Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Amazon and sales taxes

Amazon has agreed to collect sales tax in Massachusetts starting next fall. This is supposedly good news for local businesses.

Except that the prospect of being forced to collect sales tax is what stopped Amazon from building local warehouses and offering cheap overnight or even same day delivery. How will local businesses compete then? Local businesses don’t have many advantages when competing with Amazon, but actually being local was one of them. So much for that advantage.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Surprise! Lactaid milk contains lactose (if you buy the wrong Lactaid milk)

Here’s an example of the lies that Lactaid (McNeil Pharmaceuticals and Hood Dairy) is spreading:

“No matter what type of Lactaid Milk you buy, you are getting 100% farm-fresh, delicious milk with all the nutrients and none of the lactose.”

The reason why Lactaid’s statement is false is that Lactaid makes a milk that isn’t lactose-free. Their “70% lactose free” Lactaid milk contains lactose. You may not have seen this milk, since many supermarkets that carry the “100% lactose free” Lactaid milk don’t carry this badly-labeled alternative. But sometimes it turns up, looking like Lactaid milk, fooling customers.

No big deal, right? Some lactose is probably the same as no lactose. Except for people who are actually lactose-intolerant. Since those folks are the core demographic for Lactaid, I’m baffled as to why Lactaid would risk the health of their customers in order to sell a completely unnecessary product. Why does Lactaid want to make people sick? How does Lactaid benefit from people asking “Why did this Lactaid milk make me sick?”

Lactaid wants people to believe that their brand means “100% lactose free.” They want people to believe that so much that they write advertising copy saying so. They don’t even admit that they sell a Lactaid milk containing lactose on their website where they supposedly show all of their products. Lactaid lies about it on Facebook and on the telephone. And all for what? So that Lactaid can fool people into buying a product that will hurt them?

Lactaid’s 70% lactose free milk contains lactose, and not just trace amounts. This isn’t cross-contamination. This is market segmentation at the cost of people getting sick because they trusted Lactaid.

My local supermarket this morning said that they do not want to carry the 70% lactose free Lactaid milk, and their working theory is that Lactaid is deliberately shipping it to stores that haven’t ordered it in an attempt to move the product. If that’s true, then Lactaid is lying to stores as well as hurting consumers.

Milk straight out of the cow contains approximately 5% lactose. I haven’t yet heard from the FDA whether I can legally label regular milk as “95% lactose free.”

Update: I have had the following correspondence with Lactaid.

  • Hi Michael,
    Our Consumer Care Center informed me that you have concerns around our LACTAID® 70% Lactose Free Milk. This item was actually our original LACTAID® milk product. At the time it was launched, the technology was not as advanced as today, and it was possible to eliminate only 70% of the lactose found in regular milk. Lactose intolerance varies greatly among individuals and experts agree that most people with this condition can tolerate low levels of lactose in their diet. We’re now able to provide milk that is 100% lactose free. The product you contacted us about is clearly marked as 70% lactose free and the packaging looks much different from the 100% lactose free options.

    I apologize if your original inquiry was met with some confusion, and hope that your questions have been answered. Please contact us again if you would like any additional information.

    Maureen Conway
    Director, Nutritional Affairs
  • Reply from Michael

    The phrase "70% lactose free" makes no sense to anyone I've spoken to, since milk straight out of the cow is 95% lactose free.

    Lactaid's own reps on the phone and on facebook do not believe that the "70% lactose free" product exists. They have told me flat out that Lactaid does not distribute a milk containing lactose.

    Lactaid's own website avoids any mention of this "70% lactose free" product.

    The FDA clearly says that the phrase "lactose free" should not be used on a product that contains lactose. This product contains lactose. Why not use the phrase "reduced lactose"? And why market it under the Lactaid brand, teaching customers not to trust your brand?

    And the excuse about the product being clearly marked on the packaging is truly hard to swallow. People with food concerns are taught to read the ingredients list and nutritional info box, not every word everywhere on the package. Furthermore, your company has spent a fortune advertising your brand of milk as universally lactose free, and you splash your brand name all over this packaging. If your advertising is effective at all, customers concerned about lactose may justifiably see "Lactaid" at the top and stop reading. Your advertising supports that decision. Your information for health care providers says that all of your milks are lactose free, leading doctors to tell patients to choose Lactaid milk.

    I have personally been buying Lactaid milk for many years. I have never seen this "70% lactose free" milk in a store until this fall, because my local stores did not carry it. Until this fall, I had no idea that it existed. Until this fall, I believed that all Lactaid milks were 100% lactose free. (And you clearly want customers to continue to believe that lie.) When a friend or family member wanted to use milk as in ingredient in something I could eat, I told them to buy Lactaid milk. As it turns out, buying the wrong Lactaid milk would make me very ill.

    You are expecting every person who is trying to avoid lactose for themselves or for someone else to disbelieve your advertising, disbelieve your information for health care providers, ignore Lactaid's own employees, read every word on every grocery item they purchase, and figure out that "70% lactose free" does not actually mean lactose free. You expect every potential customer to be fully literate and to be fully numerate. And you are comfortable with the notion that people who trust your brand will be made ill if any of those expectations are not met. I am appalled.