The Consumer

Read the fine print to know what you’re getting

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Contract and insurance policies are not the only things that should be read carefully, especially the fine print.

In an article for Women’s Health, Amy Paturel, a public health expert, noted that manufacturers tended to “bury a product’s fact panel and ingredients list on the back or side of the package, while filling the front with such eye-catching words as sensible, smart and healthy.” She said, while the claims might sound good, they were often misleading.

She cited studies at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Laboratory that showed that consumers tended not to read very carefully the actual number of calories in foods if packaging had words such as “low-fat.”

As a result of this misreading, people tended to eat more of the product, thinking they were getting fewer calories. “Cookies, for instance, were thought to have 40 percent fewer calories just because the word organic was printed somewhere on the label,” Paturel said.

Paturel quoted Marisa Moore, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, who said some people with high cholesterol levels might eat food labeled as having no cholesterol. But Moore said the food might be filled with sugar or saturated fat, which could increase cholesterol levels.

Paturel pointed out that labeling problems still existed in the United States despite the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act passed in 1990, so our problem may be worse.

I am not aware of a similar law in the Philippines. I wonder how factual the labels of local food products are.

Speaking of fine print, a friend, who travels frequently, always makes sure he has medical insurance coverage before leaving the country just in case an emergency arises requiring medical attention. The insurance also covers dental services. In previous trips, he returned home without availing of the insurance coverage

On a recent trip, however, he had to seek the services of a  dentist to replace the filling in a tooth. He very willingly paid the bill of more than $100, confident he could get a refund from the insurance company. You can probably guess what happened next.

He was told the procedure was not covered by his insurance. Of course, he protested. After several months of hemming and hawing (he filed his claim in June), the insurer told him a couple of weeks ago he would finally get reimbursed for the dentist’s fee.

I am sure many readers can relate to this story. I guess it is not enough to just read the fine print. You have to ask questions, too, and have everything you do not understand explained in plain and simple terms.

Easier access

People who use Messy Bessy cleaning products because they are made primarily from organic materials will be happy to know they are now available in Robinsons Supermarket. In the past, although I liked using the products, I often had to get more popular brands that were primarily synthetic chemicals because Messy Bessy items were available only in a few places, all of them not easily accessible to me.

Now I do not have to worry about where to get fresh supplies when I need them.

Free BlackBerry

Globe has bundled a free BlackBerry Curve 9220 into its My Super Plan 299 package, which also comes with a P99 BlackBerry Chat subscription, for a total of P398 a month. My Super Plan 299 is an all-consumable postpaid package.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@inquirer.com.ph.

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