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Our organization was also instrumental in working for a food and drug act, and I think that will offer sufficient protection so that the housewife knows when she is buying butter and when she is buying margarine.
The CHAIRMAN. If that should be considered as not offering sufficient protection, you would have no objection to appropriate amendments, I take it?
Mrs. OTTENBERG. Well, I do not know. I would not like to speak for my organization. Personally, I think it would offer sufficient protection because I-after all, everything is labeled today. When a woman buys her household goods on the shelves, canned stuffs, and so forth, she is fairly well able to tell what she is buying.
Thé CHAIRMAN. What would be your thought in protecting the customer in the restaurant so that he would know whether he was getting margarine or butter?
Mrs. OTTENBERG. Well, it depends on the standards of the restaurant. You have no protection in anything you eat in a restaurant. You have to depend upon the restaurant as to the grade.
The CHAIRMAN. Supposing it were considered advisable that the consumer should have the right to know what he is getting in a restaurant as between margarine and butter?
Mrs. OTTENBERG. I would certainly, personally, have no objection to some indication.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, very much.
The CHAIRMAN. The next witness is Mrs. Jean L. Whitehill, for the Consumers Union of the United States.
STATEMENT OF MRS. JEAN L. WHITEHILL, REPRESENTING CON
SUMERS UNION OF THE UNITED STATES, INC., NEW YORK, N. Y.
Mrs. WHITEHILL. My name is Jean L. Whitehill, and I am presenting a statement in behalf of Consumers Union, a nonprofit consumer technical organization of more than 150,000 consumers throughout the United States. Consumers Union strongly urges this committee to act favorably on the Rivers bill, H. R. 2245, calling for outright repeal of all taxes on margarine at every level from manufacturer to retailer.
I should like to assure this committee that the cost of my appearance here is being met by Consumers Union, of which I am an employee. My salary and all the expenses contingent upon the preparation of my statement, attending this hearing, and testifying, were entirely met by my organization, which since its inception in 1936 has been deeply concerned with the problem of discriminatory taxation on margarine. Consumers Union has never been offered, has never solicited, and would never accept a contribution in any form from a manufacturer, distributor, or group of manufacturers or distributors of margarine.
The rising cost of food, which is a major component of generally increased living costs, makes a reasonably priced, readily available table spread a necessity. Food costs which before the war accounted for 35 percent of the typical family budget, now take nearly 45 percent of that budget. The housewife looking for economies and alternatives
is too often forced to buy foods which are nutritionally inferior or less digestible than the higher priced items she no longer can afford. Butter has been priced out of the reach of millions of families, regardless of their preference for it. But in half the Nation's grocery stores, because of the present tax situation, they cannot buy another pure, digestible, and nutritious table fat. In 99 percent of those stores, they cannot buy such a table fat colored acceptably for table use. So for them, the choice is likely to be either butter or nothing.
Although the Government's standard for an adequate diet at moderate cost when published in 1933 called for a consumption of 36 pounds of table fats per year, our present consumption of butter and margarine—16 pounds—falls far short of this standard. There is little hope that, with butter in short supply and at present prices, this consumption figure can be raised and our nutritional requirements met, unless you act to make margarine more available in ready-to-use form and by that, of course, I mean colored.
Consumers Union's technical staff has carried out studies of margarine over a period of years to determine its fitness for regular use on the table and in the kitchen. These projects have included both chemical analyses and use tests. The results are summarized herewith:
Fat content: In tests for fat content, all margarines tested met or exceeded minimum requirements of the Food and Drug Administration standard of identity, not less than 80 percent of the finished product. All brands tested also met the requirements that moisture content be no higher than 16 percent.
Keeping quality: In tests for keeping quality, even those 4 brands which showed a tendency to go rancid faster than the 16 others tested still remained sweet longer than the brands of butter subjected to comparable tests.
Softening point : Softening points of all brands were determined to find whether the margarine would become unsuitable for table use in summer or in a warm kitchen. Three brands were found to have a softening point slightly lower than the average of 3 butters with which they were compared, but the other 17 had the same or a higher softening point than the average of the 3 butters.
Smoke point: Determinations showed all the margarines tested to have a high smoke point, and to be suitable for frying.
The CHAIRMAN. What do you mean by “smoke point”?
In actual use tests, it has been found that margarine can be adapted for all cooking purposes for which butter is used, in most cases without any change in recipes or cooking techniques.
Taste tests: A panel of 20 persons tasted each of 21 margarine samples included in the test. Each taster was given two samples at a time, identified only as A and B. Some samples of butter were included, but the tasters were not told when the spread was margarine and when it was butter. The margarine was, of course, colored. Most tasters were unable to tell the difference between butter and those margarine samples they rated as having good flavor. This was despite the fact that many of the tasting panel were confirmed anti-oleo-eaters and claimed before they tried it that they could always detect the distinctive taste of oleo.
Taste tests of samples stored in the laboratory refrigerator for more than 2 months showed that they had no detectable off-flavors, and that
they compared favorably with freshly bought samples. All the stored samples, including those which contained no preservative, had kept well.
To summarize, chemical tests showed that margarines tested met or exceeded the minimum requirements of the Food and Drug Administration standard of identity, and that they were suitable for cooking purposes; and taste tests indicated that they were palatable.
On the basis of those test results, and reliable data on nutrition and digestibility, margarine is considered by Consumers Union to be an acceptable table and kitchen fat.
We are unconvinced by claims that yellow is the exclusive right, patent, or natural trade-mark of butter. To refute these claims, one only need repeat that under many conditions butter as it comes from the churn isn't really yellow and must be made an acceptable shade by the addition of "butter color."
The same habit and usage that has dictated that butter shall be artificially colored to a rich, appetizing yellow, applies to margarine. We, as Americans, just like it that way. We no more want our butter artificially colored a delicate violet than we want our margarine tinted a pastel rose or green. The preference for yellow in a table spread or flavoring for vegetables is so general and so commonly accepted that all uncolored margarine carries a capsule or tablet of yellow coloring matter. Without intent to defraud or deceive anyone, it is taken for granted that at the table and even for kitchen uses, yellow is the color. Manufacturers of margarine, like manufacturers of butter, know consumers' preferences and cater to them.
Were we not unalterably opposed to discriminatory taxes and restrictions on any foods which are good, pure, and safe, we might argue that butter too should be taxed when artificially colored, in that case, houewives would probably be wasting astronomical numbers of woman hours coloring butter at home. We might certainly argue that butter when artificially colored should be so labeled and should not enjoy unique immunity
The possibilities of fraud and deception if taxes are removed seem to us to be greatly exaggerated. First of all, the bulk of margarine sold is for home use, rather than for use in public eating places. The housewife buying margarine can easily identify it. Labeling requirements are rigid and rightly so. Since margarine must be so carefuly labeled, the housewife actually has many protections not afforded her when she buys butter. She may ascertain all the ingredients that are in the margarine and she can shop around, if she is so disposed, for the one with the highest vitamin content, or for one which contains animal fats. In buying butter, the consumer usually learns nothing from the label, not even which of the several grades she is buying. She may pay a high-score price and get a low-score butter.
We wholeheartedly approve the labeling requirements of the Food and Drug Administration for margarine and would like to see them extended to butter. We have no fear that they will be removed from margarine or that Federal inspectors and local health officers will fail in their enforcement when taxes are removed.
It is interesting to note that seizures of margarine by the Food and Drug Act have been very limited, and violations have been those of fat content slightly under the required 80 percent. If all the unscrupulous people we hear about really want to defraud innocent customers, why should tax repeal be the signal for them to start their nefarious activities? With little more risk, they could have been plying their underhanded trade profitably for these many years.
But the records don't seem to indicate that this has been the case.
The chance that the occasional diner-out may get a pat of pure palatable yellow table spread, which he mistakingly thinks is butter but which really is margarine, does not weigh very heavily against the opportunity that thousands of housewives will have to buy easily a carton of ready-to-use margarine at a price | can afford to pay.
We at Consumers Union do not take very seriously the suggestion that if taxes are repealed the price of all margarine will be higher. It is our understanding that during the manufacturing processes margarine can be colored at no increased cost. Colored margarine bought where obtainable and included in our tests was in general only about 10 cents higher in price than many of the uncolored brands, this 10 cents representing the tax differential.
Margarine uncolored seems to have maintained a fairly constant price relationship with butter. In our studies prices of 20 brands of uncolored margarine tested in 1945 ranged from 18 cents to 27 cents when butter was correspondingly low in price. In April 1948 prices of 18 brands of uncolored margarine tested by Consumers Union ranged from 37 cents to 45 cents at a time when butter prices in New York were ranging from 89 cents to $1.20, according to the city department of markets' weekly retail-price reports.
It seems a fair assumption that this price parallel will be maintained if taxes are repealed and margarine will remain in its comparative price position.
Consumers Union is dedicated to the preservation of decent living standards for ultimate consumers. The consumer needs and wants a chance to choose freely for herself from the grocer's shelf the table fat that best suits her needs and her pocketbook. In no other foodstuff is she denied this choice because of legal restrictions. We strenuously oppose this discrimination, and we feel that we reflect the views of a majority of consumers in this stand.
I would like, in conclusion, to remind you that a Gallup poll published in March 1948 confirms our position. Sixty-nine percent of all people queried were for removal of taxes on margarine. Among those who use margarine and would welcome the chance to find it more easily and to use it without previous preparation, 84 percent were for repeal. We hope that the legislators will listen to the voice of the consumer.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. The next witness is Mrs. Rena Cohen of the League of Women Shoppers.
STATEMENT OF MRS. RENA COHEN, REPRESENTING THE NATIONAL
LEAGUE OF WOMEN SHOPPERS
Mrs. COHEN. My name is Mrs. Rena Cohen. I am representing the National League of Women Shoppers, a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization of housewives and professional women.
We should first like to note that the progress of this legislation to date has been more heartening. The successive efforts on the part of the opposition to delay, bury, or seriously weaken this measure have been ineffective. The decisions to move the bill promptly through each successive stage have been clean-cut and overwhelming.
Our organization is gravely concerned with the fate of the American consumer. The picture of ever-rising living costs is most disturbing. The prospect of over-all relief from this burden seems remote. In the light of this, the progress of margarine tax repeal legislation is good news to the consumer.
We think that there is an important issue of principle involved here. It is our contention that the American housewife has the fundamental right to buy any and every worthwhile product she wants in any form that is most attractive to her. The fact that margarine is a worth-while product has been so conclusively established that I need not argue the point here. The fact that no nonproprietary product has a monopoly right to any physical attribute is so well established in American tradition that it is positively staggering for this one exception to be on the statute books. Has any other producer ever dared to ask for the protection against a rival that the butter producers have managed to obtain against margarine?
It goes without saying, that the consumer should know what she is buying. Most emphatically when a housewife buys margarine she knows that it is margarine. She is fully protected by the labeling provisions of the Federal Trade Commission standards and by the vigilance of the Federal and State pure food and drug administrations.
We are confident that, with minor exceptions, margarine will continue to be sold as margarine and butter to be sold as butter. But there seems to be a great deal of genuine concern that widespread misrepresentation will develop if yellow margarine is freely sold. If that be so, the mechanism of taxation is still no answer. It is clumsy, indirect, and ineffectual in coping with this hypothetical danger.
At this point I should like to add something. There has been a good deal of misrepresentation in restaurant business. I frankly feel that it is a tempest in a teapot. Sir, if you order a salad in a restaurant do you know whether you are getting salad dressing or mayonnaise? Actually, there is a wide difference in the cost of the two. You do not even know what ingredients go into the French dressing you are served. I should think if a restaurant feels it adds to its prestige to serve butter, let them be the ones to say, "Butter is served
Margarine has every right to be on the shelves of every grocery store in the country. It is one of the most widely used of packaged grocery products. Because of the Federal taxes and licensing fees-particularly those on colored margarine-only about half of the retail stores in the country handle uncolored margarine, and only a very small percentage handle colored margarines. This gives certain grocers neighborhood monopolies, which is certainly contrary to our concept of free enterprise and free competition.
Repeal of the margarine taxes will make margarine a competitive product at the retail stores in the same way that canned soup is on any standard grocery store shelf.