Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

June 2007 Archives

"Veggie Booty" Snacks Recalled

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered a recall of "Veggie Booty" snack foods, due to possible salmonella contamination. According to an FDA Press Release, the warning "is based on 52 reports of illness across 17 states, beginning in March 2007. Almost all the illnesses have occurred in children under 10 years old, with the most cases in toddlers." The snack product, manufactured by Robert's American Gourmet, is typically consumed by small children. The FDA is advising parents to throw out any "Veggie Booty" products, which are sold in foil bags (in one-half ounce, one ounce, and four ounce packages), and to seek medical care if they notice any signs of illness in their children.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued an opinion rejecting as unconstitutional two school districts' use of diversity plans that take students' race into account when assigning pupils to schools. Writing for the Court in the 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that "the school districts have not carried their heavy burden of showing that the interest they seek to achieve justifies the extreme means they have chosen--discriminating among individual students based on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments." According to the Associated Press, "[t]he decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricts how public school systems may attain racial diversity."

Recall Ordered for Chinese Tires

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered Foreign Tire Sales, Inc., a small tire import company in Union, New Jersey, to recall up to 450,000 tires, due to the risk that tread on the tires could separate. The tires were distributed to a number of U.S. distributors after being purchased from a Chinese manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. According to the Associated Press, "an unknown number of the tires [Foreign Tire Sales, Inc.] sold were made without a safety feature, called a gum strip, which helps bind the belts of a tire to each other...The Hangzhou tires at issue were sold under at least four brand names - Westlake, Compass, Telluride and YKS - in these sizes: LT235/75R-15; LT225/75R-16; LT235/85R-16; LT245/75R-16; LT265/75R-16; and LT3X10.5-15."

Supreme Court: Student Speech Rights May Be Limited

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that schools may limit students' rights to free speech under the First Amendment when the student's expression could be interpreted as advocating drug use. Writing for a 5-4 majority in Morse v. Frederick , Chief Justice John Roberts wrote "[b]ecause schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use, the school officials in this case did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending [Joseph] Frederick." Frederick was a high school senior in Juneau, Alaska, when he held up a 14-foot-long "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner at a school-sanctioned public event. The principal at Frederick's high school confiscated the banner, interpreting it as promoting a pro-drug message, and suspended Frederick.

Diced Onions Recalled in 6 Western States

Consumers in six states are being advised about a possible link between diced yellow onions and a harmful bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. According to CBS News, "no illnesses have been reported so far, but Gills Onions [of Oxnard, CA] is voluntarily recalling more than 45,000 pounds of onions that were sold to restaurants and Trader Joe's stores in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington." According to Gills Onions, the recall comes after the Washington State Department of Agriculture, during routine testing, detected Listeria monocytogenes in one retail bag of diced yellow onions." Trader Joe's grocery store chain has also announced a recall of all "Trader Joe's Freshly Diced & Ready to Use Onions." The Trader Joe's diced onions come in 10-ounce resealable pouches, and the affected products display a "2017-R" lot number and a "Best If Used By" date of 6/16/07.

EPA Proposes Tougher Smog Limits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a Proposal to strengthen federal air quality standards for ground-level ozone (the main component of smog) for the first time in 10 years. According to the EPA Press Release, "[o]zone can harm people's lungs and EPA is particularly concerned about individuals with asthma or other lung diseases, as well as those who spend a lot of time outside, such as children. Ozone exposure can aggravate asthma, resulting in increased medication use and emergency room visits, and it can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections." Main sources of ozone include industrial facilities, electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.

States Rated on Special Education Programs

The U.S. Department of Education has issued ratings on each state's implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as part of the on-going efforts to improve results for children with disabilities. According to the ratings, only nine states fully meet the IDEA's requirements. (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming). The IDEA guarantees the right to a "free and appropriate education" to students with disabilities, and provides federal funding to states and local school districts to help pay the costs of special education and related services such as speech and language therapy and physical therapy. Under the IDEA, an individualized education program (IEP) is developed for each child.

President Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Research Bill

President Bush has vetoed a federal bill that would have lessened federal funding restrictions for embryonic stem cell research. According to the New York Times, Bush also "issued an executive order intended to encourage scientific advances in regenerative medicine, a move that he said would respect 'the high aims of science' without encouraging the deliberate destruction of human life." Two-thirds majority votes are required in both the Senate and the House in order for Congress to override the President's veto, and supporters of the bill concede that those votes would fall short. Today's action marked the third time President Bush has exercised his presidential veto power since he took office in 2001.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a passenger in a vehicle may challenge the constitutionality of a traffic stop. For purposes of the Fourth Amendment's "search and seizure" protections, the Court did not limit a "seizure" to the time of an arrest, but instead held that "[w]hen police make a traffic stop, a passenger in the car, like the driver, is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes and so may challenge the stop's constitutionality." The unanimous decision was authored by Justice David H. Souter.

Same-Sex Marriage Remains Legal in Massachusetts

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Legislature voted to suppress a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit the legal definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. State lawmakers decided, in a 151 to 45 vote, to keep the amendment off of voting ballots for 2008. According to the Associated Press, "[t]he ban needed 50 votes in consecutive sessions of the 200-seat Legislature to secure a place on the 2008 statewide ballot. At the end of the last session in January it passed with 62 votes, but this time it garnered just 45." Thursday's decision by state lawmakers means that the proposed amendment cannot make it to state ballots before 2010.

Federal Panel Rejects Weight Loss Drug

A panel of federal health advisers has voted unanimously to reject weight loss drug rimonabant, after hearing testimony on the drug's safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee concluded that French manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis SA failed to prove that the weight loss drug was safe, especially in light of evidence linking rimonabant use to psychiatric effects including depression and suicidal thoughts. The panel serves the FDA in an advisory capacity, but its conclusions carry great weight in the FDA's approval process. The FDA is set to decide on approval of rimonabant (under the brand name Zimulti) by July 27.

Autism-Vaccine Cases Go to Court

A Washington D.C. court is currently hearing testimony in nine test cases brought by parents of autistic children, alleging that a number of common childhood vaccines are causing autism and related health problems. The cases, currently being heard in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, are "being closely watched by almost 5,000 families of autistic children who have lodged similar claims for compensation from a federal fund...established by Congress to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines by shielding manufacturers from lawsuits," according to the Associated Press. The nine test cases are being heard consecutively.

Passport Rules Eased Temporarily

The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security have announced that, through September 30, 2007, U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda who have applied for -- but not yet received -- passports will temporarily be allowed to enter and depart from the U.S. by air, provided they have government-issued photo identification and official proof (from the Department of State) that they have applied for a passport. According to the State Department, "the federal government is making this accommodation for air travel due to longer than expected processing times for passport applications in the face of record-breaking demand." New passport requirements went into effect on January 23, 2007.

Accidental Deaths Increasing in U.S.

Accidental deaths in the United States increased more than 20 percent from 1995 to 2005, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit, nongovernmental, public service organization. Over 113,000 accidental deaths occurred in the U.S. in 2005 (the year for which the latest data is available). In a press release, the NSC states that "for people between 1 and 41 years of age, accidents are the leading cause of death in the nation. While accidents continue to be the 5th leading cause of death overall, exceeded only by heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidental deaths are increasing at a greater rate than that of any of the top four causes of death." Continuing a longstanding trend, motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. However, according to the NSC, "[p]oisoning - particularly from overdoses of over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drugs - is now the fastest-rising cause of accidental death with a 5 percent increase last year alone."

Federal Study: State School Standards Vary

The U.S. Department of Education has released its first report on state standards used in (and progress towards) attaining student proficiency under the No Child Left Behind Law. Under the law, all students must be brought to a standard of "academic proficiency" by 2014, but specific proficiency standards and tests may be determined by individual states. According to the Washington Post , the study "found that most of the scores that would label a student proficient on state tests don't yield that grade on the national tests. There also are huge differences in where states set their benchmarks."

FDA Calls for Stronger Warnings on Diabetes Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to require that the agency's strongest health warning be added to labeling for the diabetes drugs Avandia and Actos, according to a New York Times article. According to the Times, due to concerns over heart risks associated with the diabetes medications, "the agency was asking the makers of Actos and Avandia to carry a more prominent warning of its heart risks because 'despite existing warnings, these drugs were being prescribed to patients with significant heart failure.'" Word of the decision came from FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, during a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing discussing potential FDA reform. 

FBI Releases Crime Statistics for 2006

Nationwide, violent crime in the U.S. increased 1.3 percent and property crime decreased 2.9 percent over 2005, according to the 2006 Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, a preliminary report showing crime-related statistics for 2006, released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Robbery showed the sharpest increase of all reported crimes, with an increase of 6 percent over 2005. Statistics were collected from more than 11,700 law enforcement agencies nationwide, in order to help law enforcement, legislators, and communities better understand and fight crime. In September, the FBI will release a comprehensive report on crime statistics for 2006.