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March 2007 Archives

FDA Testing Finds Chemical in Recalled Pet Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that testing of Menu Foods pet food had revealed the presence of a chemical used in the production of plastics. The chemical, called "melamine", was also found in testing of wheat gluten that was used as an ingredient in the affected pet food products. Last week, scientists at the New York State Food Laboratory announced that they found aminopterin (used as rat poison) in cat food samples, but FDA testing has failed to confirm these findings.

Retail Company Says Info Stolen from 45.7M Credit Cards

TJX Cos., the company that owns discount retail stores Marshalls and TJ Maxx, announced that computer hackers had accessed online customer records that may include information on more than 45 million credit cards. According to a company filing recorded with the Securities Exchange Commission, the information that was stolen dates back to 2002, although the company does not know the exact nature or amount of the records that were accessed.

San Francisco Lawmakers Approve Plastic Bag Ban

San Francisco is set to become the first city in the U.S. to ban use of petroleum-based plastic bags by certain businesses, after the city's Board of Supervisors passed a new law that is expected to be approved by Mayor Gavin Newsom. According to the Associated Press, the proposed law "requires large markets and drug stores to offer customers bags made of paper that can be recycled, plastic that breaks down easily enough to be made into compost, or reusable cloth."

Jury Clears Merck in Heart Attack Death

Jurors in Madison County, Missouri cleared Vioxx manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc. of liability in a lawsuit which alleged that the painkiller caused a 52-year-old woman's fatal heart attack. As part of their decision, the jury concluded that Patty Schwaller's 2003 heart attack was caused in part by her obesity and other health problems. Vioxx was withdrawn from the marketplace in September 2004.

On Monday, the Maryland House of Delegates joined the Maryland Senate in approving Senate Joint Resolution 6, a resolution in which "the State of Maryland expresses profound regret for the role that Maryland played in instituting and maintaining slavery and for the discrimination that was slavery‚Äôs legacy."  With this vote the state of Maryland became the second U.S. state to approve a resolution apologizing for slavery. 

On February 24, 2007 Virginia became the first state to approve a resolution apologizing for slavery.  The Virginia resolution also acknowledged the exploitation of Native Americans.  An excerpt from the resolution reads as follows:

RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the General Assembly hereby acknowledge with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the settlement at Jamestown, the General Assembly call upon the people of the Commonwealth to express acknowledgment and thanksgiving for the contributions of Native Americans and African Americans to the Commonwealth and this nation, and to the propagation of the ideals of liberty, justice, and democracy...

Learn more on the Maryland resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 6):

Learn more on the Virginia resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 332; also see House Joint Resolution 728):

An update to a previous blog post on the Postal Regulatory Commission Recommends Postage Rate Increase and Creation of "Forever Stamp" -- on March 19, 2007 the Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced that they have approved some of the recommendations of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Highlights of the  postal changes include:

  • Increase in the cost of a first-class stamp (one-ounce letter) from 39 cents to 41 cents
  • Increase in the cost of a postcard from 24 cents to 26 cents
  • Creation of a new "Forever Stamp" - this stamp will be sold at the new 41-cent First-Class Mail one-ounce letter rate. The value on these stamps will always be the one-ounce letter rate and can be used for any future one-ounce letter mailing without extra postage.

Many of the new postal changes are scheduled to begin on May 14, 2007.  Complete information on these changes are available from the U.S. Postal Service at:

An update to a previous blog posting on the Menu Foods cat and dog food recall -- the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced today that scientists at the New York State Food Laboratory have identified Aminopterin as a toxin present in cat food samples from Menu Foods.  Aminopterin, a derivative of folic acid, is used as rat poison in some countries, and can cause cancer and birth defects in humans and can cause kidney damage in dogs and cats.

Menu Foods has scheduled a media teleconference for Friday.  Related resources:

Findings on Texas BP Plant Explosion Released

Federal investigators have concluded that "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation" caused a March 23, 2005, explosion at the BP Texas City refinery, the worst industrial accident in the U.S. since 1990. The report, from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), calls on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to increase inspection and enforcement at U.S. oil refineries and chemical plants, and to require these corporations to evaluate the safety impact of mergers, reorganizations, downsizing, and budget cuts.

Pet Food Recalled by Menu Foods, Inc.

Menu Foods, Inc., a private-label pet food manufacturer based in Canada, is recalling all its "cuts and gravy" style dog and cat food produced at its facility in Emporia, Kansas between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products are sold in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

There has been a small number of reported instances of cats and dogs in the United States that developed kidney failure after eating the affected product, the FDA has stated. Ten pet deaths (one dog and nine cats) have been reported at this time. Testing has not revealed the source of the problem. The products are packaged in cans and pouches under numerous brand names and are marketed nationwide by many pet food retailers including Ahold USA Inc., Kroger Company, Safeway, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., PetSmart, Inc., and Pet Valu, Inc.

Menu Foods, Inc. has posted specific information about Affected Cat Food Products and Affected Dog Food Products. Consumers who have any of these products should immediately stop feeding them to their pets. Dogs or cats who have consumed the suspect feed and show signs of kidney failure (such as loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting) should consult with their veterinarian.

Cingular Refunds $18.5M to CA Customers

Over 100,00 former Cingular Wireless customers in California will receive a share of an $18.5M refund from the company. The refund is part of a settlement agreement between Cingular (now called "AT&T Mobility") and the California Public Utilities Commission. Affected customers prematurely cancelled Cingular contracts between January 2000 and April 2002, due to problems with incoming and outgoing calls.

Kmart Settles Charges Over Gift Cards

Kmart Corporation has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it engaged in deceptive practices in advertising and selling its Kmart gift card, according to an FTC announcement. As part of the settlement, Kmart will implement a refund program and publicize it on its Web site. This is the FTC's first law enforcement action involving gift cards. According to the FTC complaint, Kmart promoted the card as equivalent to cash but failed to disclose that fees are assessed after two years of non-use, and misrepresented that the card would never expire. Kmart has agreed to disclose the fees prominently in future advertising and on the front of the gift card.

Stronger Warnings on Sleeping Pills and "Sleep Driving"

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered manufacturers of certain prescription sleep aids, including Ambien, to strengthen their product labeling to include stronger language concerning potential risks -- including the risk of "sleep-driving" episodes. According to the FDA, "sleep driving" is defined as driving while not fully awake after taking sleep aid medication, with no memory of the event.

Home Foreclosures at All-Time High

Home foreclosures have reached an all-time high, as home buyers face increasing difficulty in meeting their monthly payment obligations, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports in its National Delinquency Survey, released today. According to the Association, in the last three months of 2006, home payments that were 30 or more days past due accounted for just under 5 percent of all payments.

Jury Awards $47.5M in Vioxx Case

A New Jersey jury yesterday awarded $47.5 million to a retired Idaho postal worker and his wife, finding that Vioxx manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc. failed to provide adequate warnings about the painkiller's risks, and that Vioxx use was a factor in plaintiff Frederick Humeston's 2001 heart attack. An initial award of $20 million in compensatory damages was increased to a total of $47.5 million after the jury ordered Merck to pay $27.5 million in punitive damages. The jury verdict was the fifth entered against Merck since Vioxx was pulled from the marketplace in September 2004, due to concerns over patient safety.

Study: Agencies Violate Online Information Law

Only one in five federal government agencies is in compliance with federal laws that require the online publication of information and records, according to an audit conducted by the National Security Archive (NSA) at George Washington University. According to the NSA report (titled the "Knight Open Government Survey"), the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (which took effect in 1997) require federal agencies "to post key records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making information requests, and use new information technology to publish information proactively." But pointing to results of the audit, which reviewed the practices of 149 federal offices, NSA director Thomas Blanton states that "federal agencies are flunking the online test and keeping us in the dark."

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today that it has suspended trading in the securities of 35 companies that have been the subject of recent and repeated spam email campaigns. According to an SEC Press Release, "the trading suspensions are part of a stepped-up SEC effort - code named 'Operation Spamalot' - to protect investors from potentially fraudulent spam email hyping small company stocks with phrases like, 'Ready to Explode,' 'Ride the Bull,' and 'Fast Money.' It's estimated that 100 million of these spam messages are sent every week, triggering dramatic spikes in share price and trading volume before the spamming stops and investors lose their money."

Report Details Medication Mistakes During Surgery

Surgery patients are most likely to be harmed by medication mistakes that occur during the "fragmented system" of patient transfers between preoperative rooms, operating rooms, and recovery, according to a report released by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), a non-profit organization that sets standards for pharmaceutical care in the U.S.

According to the report, surgery patients "face an increased risk of harmful medication errors throughout the surgery process due to a lack of comprehensive oversight of medications." The report finds young children most at risk for medication errors during surgery, "with nearly 12% of pediatric medication errors resulting in harm." Most of the medication errors involved the administration of antibiotics and painkillers.

$2.2 Billion in Unclaimed 2003 Tax Refunds

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that more than $2.2 billion in unclaimed tax refunds are awaiting about 1.8 million Americans who did not file a federal income tax return for 2003. According to the IRS, in order to collect the money, a 2003 tax return must be filed with an IRS office no later than Tuesday, April 17, 2007 (the deadline for filing tax returns for tax year 2006). The IRS estimates that half of those who could claim refunds would receive more than $611. In some cases, individuals had taxes withheld from their wages, or made payments against their taxes out of self-employed earnings, but had too little income to require filing a tax return. Read the IRS Press Release.

March 2007 Spotlight: Women and the Law

Each month FindLaw for the Public highlights a legal topic. To commemorate Women's History Month 2007 and its theme -- "Generations of Women Moving History Forward" -- the spotlight for March 2007 is on Women and the Law. For informative articles on women in society, women's rights and the law, and more, visit FindLaw's March 2007 Spotlight: Women and the Law.

March for Voting Rights Remembered in Selma, Alabama

Today events were held to remember the march for voting rights that took place in Selma, Alabama on Sunday, March 7th, 1965.  On that day about 500 - 600 people planned to march from Selma to Montgomery for African-American voting rights and to remember the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had been shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration.  This march was led by John Lewis (now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives) and Reverend Hosea Williams. 

The marchers were attacked by state troopers and deputies after traveling only six blocks -- once they had crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  The attacks included the use of tear gas, bull whips, and billy clubs.  This event came to be known as "Bloody Sunday."  This march, and the events that followed, led to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 five months later.  Learn more:

On March 1st a citizens petition was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking the FDA to take a variety of action based on concerns over the safety of over-the-counter cough and cold medicine for children under the age of six.  The New York Times is reporting today that the FDA will be conducting a review of these medications.

For more information:

Insurance Group: Fender Benders Can Be Costly

Crash tests on mid-size cars, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), revealed that most bumper systems do little to protect these vehicles from expensive damage in most "fender benders" -- low-speed collisions that often occur in traffic and in parking lots. In the 6 m.p.h. tests, mid-size cars sustained as much as $9,000 in damage. According to the IIHS, "insurance claims of $4,500 or less for damage in these crashes total more than $6 billion each year."

Toy maker Fisher-Price Inc. has agreed to pay a $975,000 fine for failing to report a choking hazard in one of its toys, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In September 2002, Fisher-Price received the first notice that a nail fastener in its "Little People Animal Sounds Farm" could separate from the toy and pose a serious choking or aspiration hazard to young children, but the company did not report the problem to CPSC until March 2003. The toy was recalled in 2003. Under federal law, companies must report to CPSC within 24 hours of obtaining information that a product defect creates a substantial risk of injury to the public.