You wouldn’t buy sunscreen without first checking the SPF label. You probably even check the nutrition facts on your food from time to time. And soon, the Environmental Protection Agency hopes, consumers will come to expect similar labels on used cars, insect repellents, and a host of other products.
“It is very much a concerted effort on the agency’s part,” said Jim Jones, who helped design EPA’s insect repellent labels that debuted Wednesday. “We’re really trying to figure out where we can provide information in a manner that is easily accessible to the average consumer and trusting that the American public makes informed decisions.”
The agency is seeking public feedback on its new repellent labels, which tell consumers if a product keeps away mosquitoes or ticks, and for how long. That information isn’t new, Jones said, but previous standards made it inconsistently placed and “densely communicated.”
Attempts to standardize and simplify product information, EPA admits, are modeled after the precedent set by the Food and Drug Administration. “We used the SPF model,” Jones said of the latest label. In the design stage, EPA sought the advice of the FDA, which also has been requiring nutrition labels on packaged foods since 1990. “The coordination with FDA was largely about learning from their experience,” Jones said. “What works with consumers? What doesn’t work?”
Insect repellent isn’t EPA’s first foray into standardized product labeling. Earlier this year, the agency expanded its fuel-mileage stickers to include used cars. Although the stickers’ adjusted standards dropped mileage estimates from original claims, many in the car-sales industry lauded their uniformity and transparency. “Anybody who’s selling a car, dealerships especially, are going to be looking for any edge they can get,” AutoTrader.com site editor Brian Moody told National Journal last month. “What better way to get that edge than an official sticker from the government?”
Consumer advocates also welcome the expansion of government-standard labels. “It’s helpful for the government to set some sort of standard so that all products are meeting that,” said the Consumer Federation of America’s Chris Waldrop. “You want to make sure that the label is something consumers can use and understand.” Based on past success stories, Waldrop said, it won’t take long for other labels to catch on. “Once [nutrition labeling] was on the package, consumers started using it and finding it useful,” he said.
So far, feedback has been positive on the new repellent label, Jones said. Focus groups that tested the label found it to be helpful, and manufacturers have mostly welcomed the increased clarity.
So what’s next on EPA’s label campaign? Jones has his eye on the Design for the Environment program, which designates products that are environmentally safe. While its aims are good, “that label doesn’t really resonate,” Jones said. “We’re going to redesign that label … in a way that it’s really clear to the consumer what we’re trying to convey to them.”
What We're Following See More »
The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."
The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.
The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.