Natalie Jakubowski

Secret Shoppers Not Just in Stores: Use of Secret Shopping in Higher Education

Federal Student Aid (FSA), and the office of the Department of Education, announced on March 14th their plans to better monitor and enforce universities’ practices such as enrollment and the use of federal student aid to ensure that all regulations are being complied with. Secret shopping is used by enforcement agencies to scope out violations and get a better idea of how organizations, institutions or businesses are non-compliant with regulations. FSA hopes that this plan will incentivize universities to follow procedures and policies accordingly and will help determine which schools are being predatory by not complying with regulations. The main goal of sending out secret shoppers is to protect current and future students from harmful and predatory practices that are prohibited.

Got (Plant-Based) Milk? New FDA Guidance for Plant-Based Milk

Plant-based milks have been on the rise congruently with the movement towards living a plant-based diet and lifestyle. The FDA calls these products Plant-Based Milk Alternatives (PBMA). There are many different PBMA’s on the market, because there are a wide array of sources that can be used to produce PBMA’s and methods for processing. Some of the most popular examples of PBMA’s include oat milk, almond milk, and soy milk, but there are many PBMA’s made from other nuts, seeds, and alternative sources. PBMA’s are currently in the news because the FDA has just released draft labeling guidance (guidance) and recommendations for nutrition fact labeling. This draft guidance applies to any PBMA that uses “milk” in its name. The FDA’s draft labeling guidance will likely help educate more consumers on PBMA’s and their nutrition facts, hopefully leading to generally more informed consumers and labeling transparency.

A Concerning Combination: Heavy Metals and Baby Food

On January 24, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced their plans to work towards drafting regulation to limit lead levels in baby food. The FDA has found that lead in products such as food, supplements, and cosmetics can have detrimental and long term effects on humans, and especially on certain groups such as young children. Young children are specifically vulnerable to harmful effects of lead consumption because they are still physically smaller and going through development. While the FDA has regulated lead in food and other products, the FDA’s recent focus on decreasing lead levels in baby food highlights the concerning trend of federal regulations which are under-inclusive.

Grocery Stores Merging: Will the FTC Allow the Kroger-Albertsons Deal to Proceed?

The current largest supermarket powerhouse Kroger announced on October 14 their intent to merge with Albertsons Companies, Inc., another huge supermarket retailer in the industry. Kroger owns many well-known stores such as Mariano’s, Ralphs, and of course it’s’ namesake, Kroger. Albertsons Companies owns the Chicago-land staple Jewel Osco and Safeway, among other supermarkets as well. The companies have executed an agreement for Kroger to acquire Albertsons for $24.6 billion. The merger comes in response to the rise of grocery shopping being done at “big box” stores like Walmart and Target, on top of rising food and produce prices from inflation and supply chain issues. However, the merger is facing a lot of backlash, and many are questioning whether it will even be able to pass regulatory procedures. If the deal is approved, it is questionable whether the merger between the two grocery giants will trickle down benefits to consumers.

Protecting the Freedom of Reading during the Rise of Book Censorship

This year, September 18th marked the start of Banned Books Week, which ran through September 24th with the purpose of bringing awareness to books that have been banned in libraries and classrooms across the United States. With the recent rise of politicization of education in America, the movement to ban books has skyrocketed. This year is already seeing record numbers of restrictions on books being taught in schools, with the American Library Association citing close to 700 book challenges that have already been brought. The rise of book censorship is being fueled by organizations with a focus on censoring books they deem should be banned from schools, who are compiling lists of hundreds of books with themes they disagree with.

Is this JUUL’s Final Goodbye?

On June 23rd, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that JUUL Labs, Inc., the notorious e-cigarette manufacturer, is ordered to cease distribution of their products in the United States. Since the company’s rise, one of the biggest pushes towards restricting JUUL products in stores across the nation has been fueled by discouraging youth vaping and the uncertainty regarding future health implications. The National Youth Tobacco Survey found that in 2021, approximately two million middle and high school students have reported using e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, more studies are surfacing regarding the adverse health effects that nicotine and e-cigarette products may have.