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    Consumer spending and inflation both up in July

    A government report suggests the economy is still growing

    On the heels of the Conference Board's finding that consumer confidence is at an 18-year high, the government reports consumers increased their spending again in July.

    The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July, matching June's increase. As a result, government economists say it put upward pressure on prices. The underlying inflation rate hit 2 percent in July, which is right where the Federal Reserve wants it.

    Economists say the strong spending number suggests the economy is still expanding in the third quarter, after the government this week reported second quarter gross domestic product (GDP) rose 4.2 percent.

    The numbers are likely to keep the Federal Reserve on its path of slowly raising interest rates, a policy recently criticized by President Trump as potentially harmful to the economy. But Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has defended the policy, saying the economy is growing to the point that it no longer needs cheap money.

    Two headwinds

    Economists say the economy is doing well in spite of two headwinds – the impact of the trade war and a slowdown in the housing market. In terms of the latter, Economist Joel Naroff says the slowdown may have a silver lining for people looking for a home.

    “With housing sales ebbing, it should not be surprising that the surge in prices is fading as well,” Naroff wrote in his blog. “The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index rose modestly in June. Over the year, prices are still going up solidly, but it looks like the rate of gain may have peaked.”

    But houses may be the only thing that isn't getting more expensive. The BEA data shows a rising trend in the personal consumption index (PCE) in July, double the increase from June.

    The year-over-year increase of the core PCE price index, which excludes food costs, rose slightly from June and hit the Fed's 2 percent target for the second month this year.

    Incomes lagging

    Consumers may be spending more, but they aren't earning that much more. July's personal income rose 0.3 percent in July, slightly lower than June's gain. The savings rate declined from 6.8 percent to 6.7 percent.

    That suggests much of the increase in July consumer spending was done with credit cards, which isn't a problem as long as consumers can pay it back.

    In one troubling note, however, a new study by NerdWallet suggests consumers were having a difficult time paying for last year's holiday purchases. According to the study, credit card delinquencies totaled $23 billion in the first quarter of the year.

    On the heels of the Conference Board's finding that consumer confidence is at an 18-year high, the government reports consumers increased their spending ag...
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    Toyota recalls model year 2012 Avalons

    The airbag system may not deploy properly in a crash

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 19,400 model year 2012 Avalons.

    Because of a service part manufacturing error, some vehicles may have had a front seat belt inner buckle replaced with one that does not correctly identify if the seat belt is buckled.

    This could affect how the airbag system determines the appropriate airbag deployment method in a crash, and could increase the risk of injury to the occupant where the front seat belt inner buckle was replaced.

    As many as 97 of the recalled vehicles may have had a front seat belt inner buckle replaced by a dealer (or possibly a non-Toyota service provider) with an involved service part.

    What to do

    Toyota dealers will inspect the front seat belt inner buckle(s) and if necessary, replace it with a new one(s) at no cost to customers.

    The recall is set to begin in mid-September.

    Owners may call Toyota at (800) 331.4331.

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 19,400 model year 2012 Avalons.Because of a service part manufacturing error, some vehicles may have had...
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      Yahoo Mail reportedly scans commercial emails to help advertisers

      Almost 200 million Yahoo inboxes are scanned for data to help advertisers learn users’ buying habits

      Yahoo Mail is still scanning the inboxes of its users for commercial emails in order to help advertisers target ads based on users’ interests, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

      The emails that are scanned typically include order confirmations and other messages from online retailers. Oath, Yahoo’s owner, uses the information to put users into interest groups. Advertisers then show ads based on those interests.

      Oath uses algorithms to identify commercial emails, then scans those emails for keywords that could provide insights into a user’s purchasing habits.

      “Yahoo mined users’ emails in part to discover products they bought through receipts from e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com,” said the Journal. “In 2015, Amazon stopped including full itemized receipts in the emails it sends customers, partly because the company didn’t want Yahoo and others gathering that data for their own use.”

      The company allows users to opt out of receiving targeted ads based on email scanning, but the page through which users can do so is difficult to find. Users have to navigate into the Ad Interest Manager and select “opt out” under both 'Your Advertising Choices' and the 'On Yahoo' tabs.

      Yahoo’s rivals don’t scan emails

      Users first noticed that Oath gave itself permission to read users’ emails when it updated its privacy policy back in April. However, the fact that the company is still pitching this ability to advertisers goes against the policies of most of its competitors.

      Last year, Google confirmed that it would stop scanning users’ consumer email accounts in order to serve up targeted ads. Microsoft says it has never engaged in the practice, nor has Apple.

      Oath says that scanning retail emails is part of the trade-off consumers make in exchange for free online services.

      "Email is an expensive system. I think it's reasonable and ethical to expect the value exchange, if you've got this mail service and there is advertising going on," Doug Sharp, Oath's Vice President of Data, Measurements & Insights, told the Journal.

      Yahoo Mail is still scanning the inboxes of its users for commercial emails in order to help advertisers target ads based on users’ interests, the Wall Str...
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      Robocall campaign aims to derail California's net neutrality efforts

      But no one will own up to the campaign

      California is considering regulations to impose its own version of net neutrality, but a robocall campaign is underway to negate that effort.

      Supporters of California's proposed net neutrality rules report instances of senior citizens receiving robocalls claiming the state's proposal to enact its own net neutrality rules will result in higher mobile phone bills and slower internet speeds.

      According to consumer groups in the state and net neutrality supporters in the legislature, the robocalls offer no evidence that net neutrality will have any kind of negative impact on consumers. They say the state's proposed regulations mirror the national regulations that were on the books until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled them back in December.

      'Misinformation campaign'

      “We’re now dealing with a straight-up misinformation campaign on our #NetNeutrality bill, #SB822: industry robo-calls to seniors falsely telling them that protecting net neutrality will increase their phone bills by $30,” State Senator Scott Wiener said in a tweet. “Scaring seniors with lies about their financial security? Gross.”

      The consumer groups say the robocalls being made to California seniors are coming from a group called the Civil Justice Association of California and the Congress of California Seniors. The whole project, consumer groups charge, is being bankrolled by AT&T and Verizon.

      However, both AT&T and Verizon deny any connection to efforts to block California's efforts to impose net neutrality rules and both say they have nothing to do with the phone calls California seniors are receiving.

      Status of the bill

      After initially gutting many of the protections in California's net neutrality bill, a key legislative committee restored provisions of the measure to require internet service providers to treat all internet traffic the same.

      Wiener, the author of the legislation, ultimately reached an agreement with Communications Committee Chairman Miguel Santiago to restore the bill to its stronger form and bring it back for a vote. The bill cleared the committee with all key protections intact.

      Though it won committee approval, the measure to restore net neutrality in California has yet to be brought up for a floor vote. Sponsors say they think they are close to a vote and expect strong opposition from large telecom and cable companies.

      California is considering regulations to impose its own version of net neutrality, but a robocall campaign is underway to negate that effort.Supporters...
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      Facebook ramps up its greenhouse gas reduction goals

      The tech giant has new greenhouse gas reduction targets and a 100 percent renewable energy goal

      On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it’s committing to slashing its greenhouse emissions by 75 percent and powering global operations with 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2020.

      The company had previously set a goal of having 25 percent of its power sourced from renewable energy in 2015 and then 50 percent by 2018. The latter target was hit in 2017, when Facebook reached 51 percent clean and renewable energy.

      Facebook said in a statement that it is “on track to be one of the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy.” The tech giant revealed that it has signed contracts for more than three gigawatts of solar and wind energy, all on the same grid as its data centers.

      Combating climate change

      Facebook’s new pledge is part of its ongoing effort to fight climate change. Last year, the company supported the Paris Agreement through the We Are Still In initiative.

      The social networking platform joins other tech giants who have made commitments on renewable energy. Earlier this year, Apple announced that 100 percent of its global operations are powered by renewable energy. Google achieved the same milestone last year.

      Facebook's new commitment was praised by environmental campaigners, including Greenpeace.

      "CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reaffirmed Facebook's place among business leaders in the race to be coal-free and 100 percent renewable-powered," Gary Cook, senior corporate campaigner at Greenpeace, said in a statement.

      "If we are to stay within the 1.5-degree threshold that scientists say is crucial to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need many more companies stepping up to adopt aggressive renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals," Cook added.

      On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it’s committing to slashing its greenhouse emissions by 75 percent and powering global operations with 100 percent rene...
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      FDA warns of blood pressure drug labeling mix-up

      Consumers are urged to check their pills to ensure they are the right color and shape

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning of a blood pressure drug labeling mix-up that could have effects ranging from “limited” to “life-threatening,” depending on the individual.

      A single lot (PW05264) of 100-count bottles of Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets USP 12.5 mg was found to contain 100 Spironolactone Tablets USP 25 mg. Spironolactone tablets are used to treat congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and other ailments.

      Accord -- the company that distributes the drug -- is recalling this individual lot from the market due to the “potential mix-up of labeling.”

      Potentially serious health effects

      Accord Healthcare believes no other lots of Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets are involved in the mix-up, which was initially reported by a pharmacy through a product complaint.

      Accord hasn’t received any reports of adverse health events related to this recall. However, using spironolactone tablets instead of hydrochlorothiazide tablets could increase the risk of contracting hyperkalemia (elevated potassium levels), which could trigger other adverse events of varying degrees of severity depending on the person.

      Those who are prescribed to take Accord’s  Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets USP 12.5 should make sure the pills are light orange to peach colored, round, and biconvex in shape. They are debossed with an “H” on one side and a “1” on the other side.

      Consumers in possession of Accord Hydrochlorothiazide tablets that do not match the above description are urged to return the pills to their pharmacy or healthcare provider for confirmation.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning of a blood pressure drug labeling mix-up that could have effects ranging from “limited” to “life-threaten...
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      Poll shows consumers not sure what 'Internet of Things' means

      But most consumers own IoT devices

      If you aren't quite sure what “Internet of Things” (IoT) means, you're in good company.

      A poll conducted for Metova, a manufacturer of components for connected cars and devices, found fewer that 20 percent of consumers had a firm grasp of the meaning while nearly 70 percent owned some type of connected device.

      An IoT product is one that has an embedded computing device that allows it to send and receive data using the internet.

      Knowing which if your devices connects to the internet is important; if you aren't aware that your thermostat, refrigerator, or garage door is connected to the internet, you're less likely to take security precautions with it. IoT devices are vulnerable to hackers who can take control of the devices and use them for their own purposes.

      Denial-of-service attack

      In 2016, hackers were able to harness tens of millions of unsecured smart devices like thermostats, home security systems and even printers to launch a massive denial-of-service attack against major web sites like Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter. The attack prevented consumers from reaching these sites for several hours.

      Dyn, the sites' common DNS provider, said its investigation showed that many of the compromised smart devices had been infected with a malware because of inadequate security protections. Since then, manufacturers have been under increased pressure to regularly update firmware on smart devices.

      A 2017 report by Parks Associates showed 41 percent of U.S. homes with wifi planned to purchase a smart appliance or other wifi-connected household device in the next 12 months, meaning there are now probably millions more IoT devices than there were at the time of the 2016 attack.

      "Connected devices and real-time monitoring of water, gas and electrical usage have shifted from a novelty to necessity," said Jonathan Sasse, CMO at Metova. "Whether they know it or not, consumers have made the leap to the Internet of Things in and outside of their homes, yet businesses are often unsure of how to approach digital transformation in order to leverage this new realm."

      If you aren't quite sure what “Internet of Things” (IoT) means, you're in good company.A poll conducted for Metova, a manufacturer of components for co...
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      Consumer confidence at an 18-year high

      Conference Board says consumers are optimistic about the present and the future

      Consumer Confidence, as measured by the Conference Board, surged this month, rising sharply from the month before. The confidence index rose from 127.9 last month to 133.4 in August.

      There were similar large gains in the Present Situation Index and the Expectations Index, which measures how consumers feel about the future. The index is constructed from polling conducted by Nielsen.

      Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, says confidence is at its highest level in 18 years, when the index hit 135.8 in October 2000. Franco says August is part of a positive trend she has seen throughout 2018.

      "Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved further,” Franco said. “Expectations, which had declined in June and July, bounced back in August and continue to suggest solid economic growth for the remainder of 2018.”

      Confidence is a closely-watched economic indicator because consumer behavior has such a large impact on whether businesses do well.

      Consumers likely to keep spending

      "Overall, these historically high confidence levels should continue to support healthy consumer spending in the near-term," Franco said.

      Consumer spending can be a double-edged sword. If consumers suddenly stop buying things, the economy can slip into a recession. But if they continue to increase spending, it can sometimes lead to inflation. If they put that spending on plastic, it can build up dangerous levels of debt.

      The Conference Board's monthly survey also takes consumers' pulse on the job market. In August, the outlook is mixed.

      The percentage of consumers who expect more jobs in the months ahead fell from 22.6 percent to 21.7 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs also decreased, from 15.2 percent to 14.1 percent.

      Even though wage growth has been slow in 2018, a number of consumers are hopeful that's about to change, The percentage of consumers expecting their income to improve rose from 20.4 percent to 25.5 percent, while the proportion expecting a decrease declined, from 9.4 percent to 7.0 percent.

      Consumer Confidence, as measured by the Conference Board, surged this month, rising sharply from the month before. The confidence index rose from 127.9 las...
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      Dunkin' Donuts to drop ‘Donuts’ from name in select locations

      Customers have reportedly been up in arms about the change

      Dunkin’ Donuts announced earlier this week that it will officially be dropping the “Donuts” from its name in some locations, and customers of the popular coffee chain are not happy about it.

      The Massachusetts-based coffee company began testing out just “Dunkin’” at several stores across Massachusetts, and so the decision to make the change permanent certainly wasn’t a surprise.

      Switching to Dunkin’ is one of several steps involved in the company’s rebranding, which will also include digital ordering kiosks, new store designs, and new drinks -- like the nitro infused cold brew. Quincy, Massachusetts is home to the first newly designed Dunkin’ store, and by the end of the year, 30 locations in Boston and 20 across the country will be upgraded.

      Despite the announced change, Dunkin’ has reported that any final decisions regarding branding won’t be made until later this year. Additionally, the change may not be a permanent one.

      Customer reactions

      Regular Dunkin’ customers took to Twitter to voice their outrage at the decision.

      “Hold up, Dunkin Donuts drops the donut in their name?” one user tweeted. “The real question is, do you still sell donuts though?”

      “Dunkin’? What is being dunked?” another user tweeted. “Is it, like, the sound of one hand dunking? I agree that ‘Dunk’s’ would’ve been better.”

      “They literally invented the word ‘donut,” another user wrote. “They should keep it forever.”

      Not a new name

      Last August, Dunkin’ Donuts was opening a new store in Pasadena, California, and the store was branded solely as “Dunkin,’” again dropping the “Donuts” from the name. At the time, this store was set to be the first of several new stores that would sport the shortened version of the name.

      “We have been referring to ourselves simply as Dunkin’ in our advertising for more than a decade, ever since we introduced our ‘America Runs on Dunkin’ campaign,” a spokesperson said.

      At the time, a company spokesperson told National Restaurant News that the decision was made not to de-emphasize donuts, but rather to emphasize coffee that much more.

      The company’s official holding name is Dunkin’ Brands.

      Dunkin’ Donuts announced earlier this week that it will officially be dropping the “Donuts” from its name in some locations, and customers of the popular c...
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      Polaris recalls RZR XP Turbo S ROVs

      The vehicle’s rollover protection structure can fracture

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 1,300 model year 2018 RZR XP Turbo S recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      In the event of a high-speed rollover, the rollover protection structure (ROPS) can fracture, providing inadequate protection during a rollover.

      The firm has received six reports of rollover protection structures fracturing during rollovers. Polaris also has received one report of an injury but does not attribute it to ROPS fractures.

      This recall involves model year 2018 RZR XP Turbo S recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) sold in red and blue.

      The recalled vehicles have “POLARIS” printed on the front grille, “POLARIS” printed beneath the doors, and “RZR” printed on the rear fenders.

      The vehicle identification number (VIN) and model number can be found on a label affixed to the vehicle frame in the left front wheel well.

      Polaris Model Year 2018 RZR XP Turbo S

      Year

      Model Number

      Model/Color

      2018

      Z18VEL92BR

      RZR XP TURBO S WITH RIDE CMD AND LV INDY RED

      2018

      Z18VEL92BK

      RZR XP TURBO S WITH RIDE CMD AND LV POL BLUE

      The ROVs, manufactured in Mexico, were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from January 2018, through August 2018, for about $27,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact a Polaris dealer to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all registered owners directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at (800) 765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” for more information.

      In addition, consumers should check their vehicle identification number (VIN) on the “Product Safety Recalls” page to see if their vehicle is included in any recalls.

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 1,300 model year 2018 RZR XP Turbo S recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).In the event of a...
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      American Landmaster recalls off-road utility vehicles

      Gas can leak from the gas tank, posing fire and burn hazards

      American Landmaster of Columbia City, Ind., is recalling about 1,500 off-road utility vehicles.

      Gas can leak from the gas tank, posing fire and burn hazards.

      No incidents or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves model year 2018 gasoline-powered Landstar, Crossroad and Trailwagon models of American Landmaster four-wheel off-road utility vehicles.

      The recalled vehicles were sold in a variety of colors.

      The model name and number are printed on the hood of each front fender.

      The American Landmaster logo is printed on the center of the hood of the vehicle. The VIN is located behind the pedals and below the steering wheel.

      Model Number

      VIN range start

      VIN range end

      CR350, LS350, LS350DL

      A4PUTYFB1JBA00023

      A4PUTYFB9JBA00304

      A4PUTYFB1JBA00751

      A4PUTYFB7JBA00754

      LS450

      A4PUTYJC4JBA00422

      A4PUTYJC6JBA00499

      A4PUTYJC3JBA00749

      A4PUTYJCXJBA01512

      TW450

      A4PUTYJCXJBA00358

      A4PUTYJC0JBA00496

      A4PUTYJC2JBA00760

      A4PUTYJC2JBA01147

      TW750

      A4PUTYPD0JBA00014

      A4PUTYPD8JBB00149

      LS477

      A4PUVTKD7JBB00003

      A4PUVTKD9JBB00049

      LS550

      A4PUTVKD9JBA00003

      A4PUTVKD9JBA00308

      LS670, 677EFI, 677EPS

      A4PUTYPD6JBB00005

      A4PUTYPD7JBB00224

      Crew2, Crew4, Crew4X

      A4PUFYPD0JBA00005

      A4PUFYPD5JBA00078

      The vehicles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Atwood Distributing, Tractor Supply Company, Orscheln Farm and Home stores and other distributors nationwide from January 2018, through July 2018, for between $4,300 and $10,300.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact American Landmaster for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact American Landmaster at (800) 643-7332 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at recall@AmericanLandmaster.com or online at www.AmericanLandmaster.com or www.AmericanLandmaster.com/recall for more information.

      American Landmaster of Columbia City, Ind., is recalling about 1,500 off-road utility vehicles.Gas can leak from the gas tank, posing fire and burn haz...
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      Missouri is about to criminalize using the word ‘meat’ to sell meat substitutes

      Missouri officials are ready to stand up for meat, whatever that means

      In case anyone was unclear as to why Missouri needs a law clarifying that meat comes from animals, state lawmakers who enjoy eating meat have answers.

      “I love eating some chicken. And I know what a chicken is. And I love pork chop. I love me a pork chop,” State Representative Greg Razer said, shortly before he voted to pass the nation’s first meat-labeling law in May.

      The measure was signed by outgoing Missouri Governor Eric Greitens the following month.

      What does it do?

      On the surface, the Missouri meat-labeling law is presented as a simple truth-in-advertising rule. “We’ve got companies and individuals that want to rename what fruits and vegetables are and call them meat,” State Representative Jay Houghton claimed at the time.

      The measure specifically prohibits “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.”

      But federal laws already ban food companies from passing their products off as something they’re not. And when the Missouri meat labeling law was still up for debate, some representatives expressed concerns that meat interests were trying to kick their plant-based competition to the curb by policing any and all meat-like language.

      State Representative Tracy McCreery noted that two vegan brands that use the word “meat” -- Beyond Meat and Match Meat -- are based out of Missouri and “employ a lot of people.”

      ”So, seriously, when somebody buys meat made out of soy, you think that they’re dumb enough to think that it’s actually meat from a slaughtered animal?” she asked.

      Her colleagues stayed safely away from that question and didn’t say whether their constituents were having trouble distinguishing between a soy burger and a beef burger. But they did counter that the state’s beef industry employs far more people than the vegan companies, reason enough for a crackdown on the definition of “meat.”

      “There are many products that are starting to come to market that use the term ‘meat’ in them that don’t necessarily come from animals,” State Representative Deb Lavender, a meat-labeling opponent, said at the time.

      “So, inside of the integrity of the meat industry, they want to capture that word to mean something extremely specific.”

      Beef industry will benefit, Tofurky lawsuit alleges

      State lawmakers weren’t shy in stating that they were acting in the interest of the state’s beef producers. “All we’re trying to do is basically just protect our meat industry,” Houghton added at the time.

      Whether that protection comes at the expense of the vegan food industry and other competitors remains an open question, even as the meat-labeling law is about to go into effect in Missouri on Tuesday.

      The ToFurky brand, famous for selling soy deli slices that are supposed to taste like cold cuts, is now suing Missouri to stop the labeling law from being enforced. In a complaint filed on Monday, ToFurky is fighting alongside the the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri to argue that meat-labeling laws violate the First Amendment and other constitutional amendments.

      The suit notes that people who are accused of violating Missouri’s agricultural statutes could face criminal prosecution. In this case, violators accused of misrepresenting their non-meat products as meat could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor and punished with a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

      ToFurky behind bars?

      “Tofurky could be, as early as tomorrow, prosecuted by any Missouri local prosecutor. That's a very real threat and it's something that Tofurky is concerned about,” Amanda Howell, an attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) tells ConsumerAffairs.

      State Senator Sandy Crawford, credited with authoring the meat-labeling law, has not yet returned messages from ConsumerAffairs asking whether companies that use the word “meat” to clarify that they are not meat would be prosecuted.

      “We wanted to protect our cattlemen in Missouri and protect our beef brand,” she told an industry publication earlier this year.

      State Attorney General Josh Hawley's office also declined to answer whether ToFurky or others could face prosecution for advertising their vegan products as tasting like meat.

      “The attorney general's office cannot interpret law for people who are not our clients,” an agency spokesman said on the phone.

      But the agency later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper that they were prepared to defend the new law and “take legal action as appropriate under the circumstances to protect Missouri consumers,” presumably the same consumers who could not tell the difference between soy and beef.

      Howell, the ALDF attorney, says Missouri’s meat-labeling law will empower the state’s criminal prosecutors to go after any company selling products that they deem are being misrepresented as meat.

      "Because it's so vague, these plant-based meat producers like ToFurky don't even know if they follow this law,” she tells ConsumerAffairs. “So it's a due process violation on top of it."

      Consumer confusion evidence is limited

      According to the vegan and civil liberties groups’ complaint, regulating use of the word “meat” violates both the First Amendment and the Dormant Commerce Clause, or the constitutional law that prohibits states from discriminating against interstate commerce.

      The complaint notes that vegan brands like ToFurky often borrow meat industry terminology to advertise what their products are supposed to taste like -- while also distinguishing themselves from the real thing.

      “Plant-based meat products that use such terms like ‘deli slices,’ ‘burger,’ ‘sausages,’ or ‘hot dogs,” with accompanying qualifying and descriptive language, clearly indicate that the products are plant-based,” the suit says.

      ToFurky and the others say that during hearings, Missouri lawmakers presented scant evidence that consumers were mistakenly buying fake meat on the impression that it was real.

      “The Office of the Missouri Attorney General—the agency responsible for protecting consumers and preventing misleading business practices—has received zero complaints from consumers who accidentally purchased plant-based meats that they believed to be meat from slaughtered animals,” the suit says.

      New meat markets

      The meat labeling law comes at a time when meat substitutes are gaining a small but steady market share from American consumers, not to mention millions in venture capital dollars.

      In addition to the older soy products, the meat industry is also seeing newer competition from companies using tempeh, seitan, and jackfruit, to name a few of the many substances increasingly taking up space in the frozen food aisle. Many of those meat-substitute brands use the word “meat” in their advertising -- the Jackfruit Company, for instance, says that Jackfruit is a tasty “fiber meat alternative.”

      In addition to vegan meat, the meat industry and Missouri lawmakers also say they are concerned about meat grown from cell cultures in a lab, a technology that investors like Bill Gates have been promoting in recent years.

      According to supporters of “clean meat,” as they call the lab-grown meat, the product could bring the taste of genuine meat to dinner plates without the environmental damage and health concerns that have become a stain on the conventional meat industry’s reputation. Scientists that work for the lab-grown meat industry claim that such products may be restaurant-ready by as early as 2021.

      But lab-grown “clean meat” is not yet available for sale, and how it would be regulated under federal laws remains unclear. The Good Food Institute, a non-profit that lobbies for both plant-based products and the futuristic lab-meat industry, is joining ToFurky and the NGOs to fight Missouri’s labeling law.

      “No one buys Tofurky ‘PLANT-BASED’ deli slices thinking they were carved from a slaughtered animal any more than people are buying almond milk thinking it was squeezed from a cow’s udder,” the Good Food Institute says in a statement.

      Federal fight

      What happens in Missouri could have implications for the rest of the nation, as the the beef industry is also lobbying for meat-labeling laws at the federal level.

      In February, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association petitioned the USDA to prohibit alternative meat companies from using the terms “meat” or “beef” in their advertisements. “Current labeling practices may cause consumer confusion in the marketplace,” the beef producers claimed.

      But that attitude isn’t universal. Some conventional meat producers are opting to try the meat-substitute craze themselves. In January, chicken giant Tyson Foods announced that it was investing in a lab-grown meat startup called Memphis Meats.

      In case anyone was unclear as to why Missouri needs a law clarifying that meat comes from animals, state lawmakers who enjoy eating meat have answers.“...
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      Toyota invests $500 million in Uber to develop self-driving technology

      The companies will be launching a pilot program in 2021

      On Monday, Toyota announced that it is investing $500 million in Uber to develop self-driving technology that will be built into vehicles based on Toyota Sienna minivans and deployed as autonomous Uber vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported.

      "This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing that includes Toyota vehicles and technologies," Shigeki Tomoyama, the president of Toyota Connected Company, said in a statement.

      The two companies are calling the fleet of vehicles “Autono-MaaS,” which stands for "autonomous mobility as a service."

      Pilot program to begin in 2021

      The companies claim that integrating Uber’s self-driving technology and Toyota’s Guardian system will enhance vehicle safety. Toyota’s Guardian system is an automated system that offers some safety features but does not allow a vehicle to drive completely autonomously, sources told the Journal.

      "Our goal is to deploy the world's safest self-driving cars on the Uber network, and this agreement is another significant step towards making that a reality,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said. “Uber's advanced technology and Toyota's commitment to safety and its renowned manufacturing prowess make this partnership a natural fit. I look forward to seeing what our teams accomplish together."

      The companies plan to start "pilot-scale" deployments on Uber's network in 2021.

      Prior to this announcement, reports indicated that Uber executives were still deciding how to proceed with the company’s autonomous vehicle unit. Uber shut down testing on public roads following a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona in March.

      Earlier this year, the company shuttered its self-driving car unit’s Arizona operations and laid off about 400 test drivers.

      On Monday, Toyota announced that it is investing $500 million in Uber to develop self-driving technology that will be built into vehicles based on Toyota S...
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