Kitchen Gadgets Consumer Alert
jikeda at garnet.berkeley.edu
jikeda at garnet.berkeley.edu
Thu Jan 2 11:27:31 PST 1997
I thought some of you might be interested in this news release forwarded to
our CE Home Economists by our Food Safety Specialist at UC Davis, Dr. Linda
Harris. My husband came home with a Miracle Thaw platter one day, just
thrilled that he had only paid $10.00 for it. Won't he be surprised when he
finds out it is basically useless and potentially harmful if used as
suggested! Happy New Year to all...Joanne
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 1997 08:31:58 -0800
>From the following web site: http://www.agen.ufl.edu/~foodsaf/ht003.htm
>These devices have bothered me for some time.
>Linda Harris, Food Safety Specialist, UC DAVIS
>Consumer Alert, December 1996
> FTC Consumer Alert Offers Food for "Thaw-T" About Kitchen
> Premier Products, Inc., marketers of the "Miracle Thaw" food thawing tray
>-- an aluminum tray advertised for its ability to thaw food quickly -- and
>Comtrad Industries, Inc., a marketer of the "Koolatron" thermo-electric
>cooler -- a portable electronic food cooler that doubles as a food warmer
>-- have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges
> concerning false and unsubstantiated safety and effectiveness claims for
> Also today, the Federal Trade Commission, in conjunction with the United
>States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food and Drug
>Administration, issued a Consumer Alert advising consumers to be cautious
>when using food thawing trays or thermo- electric coolers. According to the
>federal agencies, caution is advised because using these
> products carries the risk of buildup of harmful bacteria on perishable
>food, which in turn may cause food-borne illness.
> In separate complaints against the companies, the FTC alleged the following:
> MIRACLE THAW
> Florham Park, New Jersey-based respondents Premier Products, Inc., T.V.
>Products, Inc., and T.V.P. Corporation, and company officers Michael Sander
>and Issie Kroll, disseminated television advertisements and promotional
>materials for Miracle Thaw that contained the following allegedly false and
> All day thawing could cause bacteria burgers. But with Miracle
>Thaw, burgers are safely defrosted in just 10 minutes. . . . No Dangerous
>Bacteria. . . . Most important, it's lab tested for product and food
> In fact, according to the complaint, Miracle Thaw operates at room
>temperature, and thawing perishable food at room temperature involves some
>risk of harmful bacteria buildup on the food. In addition, at the time
>respondents made these representations, no food safety tests had been
>conducted on Miracle Thaw.
> The secret is in the superconductive metal tray. It absorbs the
>natural heat energy in the air and then releases it directly into the
> In fact, according to the complaint, Miracle Thaw is a simple
>Teflon-coated aluminum tray that can only achieve the accelerated thawing
>depicted in advertisements if it is preheated before use and reheated
>during use. Most heat transferred into frozen food comes from the heated
>tray and not from the air. Similar results could be achieved with any
> pan. Further, thawing times claimed in advertisements often will not be
>achieved, and in many cases actual thawing times may be three or more times
>longer than the claimed thawing times.
> The complaint further alleges that respondents deceptively failed to
>disclose that thawing perishable food on Miracle Thaw may pose a risk of
>buildup of harmful bacteria on the food.
> The proposed settlement to these charges, announced today for a public
>comment period before the Commission decides to make it final and binding,
>would prohibit respondents, with respect to any product involving the
>storage or preparation of food, from misrepresenting:
> the risk of buildup of harmful or unsafe levels of bacteria on food
>items defrosted, thawed, prepared, or stored using such product; the amount
>of time it may take to defrost, thaw, or prepare food items using such
>product; the process by which such product achieves any claimed
>defrosting, thawing, or preparation times; or the existence, contents,
>validity, results, conclusions or interpretations of any test, study, or
> In addition, respondents, in connection with any product for use in the
>preparation or storage of food, would be prohibited from making any claims
>about safety or efficacy, unless, at the time the claim is made, they have
> and reliable evidence that substantiates the claim. Further, respondents
>would be prohibited from making any claim about the effectiveness or
>usefulness of Miracle Thaw or any substantially similar product for use in
>defrosting or thawing of frozen food unless they also make certain
>disclosures that warn of the potential risk of harmful or unsafe bacteria
> associated with use of the product.
> Midlothian, Virginia-based Comtrad Industries, Inc. disseminated
>advertisements for the Koolatron by direct mail, through print
>advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and on the Internet's World
>Wide Web, that contained the following allegedly false and unsubstantiated
> Imagine the versatility and convenience of a cooler that worked
>like a refrigerator. You could have ice-cold drinks at softball games,
>enjoy a picnic without soggy or spoiled food, even store insulin or other
>medicine that needs to be refrigerated. Now, imagine that this cooler that
>worked like a refrigerator could also heat food.
> In fact, according to the complaint, the Koolatron's cold storage
>temperature is highly dependent on outside air or room temperatures, and in
>many circumstances it will not maintain cold storage temperatures
>comparable to a home refrigerator.
> Further, the Koolatron is primarily designed to maintain the cool or warm
>temperatures of items that were already cool or warm before being placed in
>the device, and its ability to cool down warm food or heat up cold food is
>limited. It may take up to twelve hours or more for the Koolatron to cool
>down a warm item or heat up a cold item.
> Just plug it in. Koolatron plugs directly into your vehicle's
>cigarette lighter and uses less power than a taillight. If you leave it
>plugged in while the vehicle is off, it will consume only three amps of
>power. Unplugged, Koolatron will hold its cooling capacity for up to 24
> In fact, according to the complaint, in most instances, once unplugged
>from a power source, the Koolatron will not hold its cooling capacity for
>24 hours, and operating the Koolatron off a car battery when the car is not
>running may drain the car battery of all power in as little as three hours.
> The FTC's complaint further alleges that Comtrad deceptively failed to
>disclose that use of the Koolatron to cool or warm perishable food may, in
>certain circumstances, pose a risk of buildup of harmful or unsafe bacteria
>on the food, since in its cooling mode the device may not always hold food
>at proper refrigeration temperatures, and in its warming mode the
> device does not reach a high enough holding temperature to kill or prevent
>the growth of bacteria on food.
> The proposed settlement to the charges against Comtrad, announced today
>for a public comment period before the Commission decides to make it final
>and binding, would prohibit the company from misrepresenting, in connection
>with any product involving the storage of food:
> the comparative or absolute ability of such product to refrigerate
>or cool food items or medicines or to maintain proper cold storage
> the comparative or absolute ability of such product to heat or warm
> the comparative or absolute ability of such product to hold its
>cooling capacity after being unplugged from a power source; or
> the effect of operating such product off a car battery when the car
>is not running.
> In addition, the company, in connection with any product for use in the
>storage of food, would be prohibited from making any claims about safety or
>efficacy, unless, at the time the claim is made, it has competent and
>reliable evidence that substantiates the claim. Further, the company would
>be prohibited from making any claim about the effectiveness or
> usefulness of Koolatron or any substantially similar product for use in
>cooling or warming food unless it also discloses the potential food safety
>risks associated with use of the product.
> A summary of the proposed consent agreements will be published in the
>Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days,
>after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments
>should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and
>Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
> The Commission vote to accept the two consent agreements for public
>comment was 5-0.
> NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not
>constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a
>consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to
>future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil
>penalty of $11,000.
> Copies of the complaints, proposed consent agreements and the analyses of
>the agreement to assist the public in commenting, as well as the consumer
>alert, are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at:
> http://www.ftc.gov or by calling 202-326-3627. FTC documents are also
>available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and
>Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the
>hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest news as it is
>announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at
> Washington, D.C. - Did you forget to thaw the chicken for tonight's
>dinner? How are you going to keep the baked bean
> casserole hot until you get to the tailgate party?
> Some products on the market claim to solve mealtime dilemmas by thawing
>food quickly or storing hot or cold food electronically. Before you buy one
>of these gadgets, read the ads carefully: some products may not measure up
>to their claims, and they may even increase the risk of food poisoning.
> At issue is the proper storage of perishable foods such as meat, poultry,
>and fish. Harmful bacteria can grow on foods held at temperatures between
>40°F and 140°F - a danger zone that's above refrigeration and below cooking
>or holding temperatures - and this in turn can lead to food-borne illness.
>Use of some products like food thawing trays and thermo-electric coolers
>may involve leaving food at these unsafe temperatures for significant
>amounts of time.
> Advertisements for thawing trays claim that frozen food can be thawed
>rapidly at room temperature. Some ads claim the trays are made of a special
>"superconductive" metal that speeds the natural thawing process. Yet most
>are simple aluminum trays, and the same accelerated thawing effect can be
>achieved with any metal pan. In fact, thawing times for
> these trays often are exaggerated in advertisements.
> Because thawing trays require that food be thawed at room temperature, and
>many items will have greatly extended thawing times of well over two hours,
>there's some risk that harmful bacteria may develop. Generally, food safety
>experts agree that to avoid that risk, frozen food should be thawed in the
>refrigerator, in a microwave oven, or in cold
> water, but never at room temperature.
> Other devices, called thermo-electric coolers, also are billed as food
>warmers. Designed primarily to maintain the temperature of food that was
>already cool or warm before being placed in the device, these products
>cannot cool or store food as effectively as a refrigerator, and they often
>may hold food at unsafe temperatures. Their internal cooling levels vary
>with outside conditions: use in hot weather, direct sunlight, or enclosed
>spaces like an unventilated car may raise internal cooling levels beyond
>safe refrigeration temperatures.
> As food warmers, these products generally do not reach the safety
>threshold of 140°. Indeed, their maximum holding temperature isn't high
>enough either to kill off existing bacteria or prevent further bacterial
>growth on food.
> For more information about food safety, contact the Meat and Poultry
>Hotline operated by the United States Department of Agriculture at
>1-800-535-4555, or the Seafood Hotline operated by the United States Food
>and Drug Administration at 1-800-332-4010.
> Prepared by the Federal Trade Commission in conjunction with the United
>States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food and
> Drug Administration.
>Linda J. Harris, Ph.D.
>Food Safety/Microbiology Specialist
>Room 129 Food Science & Technology,
>University of California, Davis
>Davis, CA 95616
>Fax: (916)752-4759 ATTN: L. J. Harris
>email: ljharris at ucdavis.edu
Joanne P. Ikeda,MA,RD
Cooperative Extension Nutrition Education Specialist
Department of Nutritional Sciences
University of California, Berkeley
E-Mail: jikeda at garnet.berkeley.edu
More information about the PHNUTR-L