Flight disruptions, biotin supplement concerns, Honda recall: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

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  • March 17, 2019
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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday.

After 737 Max grounded, expect major flight disruptions

After Canada and most countries around the world banned 737 Max aircraft from the skies — thousands of Canadians scrambled to rebook flights. Airlines have been trying to either put customers on other flights or swap in different planes, but the booking turbulence could last beyond the week. An aviation expert says the challenge for airlines is finding planes to replace their lost fleet. Boeing eventually grounded the planes worldwide following a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed everyone on board, including 18 Canadians.

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 departing for Calgary taxis to a runway at Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

New wireless spectrum could help fill network gaps

Tired of dropped calls and coverage dead zones? Ottawa has begun an auction for a wireless spectrum in the 600 megahertz range, and which could lead to service improvements. This low-frequency spectrum is useful for filling in network gaps, and is better at travelling over long distances and into hard-to-reach places. But don’t get your hopes too high — the cost of your cellphone bill isn’t expected to drop, at least in the short term. In the meantime, here are some tips for cutting the cost of your bill.

Wireless spectrum is the name for the invisible electromagnetic bands that allow wireless devices to talk to each other. (Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Taking biotin pills? Read this

Biotin is usually marketed for hair and nail growth, but researchers worry it could trigger false positives or negatives in some diagnostic lab tests. Researchers warn biotin, or vitamin B7, could affect infertility testing, thyroid testing, tumour-marking testing and a blood test that helps determine whether a patient has had a heart attack. The supplement has surged in popularity due to Instagram influencers recommending them for nail and hair growth. But our investigation revealed there isn’t much evidence to support that it works.

Biotin supplements have been hyped as a way to improve hair, nails and skin, but little scientific evidence supports this. What worries researchers more is the fact that biotin can trigger false positives or negatives in some diagnostic lab tests. (Iryna Imago/Shutterstock)

Ottawa chases down CPP debts

Canada Revenue Agency plans to chase down people who owe the Canada Pension Plan money after being sent overpayments. About $66 million is owed by thousands of Canadians who mistakenly received disability or children’s benefits. But a computer glitch in 2009 didn’t allow the CRA to accurately calculate the amounts owed. Now, the glitch has been fixed. The newest wave of collection notices reached 1,730 people in November.

The federal government has finally fixed a 10-year-old computer glitch and is again chasing down people who owe $66 million in Canada Pension Plan overpayments. (CBC)

What else is going on?

Honda will recall about one million of its older vehicles over airbags that could be dangerous. The models are as old as 2001 and as recent as 2010. Owners will be told to take their vehicles to dealers to have the inflator replaced.

Cellphones will be banned in Ontario classrooms starting this September. It will be up to individual boards and schools to decide how to enforce the ban, and exceptions would be made for when teachers want to use cellphones as part of their lesson, for medical reasons and for students with special needs.

The Ontario government is considering a ban on single-use plastics.The proposed ban includes plastic bags, water bottles and straws, and is part of a broader strategy to send less waste to landfills. Watch our investigation on plastic waste in grocery stores here.

This week in recalls

These Losartan-containing drugs could potentially have a nitrosamine impurity, which, with long-term exposure, could be carcinogenic. These girls’ two-piece pyjama sets and nightgowns do not meet flammability requirements. And the label on this Indica cannabis product has incorrect cannabinoid values.

THIS WEEK MARKETPLACE INVESTIGATES

Testing shrimp for superbugs: A note from David Common

We’re testing imported shrimp this week. Not for taste  — but for whether the packages you buy at the supermarket contain antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

That’s right: Superbugs. Experts have raised concerns that some countries use antibiotics to kill bacteria during the farming process. And while Canada doesn’t allow the use of antibiotics on farmed shrimp — domestic or imported, we found traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on some of the shrimp we test.

Experts claim antibiotic resistance poses the biggest threat to modern medicine in the 21st century, so is the government doing enough to stop these superbugs from ending up in our kitchens?  We go straight to Canada’s health minister for answers.

— David Common

Marketplace tests imported shrimp bought from supermarket chains across the country. 21:13
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