should alert you that you could be venturing onto thin ice:

• Be cautious of tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.

• Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.

• Use a tax professional who signs the completed tax return and provides you a copy.

• Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions months, or even years, after the return has been filed.

• Check credentials. Only attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.

• Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and holds them to a code of ethics.

• Ask friends and family whether they know anyone who has used the tax professional and whether they were satisfied with the service they received.

Reputable preparers will ask to see receipts and other documentation and will ask numerous questions to determine whether expenses, deductions and other items qualify. By doing so they are trying to help you avoid penalties, interest or additional taxes that could result from an IRS audit.



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H&R Block to Stop Selling Refund Anticipation Loans in California

Company settles suit charging it with deceptive practices

H&R Block to Stop Selling Refund Anticipation Loans in California...

January 2, 2009
Tax preparation giant H&R Block has agreed to stop selling high-cost refund anticipation loans as "early tax refunds" in California.

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said the settlement, which includes a $4.85 million payment by the company, will protect cash-short consumers from paying exorbitant interest rates that they can little afford.

Brown filed suit against H&R Block in early 2006 regarding its marketing and sale of income tax refund anticipation loans and a related product called refund anticipation checks. The company denied any wrongdoing.

A refund anticipation loan is a short-term loan secured by a taxpayer's anticipated income tax refund. The complaint alleged a variety of deceptive practices by H&R Block including:

• Deceptive advertising designed to disguise refund anticipation loans, which carry fees and other costs, as tax refunds, which the IRS provides without charge; and

• Unfair debt collection practices by which customers' refund proceeds were garnished to pay off debts they supposedly owed.

The settlement provides for up to $2.45 million in restitution for consumers who purchased a Refund Anticipation Loan or a Refund Anticipation Check through H&R Block between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2008. In addition, the company will pay $500,000 in penalties and $1.9 million in fees and costs.

In addition. H&R Block will be prohibited from marketing these loans and related products in a deceptive or misleading manner and will be required to make clear and conspicuous disclosures to consumers prior to their purchase of these products. Terms of the settlement are limited to three years.

A settlement administrator will be contacting eligible consumers directly. Eligible consumers may also write to the Attorney Generals Public Inquiry Unit at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550, or may send an e-mail at ag.ca.gov/contact/.

Brown previously settled claims against Jackson Hewitt and recently concluded a trial against Liberty Tax Service, the second and third largest tax preparation companies in the country, respectively. All three lawsuits involved refund anticipation loans and related products.



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