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    United Airlines nearly contaminated travelers’ food with Listeria, lawsuit claims

    The United Airlines catering facility in Newark posed a ‘major public health risk,’ according to whistle-blowing employees

    Several months ago, on August 31, United Airlines had a seemingly innocuous announcement. Listeria, a nasty food-borne pathogen, was found in a kitchen cooler at a United Airlines catering facility in Newark, New Jersey. It never touched food and the bacteria was quickly contained, the airline added.

    A new lawsuit filed by a group of employees now alleges that there was much more to that story. The employees at the United Airlines catering facility in Newark say that the kitchen cooler tested positive for Listeria on numerous occasions, dating back to September 2017. The plaintiffs say that United refused to stop distributing the food due to “business concerns.”

    Some strains of Listeria are worse than others. The monocytogene strain of Listeria, or L. mono, can cause stillbirths and other serious health complications for vulnerable people. An estimated 260 people in the United States die each year from exposure to the strain.

    Evidence of L. Mono contamination was found at the United Newark catering operation in February 2018, according to internal documents that employees shared with CNBC. A cooler tested positive for the strain again in August.

    United Airlines’ press team responded to the allegations, telling CNBC that the Listeria strain found in September 2017 wasn't a dangerous variation. As for the evidence of L. Mono, United told CNBC that it took “appropriate actions” to contain the dangerous pathogen. Those actions included cleaning the area more thoroughly and retesting the facility, according to United.

    But food safety experts told CNBC that when dangerous strains of Listeria are found, the best course of action is to shut down a kitchen completely.  They were not impressed with United’s professed response.

    Meanwhile, the employee lawsuit says that when one manager finally shut down the troubled cooler himself, he was reassigned to a different city and forced to do "make-work assignments" to keep him busy. Another employee says that she were forced to resign over the conditions.

    The Newark catering facility is the airline’s largest, serving 45,000 meals a day on domestic and international flights.

    In a statement to ConsumerAffairs, United Airlines spokesman Frank Benenati says that the claims made in the lawsuit and in the CNBC report are "misleading, inaccurate and in many cases, outright false."

    "We look forward to defending ourselves in a court of law and will be filing substantive responses soon," he says.  

    Several months ago, on August 31, United Airlines had a seemingly innocuous announcement. Listeria, a nasty food-borne pathogen, was found in a kitchen coo...
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      Pedestrians more likely to get hit by cars on Halloween than any other day of the year

      Children are at a greater risk of getting hit than adults

      As parents and children prepare to take to the streets in search of Halloween candy, it’s more important than ever to ensure the trick-or-treating experience is a fun, memorable, and safe one.

      A new study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that more pedestrians -- mainly children -- get hit by cars on Halloween than any other day of the year. Keeping that in mind, the researchers offer several ways for families to take precautions and stay safe this Halloween.

      “Our findings suggest that there are opportunities to improve pedestrian safety on Halloween, but they also highlight ways that traffic safety might be improved on the other 364 days of the year,” said researcher Candace Yip. “Residential traffic calming, vehicle speed control, and incorporating reflective patches into outerwear might improve pedestrian safety year-round.”

      Safety is the top priority

      The researchers, led by Dr. John Staples, dug up survey results from the last 40 years to determine the cause behind the increase in car accidents -- and ultimately, fatalities -- that happen on Halloween each year.

      “Collecting ‘trick-or-treat’ candy from neighbors has been a Halloween tradition for over a century, and adult Halloween parties have become increasingly popular in bars and on campuses across North America,” said Dr. Staples. “We wondered if the combination of dark costumes, excitement, and alcohol made the streets more dangerous for pedestrians. Our findings suggest that it does.”

      The researchers found that the early evening hours -- between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. -- were the most dangerous times, and that Halloween night was responsible for four more pedestrian deaths than any other night of the year. Nearly all of the deaths were suffered by children or young adults.

      Children between the ages of four and eight years old were at the greatest risk -- resulting in 10 times the number of Halloween fatalities when compared with days both a week earlier and a week later.

      The researchers really wanted to emphasize that safety for both adults and children is the top priority, and there are many ways to reduce the risk of getting hit by a car while out and about this Halloween.

      For starters, the researchers suggest ensuring all young children are accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating. Discussing safety tips before heading out can also be beneficial. Moreover, driving safely -- and slowly -- through residential neighborhoods is key, as is refraining from getting behind the wheel after consuming any alcohol or drugs.

      As parents and children prepare to take to the streets in search of Halloween candy, it’s more important than ever to ensure the trick-or-treating experien...
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      Lime scooters red-flagged for battery smoldering and catching fire

      The company is taking steps to corral the issue, but riders need to take caution

      Electric scooters, or e-scooters, haven’t had a good year.

      Accidents are on the rise, including the story of a Los Angeles man who made history by getting drunk and running over a pedestrian with an e-scooter. Then, right after an e-scooter chalked up its first fatality, a class-action lawsuit was filed contending that the dockless e-scooter industry is to blame for unleashing dangerous products on public sidewalks without providing proper safety instructions, equipment checks, or other safeguards.

      On Tuesday, Lime -- an electric scooter-sharing service partially funded by Google and Uber -- found its way into the headlines and has recalled some of its scooter fleet over battery fire concerns.

      While the company claims that the mishap affects less than 0.01 percent of its scooter fleet, it moved quickly to curb any further issues.

      “We took this issue very seriously. Immediately upon learning of the defect, we worked with (battery maker) Segway Ninebot to create a software program to detect the potentially affected batteries,” Lime said in a statement regarding the issue.

      “We then worked independently to create an even more thorough software program to ensure that no potentially faulty scooters remained in circulation. When an affected battery was identified -- with a red code -- we promptly deactivated the scooter so that no members of the public could ride or charge it.”

      Quickly addressing safety issues

      Lime quickly went to work quarantining all susceptible scooters from the streets in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe, where the company identified the existence of the problem.

      “At no time were riders or members of the public put at risk. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we’ve recently received an unconfirmed report that another Segway Ninebot scooter model may also be vulnerable to battery failure, which we are currently investigating,” the company said.

      The company also reported that it’s taken notice of a different hardware challenge courtesy of reports that the baseboards from one scooter manufacturer, Okai, can crack or break if subjected to repeated abuse or ridden off a curb at high speed. Lime says they are “studying this issue and incorporating these learnings into our design process.”

      If you’re going out for an e-spin, do your homework

      As proactive as Lime -- and others in the e-scooter world -- seem to be, there’s still some onus on the consumer to follow the company’s recommendations and safety alerts.

      If you’re going the Lime route, be sure to ask if the scooter you’re about to take out for a spin has the Segway Ninebot battery and if it has an Okai baseboard. To be sure you understand all the if’s, and’s, or but’s, it’s always smart to contact Lime.

      In the midst of all of this, there’s some good news. Lime just rolled out a new e-scooter called “Generation 3.0” that has a stronger frame and redesigned battery which, if all goes according to company plan, will make it “more durable and resilient for life on the streets.”

      Electric scooters, or e-scooters, haven’t had a good year.Accidents are on the rise, including the story of a Los Angeles man who made history by getti...
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      Waymo gets authority to test fully autonomous cars in California

      For the first time, test cars won’t have safety drivers

      Waymo, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, has received a permit to test fully autonomous vehicles on California roads without a safety driver behind the wheel.

      The testing will take place in a limited number of communities: parts of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto.

      "We know this area well: it includes the headquarters for Waymo and our parent company, Alphabet," the company said in a blog posting. "Mountain View is home to more than a dozen autonomous vehicle companies, and has supported safe testing for years."

      The company said its permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) includes day and night testing on city streets, rural roads and highways with posted speed limits of up to 65 miles per hour.

      Testing in all sorts of conditions

      Waymo said its vehicles can travel safely without a driver in fog and light rain, and it expects to test under those conditions. The plan is to gradually begin driverless testing on city streets in a limited area and, over time, expand the test region.

      It's likely that the driverless cars will at some point encounter a situation it doesn't understand. When that happens, Waymo says the vehicle will come to a safe stop and won't resume its route until it understands what it should do.

      Eventually, Waymo expects to be providing rides to consumers, but during the initial testing phase, riders will be limited to Waymo employees. The company said it will follow roughly the same testing protocol it adopted in Arizona.

      Rule change

      California became an attractive testing ground for autonomous vehicles earlier this year with California DMV changed rules to allow autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. The new rules are among the most liberal, allowing vehicles without steering wheels, brake and accelerator pedals, and mirrors.

      In a statement to the media, California DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said the state had been working to accommodate driverless car companies for a number of years but will continue to emphasize safety at the technology evolves.

      In late 2016, the state took a firmer stance with Uber, ordering its self-driving cars off the road because they lacked a special permit classifying them as test vehicles. Unable to resolve its differences with the state, Uber moved its test vehicles to Arizona.

      The company suspended its testing earlier this year when one of its cars struck and killed a pedestrian.

      Waymo, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, has received a permit to test fully autonomous vehicles on California roads without a safety drive...
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      Fed chairman gets some support in current debate over interest rates

      Former chairwoman Janet Yellen says rates need to go up 'a bit more'

      President Trump has not let up in his criticism of the Federal Reserve for its policy of raising the federal funds rate.

      Trump has famously called the Fed's actions "crazy," claiming the higher interest rates will slow the economy. That, of course, is the Fed's objective -- at least, preventing the economy from growing so fast that it unleashes inflation.

      Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom Trump appointed, is at least getting some support from his predecessor. Appearing at the Charles Schwab Impact 2018 conference in Washington on Tuesday, former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen not only said the rate hikes have been justified, she thinks a few more are probably needed.

      “I think it’s appropriate for the Fed to be raising interest rates a bit more,” Yellen said.

      Raising rates over time

      Yellen, who maintained the Fed's discount rate at near 0 percent for several years, began the process of gradual increases in December 2015. After a series of hikes, the discount rate is now between 2 percent and 2.25 percent.

      Yellen told listeners during a talk at the conference that the current rate is still "accommodative" and from a historical standpoint, still pretty low. But she conceded Trump's point that if the Fed tightens too much, it could cause a recession.

      Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who jacked up interest rates in the 1980s to wring inflation out of the economy, has not weighed in on the current debate, except to say that he supports a strong and independent Fed.

      But in his forthcoming memoir, he questions the current Fed's attempt to keep inflation stable at around 2 percent.

      “I puzzle at the rationale,” he writes. “A 2 percent target, or limit, was not in my textbook years ago. I know of no theoretical justification.”

      The Fed is expected to once again hike its federal funds rate, which affects banks' prime rate, when it meets in December. Many analysts also expect it to tweak the interest it pays on excess reserves from banks, reducing the amount of the expected increase.

      President Trump has not let up in his criticism of the Federal Reserve for its policy of raising the federal funds rate.Trump has famously called the F...
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      Uber launches monthly subscription service

      For a set monthly fee, Ride Pass subscribers can take an unlimited number of rides

      Uber has launched a new subscription service called Ride Pass that allows users lock in ride prices for a monthly fee, the company announced on Tuesday.

      To start, Ride Pass is available in five cities: Los Angeles, Austin, Orlando, Denver, and Miami. A subscription costs $14.99 a month in four of those cities, but it will be $24.99 a month in Los Angeles. The steeper monthly fee in LA will eventually include electronic bike and scooter access.

      “Ride Pass is designed to take the guesswork out of riding so you can confidently plan your day with Uber without any unwelcome surprises,” product manager Dan Bilen said in a blog post.

      Discounted fares

      The company estimates that subscribers can save 15 to 20 percent on how much they would ordinarily spend on rides in a month. Ride Pass fares are based on historical data and aren’t affected by surge pricing, time of day, weather, or other factors.

      "One thing we hear a lot from riders is that changes in price, however small, can make it tough to plan their day with Uber," Bilen said. "The daily commute is a classic example, and it goes something like this: you pay one low price for the ride to work, only to find the ride back home is a different story."

      Lyft also recently unveiled a subscription service called the All-Access Plan. For $299 a month, subscribers get 30 rides worth up to $15 each. The subscription auto-renews each month, like Uber’s Ride Pass. But unlike Uber’s open-ended subscription, Lyft’s service puts a cap on the number of rides subscribers can take each month.

      Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said the company plans to go public next year. Ahead of its IPO, Uber has added Ride Pass as well as a new on-demand staffing service called Uber Works to its portfolio. This month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Uber could be valued at up to $120 billion.

      Ride Pass subscriptions can be obtained within the Uber app, under the left-side menu.

      Uber has launched a new subscription service called Ride Pass that allows users lock in ride prices for a monthly fee, the company announced on Tuesday....
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      FDA announces lead will no longer be used in hair dyes

      The decision was made with consumers’ safety in mind

      Many consumers, and even legislators making important decisions, are unaware of exactly what’s in the products they use every day. But as technology advances, it becomes clear what chemicals and additives -- oftentimes hidden in household products -- pose a danger to consumers.

      For decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the use of lead acetate in many popular hair dyes that work to color hair over a gradual period of time. However, in a recent announcement, the agency reported that even though in the past the chemical appeared to not pose a threat to consumers, recent findings are actually showing the opposite.

      In an effort to keep consumers’ safe from the potential dangers of the lead acetate, the FDA has finalized its ruling on a color additive petition, effectively putting a stop to the use of the chemical in hair dye moving forward. All manufacturers have one year to update their products and ensure they are lead-free.

      “Today’s action is part of our commitment to protect Americans by reducing exposure to toxic elements and builds upon federal efforts to reduce exposure to lead,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “In the nearly 40 years since lead acetate was initially approved as a color additive, our understanding of the hazards of lead exposure has evolved significantly. We now know that the approved use of lead acetate in adult hair dyes no longer meets our safety standard.”

      A number of manufacturers have already started switching from lead acetate to bismuth citrate -- an ingredient that doesn’t contain lead. The FDA also encourages consumers to keep an eye on labels if they wish to steer clear of potentially contaminated products before they’re off store shelves for good.

      Staying safe

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lead exposure is dangerous to both adults and children, but perhaps more so for children due to their tendency to put their hands in their mouths after touching things on the floor. Additionally, their developing brains and bodies are affected more severely than adults and can experience developmental delays, brain damage, and damage to the kidneys and nervous system.

      For adults, lead exposure can lead to organ damage and raise blood pressure. Pregnant women should also be particularly cautious, as the effects of lead exposure can cause birth defects in an unborn baby.

      In addition to hair dye, lead can be found in:

      • Paints and ceramic products

      • Gasoline

      • The production of metals, ammunition, and batteries

      • Burning fossil fuels

      • Drinking contaminated water

      • Household dusts

      • Pottery

      • Cosmetics

      • Toys

      To prevent exposure to lead, the CDC suggests keeping the house -- including floors, counters, toys, etc. -- as clean as possible. Additionally, ensure that children’s hands are clean and that any repainting in the home is done with lead-free paint.

      Both the CDC and FDA warn that no amount of lead in the blood is safe, and consumers should be informed and stay cautious.

      Many consumers, and even legislators making important decisions, are unaware of exactly what’s in the products they use every day. But as technology advanc...
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      Model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz C300 and E300 vehicles recalled

      The vehicle's battery may short circuit in a crash

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 4,073 model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Coupes, C300 4Matic Cabrios, E300s, E300 4Matics, C300s, C300 4Matics, C300 Coupes and C300 Cabrios.

      The cover for the starter battery may not cover the live positive electrical wire, and in certain crashes, the vehicle's strut brace may deform and short circuit the battery.

      If the battery is shorted, the emergency door unlocking would be deactivated for an outside responder and the short circuit could increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the positive pole cover, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 23, 2018.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 4,073 model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Coupes, C300 4Matic Cabrios, E300s, E300 4Matics, C300s, C300 4Matic...
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      All People’s Food recalls smoked whole chicken

      The product contains monosodium glutamate, which is not declared on the label

      All People’s Food of New Castle, Del., is recalling approximately 3,904 pounds of smoked whole chicken.

      The product contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is not declared on the label.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following cooked, frozen item, produced from September 4 – 25, 2018, is being recalled:

      • 32-lb. bulk boxes with plastic lining containing 155 pieces of “ALL PEOPLES FOOD SMOKED WHOLE CHICKEN.”

      The recalled product bears establishment number “P- 46803” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

      What to do

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Frederick Ebede at (302) 690-4881.

      All People’s Food of New Castle, Del., is recalling approximately 3,904 pounds of smoked whole chicken.The product contains monosodium glutamate (MSG),...
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      Hyundai recalls Ioniq Hybrids and Ioniq Plug-In Hybrids

      The vehicles may experience increased electrical resistance

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 10,575 model year 2017-2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrids and model year 2018 Ioniq Plug-In Hybrids.

      The Main Relay within the Power Relay Assembly (PRA) may have inadequate connections between its contacts, causing increased electrical resistance.

      The increased electrical resistance can overheat the rear seat which is above the PRA, increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the PRA for damage.

      If no damage is found, the main relay will be replaced. If damage is found, the PRA will be replaced. These repairs will be performed free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 30, 2018.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 178.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 10,575 model year 2017-2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrids and model year 2018 Ioniq Plug-In Hybrids.The Main Relay within th...
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      FCC commissioner blasts publicly owned broadband networks

      Commissioner O'Rielly calls them a threat to the first amendment

      Rural communities tend to be underserved when it comes to broadband internet networks. After all, it's a sparsely populated market with very low density. Big internet service providers (ISP) see little profit in providing service to these areas.

      To serve residents of these areas, some jurisdictions have established community-owned and operated broadband networks, which offer a service that commercial ISPs have been reluctant to provide.

      Instead of viewing this as a means to provide service to more consumers, Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O'Rielly sees these government-owned networks as an "ominous threat to the first amendment.

      In a recent speech to the Media Institute, O'Rielly suggested these community-owned networks could result in governments aggressively limiting free speech.

      “I would be remiss if my address omitted a discussion of a lesser-known, but particularly ominous, threat to the First Amendment in the age of the Internet: state-owned and operated broadband networks,” O’Rielly told the group.

      'Significant first amendment mischief'

      O'Rielly said he was in favor of bringing broadband to underserved areas of the country, but he claimed municipal broadband networks, championed by the Obama administration, had engaged in what he called "significant first amendment mischief."

      "As Professor Enrique Armijo of the Elon University School of Law has shown in his research, municipalities such as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, have been notorious for their use of speech codes in the terms of service of state-owned networks, prohibiting users from transmitting content that falls into amorphous categories like 'hateful' or 'threatening,'" O'Rielly said.

      There are more than 700 municipal broadband networks in operation, providing internet connections mostly in areas that big providers have chosen not to serve. According to a report by Motherboard, a technology news site, these publicly owned services are popular with the consumers they serve, delivering faster service at a lower price.

      Lower and more consistent prices

      A recent Harvard University study examined advertised prices for residential data plans offered by 40 community-owned networks and compared them to what commercial ISPs charge for the same service. In 23 of the 27 communities where commercial ISPs are present, the researchers found the community-owned networks offered lower prices.

      The researchers also said they found that community-owned networks offered prices that were "clear and unchanging," while commercial ISPs often charged low promotional or “teaser” rates that later rose at the end of the introductory period.

      Rural communities tend to be underserved when it comes to broadband internet networks. After all, it's a sparsely populated market with very low density. B...
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      Hundreds of organizations pledge to eliminate plastic waste

      A new campaign aims to eliminate plastic pollution at its source

      This week, 250 major organizations -- including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Colgate, SC Johnson, and H&M -- pledged to eliminate plastic waste from their operations by 2025 as part of a global campaign led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

      The pledge is part of a larger goal to curb plastic waste pollution, which has become a dangerous concern. Researchers calculate that if current trends continue, there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s seas by 2050.

      The 250 companies, businesses, and governments that signed on to the "New Plastics Economy Global Commitment" pledged to eliminate plastic when it’s problematic or unnecessary, and in some cases, switch to reusable packaging.

      Eradicating plastic pollution

      All of the organizations plan to make 100 percent of their plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable, or compostable within seven years. Individual targets within the commitment were set, and the collective ambition among signatories will grow with time.

      "We will continue to review the ambition level of the commitment and, over time, raise it, and we also call for many more businesses and governments around the world to join this effort so that we also continue to scale up in numbers of companies and governments involved," said Sander Defruyt, who leads the New Plastics Economy Initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

      Plastic entering the oceans “is one of the most visible and disturbing examples of a plastic pollution crisis,” Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, said in a statement. “The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is the most ambitious set of targets we have seen yet in the fight to beat plastics pollution.”

      Ellen MacArthur, the record-breaking British sailor who is behind the campaign, said cleaning up plastics from oceans and beaches is vital, “but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year. We need to move upstream to the source of the flow.”

      PepsiCo announced this week that it’s aiming to reduce its use of plastic packaging and increase its use of recycled plastic. The company said it’s heading toward the goal of using 25 percent recycled content in its plastic packaging by 2025.

      This week, 250 major organizations -- including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Colgate, SC Johnson, and H&M; -- pledged to eliminate plastic waste from their operati...
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      FDA considers label requirements listing sesame as ‘major allergen’

      The agency says it’s seen a rise in sesame allergies in the past two decades

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering requiring allergen labeling on packages for food products that contain sesame, the agency announced on Monday.

      Currently, the presence of eight “major” allergens must be clearly declared on packaged food labels -- peanuts, milk, tree nuts, egg, wheat, soy, shellfish, and fish -- under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.

      But FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the FDA has noticed a rising prevalence in sesame allergy over the past two decades.

      “Unfortunately, we’re beginning to see evidence that sesame allergies may be a growing concern in the U.S. A handful of studies, for example, suggest that the prevalence of sesame allergies in the U.S. is more than 0.1 percent, on par with allergies to soy and fish,” Gottlieb said in a statement.

      Disclosing the allergen on labels

      Research suggests that hundreds of thousands of consumers in the U.S. are affected by sesame allergies. Reactions among those with sesame sensitivity vary, but can range from mild reactions like hives to severe reactions such as anaphylaxis.

      However, sesame isn’t required to be declared as an allergen on food labels because it’s not recognized as a major allergen. Now, the FDA has launched a process that may change that.

      In an effort to protect people with sesame allergy, the agency has issued a request for information "so we can learn more about the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies in the US, as well as the prevalence of sesame-containing foods sold in this country.”

      “We’d like to hear from epidemiologists, nutritionists, allergy researchers and physicians concerning their clinical experiences and relevant findings,” in addition to consumers and those in the food industry, the agency said.

      The FDA noted that people with sesame allergy may not be aware that sesame seeds are an ingredient in certain foods, such as tahini and cereal.

      “Products with ‘natural flavors’ or ‘spices’ listed on their label may contain small amounts of sesame. And people allergic to sesame might eat food labeled as containing ‘tahini’ without knowing that tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Fear of not knowing whether a food contains sesame may lead some people to unnecessarily limit their diets to avoid possible exposure,” Gottlieb said.

      If sesame’s status as the ninth major allergen in the U.S. is approved, the presence of sesame would have to be disclosed on food packages. Sesame is already on the priority allergen lists in Canada, Europe, and Australia.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering requiring allergen labeling on packages for food products that contain sesame, the agency announ...
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      JetBlue’s founder crafts new, tech-centric airline

      ‘We’ll get you there twice as fast and for half the price’ is the promise

      Come 2021, fliers will have a new, low-cost, tech-oriented airline pioneered by JetBlue’s founder David Neeleman.

      His angle?

      Flying “hundreds of routes” that the airline will likely have all to itself, according to a recent interview Neeleman did with Skift.

      Most, if not all, of those routes will be U.S.to Europe and South America, concentrating on origination cities that are competition-free and leisure destinations, or where there’s an abundance of flier friends or family.

      As examples, he used Scranton, Pennsylvania -- a market with a metro population of 570,000 and flights that are mostly connectors to Chicago, Washington D.C., Charlotte, Chicago, and Philadelphia -- and Florida, where there’s an abundance of potential fliers who have friends or family in Brazil.

      Using the 130- to 160-seat Airbus A220-300, Neeleman’s brainchild will have the ability to take off from “really short runways, and can fly for 11 hours (and) we’ll get you there twice as fast and for half the price,” he told Skift.

      The Airbus plays right into Neeleman’s plans as a differentiator. Compared to how most of the low-cost carriers are configured, the A220 has large, rotating overhead storage bins, a wider aisle that allows for faster passenger boarding and disembarking, and the ability to have first class, lie-flat business class, and extra legroom seats if that’s something Neeleman wants to make happen.

      “I’ll just do stuff they can’t do,” Neeleman said, throwing down the gauntlet to the other carriers.

      “You don’t have to speak to us”

      Neeleman’s current plans have Salt Lake City, Utah as the technical and customer service hub for the airline, but if you’re a flier who depends on the human touch, you should call someone else.

      “You don’t have to speak to us. You won’t be able to speak to us,” Neeleman said. “You won’t be able to call us because everything will be functional.”

      His reasoning? Neeleman makes a good point that, in today’s world, a lot of consumer-to-company connecting is done via an app or a computer. He figures consumers are content with that setup since relatively few people ever call, say, Amazon or Uber.

      If a customer has an issue they can’t work out on their own, they’ll have to use the online chat, but agents can always call the customer in a pinch. However, fliers should expect everything else -- from booking, changing, and cancelling flights to check-in to ordering meals -- to be done through the airline’s app.

      “I don’t think people want to stand in line to talk to someone,” said Neeleman when asked if he feared the human element of customer service would be weakened by technology.

      Are you sure you can pull this off, David?

      While there’s no substantiation that Neeleman can pull off all of his promises, his track record shows he has the ability to make it happen.

      In 1984, he co-founded Morris Air, a low-fare charter airline, then sold it to Southwest Airlines for $130 million. He then turned Open Skies, a touch screen airline reservation and check-in systems company, into a winner acquired by Hewlett-Packard.

      Next on his checklist was WestJet, now Canada’s second largest airline; then he moved on to JetBlue, where he scored major customer-sensitive kudos. Most recently, Neeleman’s domestic carrier Azul (Portuguese for "blue") became the fourth largest airline in South America.

      Come 2021, fliers will have a new, low-cost, tech-oriented airline pioneered by JetBlue’s founder David Neeleman.His angle?Flying “hundreds of rout...
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