Monday, May 16, 2011

Of Willie's Return And The (Possible) Death of Unlimited Calls

A friend of mine texted me earlier tonight telling me to check out TV5. My friend, who will be referred to as Menggay from here on out, seemed frantic. I've never seen so many exclamation points in a 3-sentence message. Must be some kind of big news, I thought. I rushed to the TV.

As it turned out Menggay, who is probably the biggest fan of businessman Manny V. Pangilinan, merely wanted me to share in her disappointment, a state-of-mind that I was able to confirm through the second message I received from her. There were no more exclamation points, but the message had a lot of expletives.

As it turned out, the source of Menggay's frustration was Willie Revillame's return to TV5, which is owned by MVP. Yes, it's true revillame is back on air and apparently with a vengeance. In the five minutes I spent checking out Wil Time Big Time, I saw two female contestants professing their undying love for the TV host. More idiotic drama, I thought.

I called up Menggay to admonish her for interrupting my session on the porcelain throne. But my complaint fell on deaf ears. I haven't even completed saying "hello" when she broke into a seemingly endless rant against what she calls the embarrassing mistakes of the Master. She calls MVP the Master.

One thing you need to understand about Menggay is that she is an intellectual or so she claims. If you ask me I think she's just kinda loopy. She's convinced MVP is her soulmate and that someday she will carry the surname Pangilinan.

As an intellectual, Menggay has very little regard for Willie Revillame and his antics. She says Revillame is the worst thing that ever happened to primetime television and that he is the curse that would bring down the Master. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Don't get me wrong. I don't care much for Revillame too but I think I can't stand loopy women more.

Anyway, after close to 10 minutes of her anti-Willie rant, Menggay shifted her anger on the PLDT-Digitel acquisition deal.

In case you don't know what that is, PLDT, which is chaired by MVP bought Digitel, which operates Sun Cellular. Globe Telecom is not happy with the deal and is now crying "monopoly." A public hearing has been set by the National Telecommunications Commission on May 23.

Menggay said she is worried this whole PLDT-Digitel deal may be bad news for Sun Cellular's subscribers. Her concern is that this might mean the end of unlimited calls.

I'm a prepaid subscriber of Sun and I can honestly say that the company's unlimited call service helps a lot in bringing down my telephone costs. It would be a shame to see the service discontinued.

As Menggay put it, MVP will be making a big mistake if he decides to scrap the service. She pointed out that Sun's unlimited calls is quite popular among low income earners. She said it would look bad on MVP if it turns out that this mega-deal of his would end up as the killer of a service that has a strong masa following.

I told Menggay that she may be jumping to conclusions. For all we know, shutting down the service may not even be a germ of an idea in MVP's head. I also told her that the government will still look into the deal and take the necessary steps to ensure the protection of consumers.

Menggay cut me off in mid-sentence with "ho-hum" which actually sounded more like "o um."

She resumed her anti-Willie rant.

Good thing, it didn't take long before my phone's battery conked out.

So, what do you think? Is MVP making a big mistake letting Willie Revillame go back on air? Is MVP going to kill Sun cellular's unlimited call service? Should I still be friends with Menggay?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Choice of Words Causes Confusion Over FDA Order On 2 Milk Products

The recent order of the Food and Drugs Administration for the recall of 2 milk products for babies has stirred some controversy over the use of the term "recall".

The FDA basically wanted Mead Johnson to pull out of the market its Alactagrow Bibo milk supplement and Sustagen Jr. Milk Drink Powder Vanilla flavor. The reason: non-compliance to the standard fat-level content for food for infants and young children.

The problem is the general public has been accustomed to hearing the term "product recall" used in reference to products deemed unsafe for human consumption. This is a fact that didn't escape Mead Johnson. It immediately came out with a clarification that its two products were safe for consumption.

Here's the official statement from Mead Johnson's president taken from the company's website:
Mead Johnson Nutrition clarifies issues on Philippine FDA order

In response to an administrative recall order from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove current supplies from distribution and sale, Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) Philippines assures consumers that there is no safety issue with the products Alactagrow® and Sustagen Junior®.

The Philippine FDA has issued a Class III order, the lowest level, which is used for products that have technical compliance issues. The regulatory definition of a Class III order specifically states that the use of or exposure to the product “is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.”

Safety is Mead Johnson’s highest priority and the company spares no effort to comply with the laws of all of the countries in which it operates. All of the company’s products are produced in accordance with the CODEX Code of Hygienic Practice for Foods for Infants and Children.

The Philippine FDA said it was issuing the order because the fat content in the products is below the new standard listed in the revised CODEX Standards for Follow-Up Formula, which it has recently adopted in the Philippines.

When the Philippine FDA recently adopted additional CODEX regulations applying specifically to follow-up formulas, Mead Johnson proactively cooperated and has stayed in frequent communication with the Philippine FDA to ensure that Mead Johnson products would continue to be available for the families that use them, and in compliance with the new regulations. The process of reformulating the products so that they comply with the new CODEX regulations is elaborate and requires considerable time so Mead Johnson requested a renewed Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) prior to the end of the product’s term. CODEX is an international organization that develops and promotes food standards.

Our company is committed to bringing safe, effective, nutritious and high quality products to meet the nutritional needs of the Philippines’ children.

We were surprised by the recall orders, but we are committed to resolving the issue with the Philippine FDA so that Mead Johnson can continue to offer the children in the Philippines the many nutritional benefits of Alactagrow and Sustagen Junior.

All of our products currently sold in the Philippines, including Alactagrow and Sustagen Junior, have passed stringent Philippine FDA health and safety requirements and are considered to be safe for consumption and of high quality. While the fat level requirement does not relate to the safety or quality of the product, Mead Johnson is taking steps to meet that requirement also.

Mead Johnson is launching today a reformulated version of Alactagrow that meets the new regulatory requirements. Work is also underway to develop an updated version of Sustagen to meet the revised standards.

Mead Johnson is committed to its mission to nourish the world’s children for the best start in life. Our company is involved in efforts to address malnutrition through a country-wide feeding and growth-monitoring program called Feeding Hope in partnership with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the non-government organization Kabisig ng Kalahi. In addition, since 1991 Mead Johnson has provided sustained support to children afflicted with rare metabolic diseases.

Consumer health and collaboration with the government and the Food and Drug Administration are Mead Johnson’s top priorities.

Paul Andrew Richards
President, Mead Johnson Nutrition

For more information, you may call Mead Johnson through 841-8222 and 1800-18885861.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

FDA Outlaws 5 Beauty Products For High Mercury Content

Here's another warning from the Food and Drugs Administration.

The FDA has deemed unsafe for human use 5 beauty products from Japan and Taiwan. It has ordered a ban on the 5 products. FDA inspectors have been instructed to start confiscating the products all of which were found to have mercury content way above the set limit.

The products are:

  • St. Dalfour Beauty Whitening Cream
  • Beauty Girl Papaya & Hawthorn Essence
  • Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber
  • Beauty Girl Essence Aloe Pearl
  • Beauty Girl Olive & Sheep Essence

According to information online, long-term exposure to mercury may produce such symptoms as peripheral neuropathy or itching, burning or pain on the skin, skin discoloration and swelling.

You can read more about mercury and the dangers it poses in this Wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Omega-3 Margarines - Health Claims More Like Health Hopes

Marketing and advertising have always been at odds with science and sticking with just the facts.
Embellishment, selective omission, even claims that are unverified even as advertisements carrying them are published, do not come close to running the gamut of tactics used to convince people to buy products that almost always start as an overpromise and often end up underdelivering.

One particular example is the benefit of the essential fatty acid or good fat omega 3 supplemented from a variety of sources like fish, flax seeds, walnuts, or olive oil, or simply taken in pill form, having been long touted as heart-protecting by counteracting the effects of the bad fats in the diet. There are a lot of companies in the world today claiming/asserting/offering a significant possibility that their omega 3 enriched product will lower the risk of heart disease – long before it is actually proven. With more and more people gaining access to information via the internet, the number of so-called do-it-yourself doctors or those who try to address their own health concerns without consulting a doctor, is also growing every year. There is plenty of information available online, though nothing beats actual testing.

Consider the following report with the current finding that omega 3 enriched margarines developed by Unilever failed to prevent repeat heart attacks, taken from

Omega-3 margarines fail to help in heart study

STOCKHOLM, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Giving patients with a history of heart attacks a margarine enriched with omega-3 oils in addition to standard drugs appears to make no difference to their chances of having a repeat attack.

A 40-month study of more than 4,800 patients showed taking low doses of omega-3 fatty acids in margarine did not significantly reduce rates of serious heart attacks and other cardiovascular events, Dutch researchers said on Sunday.

The finding raised questions about the benefits of omega-3, which has been shown in previous studies to make for healthier hearts. The margarines used in the study were developed for the researchers by food and consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR.L).

Doctors, however, are unlikely to rush to change clinical practice. Many already prescribe omega-3 fish oil capsules, including GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK.L) Lovaza, to reduce triglycerides, a type of blood fat linked to clogged arteries.

"It will be viewed as a largely negative study and people who are enthusiasts for omega fatty acids will continue to be enthusiasts and people who are sceptics will continue to be sceptics," said Scott Wright of the Mayo Clinic in the United States, who was not involved in the research.

Daan Kromhout of Wageningen University, who led the study, told the European Society of Cardiology the lack of efficacy might reflect the good background drug treatment patients were receiving, with 85 percent on cholesterol-lowering statins, as well as blood pressure and blood-thinning tablets.

"We found the cardiovascular mortality rate in the study population was only half that expected, probably because of their excellent treatment," he said.

"This may also be why the rate of major cardiovascular events during follow-up was no lower in the fatty acid groups than in the placebo group."

All the men and women in the Dutch study were aged between 60 and 80 and had suffered a heart attack roughly four years previously.

They were randomly assigned use of one of four margarines on bread instead of their regular spread -- one containing no extra omega-3 fatty acids; one with 400 milligrams a day of extra eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); one with 2 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); and one with a combination of EPA-DHA and ALA.

Fish like salmon, herring and sardine are a common source of EPA-DHA, while ALA is found in vegetables including soybeans, flax seeds and walnuts.

Despite the overall negative results, researchers did find there was a reduction in repeat heart attacks and other cardiovascular events in women who took ALA margarine, although this was not statistically significant. Diabetes patients also showed a possible benefit.

Unilever, whose margarine brands that contain omega-3 include Flora and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, said the lack of benefit seen with EPA and DHA was surprising, considering the weight of evidence published to date.

"The results indicate that more investigation is required into the efficacy of vegetable omega 3, but do not question the current authoritative dietary recommendations and advices for omega 3 intakes on which our products are based," the company said in a statement.

The results of the study, which was supported by the Netherlands Heart Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and Unilever, were also published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Instead of taking the report at face value, it is better that some key points or questions be raised.

Specifically, the study leader attributes to a supposedly high level of drug care the failure of the omega 3 enriched margarines to prevent subsequent heart attacks, which gives rise to a few questions:

Does it mean that supplemental omega 3 is worthless for preventing heart attacks unless drug care is suboptimal or sub par?

Are the observed and measured improvements from omega 3 intake from margarines so marginal compared to the effects of the drugs administered that it seems unnecessary to add the omega 3 enriched margarines in the diet in the first place?

Why conduct a study that does not isolate omega 3's supposed beneficial effects, i.e., why were the test subjects taking drugs that could skew the results and make the effects of the drugs indistinguishable from the effects of the omega 3?

This study design appears to have ensured success of at least one of the means to counter heart disease, because if the design were different, like say, there is no effective drug care given and the omega 3 enriched margarines still fail to make a statistically significant difference towards preventing future heart attacks, the failure would be definitive – a nightmare for the “healthy” brands involved. In the end, the recommendation of “more investigation needed” gives the brands involved in the study the chance to still ride on consumer preconceptions and continue selling.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why I Don't Believe In Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty

If you're like me, tired of all the tricks companies play in trying to convince people to buy their product, you'll be able to relate to this post.

Years ago, Dove, a brand of topselling moisturizing soap, created an ad campaign that they say encourages women to be comfortable in their own skin and ran ads that had models who looked more average in body shape and facial features, i.e., more average-looking compared to the usual ultra-fit and gorgeous models we see in other commercials. It's called the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, a campaign that wanted to convince women to be confident and comfortable with themselves and the way they are. They even had what they called the Dove Self-Esteem Fund that downplays the Western concept of beauty of models with very little bodyfat and flawless skin in preference of being proud of however one might look, whatever shape she might be in.

Some have criticized Dove's marketing for being completely contradictory to the messages that other brands Lynx (Axe in the Philippines) and Fair and Lovely (skin whitening product marketed in different countries) send consumers. Lynx is criticized for consistently objectifying women, while Fair and Lovely is a product for women who want to do away with their dark complexion. All these three brands are owned by Unilever. While I also understand how inconsistent Unilever now appears having diametrically opposed positions depending on which kind of consumer is asking about it (be yourself for Dove target consumers, be thin and sexy for Lynx target consumers, don't be dark for Fair and Lovely target consumers ), something else became the deal-breaker for me. Actually, there are two deal-breakers.

It has become widely known, at least among more thinking circles, that despite all the confidence-building, patronizing and pandering the Dove brand has been able to do on a huge global budget, the immediate following years raised the problem that this campaign poses the following risks:

(1) the risk of completely removing the ASPIRATIONAL aspect that is important in making women spend more money on other beauty and personal care products; and

(2) the risk of turning the Dove brand into a soap brand for fat people.

How sincere was that, right?

Today Dove is back to focusing on moisturizing and price-offs, at least as far as commercials in the Philippines are concerned.

Well, now that that's out in the open, and we now know that the real beauty in Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty was actually photoshopped, I can't ask for a better nail in the coffin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beware of Double Standards

What does the word standard mean? One of the definitions according to is
an accepted or approved example of something against which others are judged or measured;

something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model.
Standards give us the bases of determining the safeness or unsafeness of an action, a decision, or a product. Standards give us markers that tell us what lines not to cross when doing so poses safety risks that might be unacceptable.

From this you could already deduce what double standard means, but let's take an actual definition anyway. defines double standard in quite clear ways as

any code or set of principles containing different provisions for one group of people than for another

a set of principles that allows greater freedom to one person or group than to another

A set of principles establishing different provisions for one group than another
I brought up the subject of double standards on this post because I came across a document that factually tells of double standards practiced by a company that makes billions of dollars annually selling consumers fast-moving consumer goods. I think you'll agree that when you eat something or use a certain product in daily life you expect these products to be safe and of acceptable safety standards. Would you still believe in the safety standards applied by a manufacturing company if they have been found to practice double standards?

I found this document from Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations) that contains information on controversial business practices of Unilever, a company that happens to claim it adds vitality to life. As early as 2001 there has been an issue with mercury pollution at the former thermometer factory owned by Unilever located in Kodaikanal India. More than 7 tons of waste material generated by the factory's operations was contaminated with mercury which is highly toxic. The mercury pollution had severe spoiling effects on the environment nearby, and public protests demanded Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) to take full responsibility. With mercury safety standards lacking in India, the Dutch soil clean-up standard for residential areas of 10mg/kg mercury level was initially taken as the standard for HUL to meet. That standard would soon be dropped in preference of adopting 25mg/kg mercury level, a result of HUL having successfully lobbied to use a different standard for India. Unilever doesn't mind a high margin for mercury contamination in Indian soil, but would never accept such a low safety standard on Dutch soil; this clearly smacks of keeping double standards.

Read the brief report for yourself here.

When a company profits heavily from selling consumers worldwide a large portfolio of products deemed perfectly safe and without risks associated with regular usage or consumption, I'd expect that it has no place for double standards anywhere in its practices. But seeing this casts doubts about how the same company could avoid applying double standards in other aspects of its operations. We can only cross our fingers that there are no double standards when it comes to the safety of their products we use everyday.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Beware of Low-Priced Pond's, Nivea Products

Think you're getting more than your money's worth with that dirt cheap Pond's and Nivea cream? Think again. You might be buying a counterfeit item.

The Bureau of Customs has intercepted a shipment of counterfeit cosmetics from China including knockoffs of those 2 brands.

Other fake items in the shipment were various Jergens, Loreal and Mac cosmetics.

I'm just lucky I'll never have to worry about potentially dangerous cosmetics such as those Pond's whitening creams confiscated by BOC.

As far as I know, men are still expected to go around with their faces untouched by creams and all that sh!t.
Related Posts with Thumbnails