Remembering Virginia Knauer

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Next time you’re at the grocery store and flip around a package to check out the ingredients or calorie count, take the opportunity to remember the contribution of Virginia Knauer, who served Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan in high-level consumer affairs positions.

Ms. Knauer held some pretty daring opinions in her day.  At a time when sellers of dog food — but not people food — had to disclose what was inside the package, she advocated for detailed product labeling.

A case in point:  In 1969, a report revealed that some popular hot dog brands contained as much as 51% fat.  Ms. Knauer championed the idea — revolutionary for its time — that if consumers had easy access to nutritional information, they’d be able to make wiser product choices, thereby influencing industry to offer healthier options.

Unleashing the power of information in the marketplace was a theme throughout her decades of service.  She established the Consumer Information Center in Pueblo, Colorado, which continues to distribute FTC publications on everything from buying a used car to wireless online security.

Ms. Knauer died this week at 96.

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