Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Food Wars (Part IV)

A debate about food issues in our country cannot be final without a discussion about the role of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Like many government entities under the control of the Obama White House, the FDA is getting larger. During the current recession, the FDA has hired over a thousand new workers with one goal in mind – to meddle in the private sector. Many may argue that the FDA, and their oversight over the food business, has made the United States the safest food market in the world. This may be true, but only to a certain extent. In many respects FDA oversight has gone way too far. The FDA, like many government agencies, likes to play God. No food or drug company wants to deliberately sell a bad product, especially a product that will kill or make people ill. This is obviously a bad business practice and it will ultimately lead to the bankruptcy of the guilty company. In fact, over the past century there have only been a few major cases of food poisoning: 1920 – botulism from canned olives; 1933 – E. Coli in burgers sold at Jack in the Box; 1959 - cranberries laced with a cancer agent; 1971 – botulism from canned Bon Vivant soup; 2008 – Salmonella in Peanut Corporation products; 2010 - Salmonella in two Iowa egg corporations. There is plenty of competition within the food and drug industry. If one brand gets a reputation for selling a tainted or bad product, people will buy another brand. In essence, competition within the free market system is how the food and drug industries police itself. Thus, to a large degree, massive amounts of oversight are not needed. One way the FDA goes overboard with its oversight power is by making product labels too complicated. The FDA forces companies to accurately display the contents and nutritional value on product labels. That is fine, but often there is too much information on labels making them difficult to interpret. In fact, people need to be a chemist to understand the nutritional contents in any given product. Also, there are no uniformity standards to place information on labels. Thus, it is nearly impossible for people do an “apples to apples” comparison of similar products. Hence, comparing two complicated labels is not going to change a buyers mind to purchase the more nutritional product. Instead of improving product labels, the FDA is expanding their convoluted labeling practice into other aspects of the food industry. The FDA is now going to force restaurants to post the nutritional statistics for their menu items. Is this going to make people healthier? No, but it going to cost the taxpayers more money to fund the FDA “food police” and it is going to make meals more expensive. Another way in which the FDA abuses their power is through an internal policy many refer to as the “precautionary principle”. In other words, the FDA sides with caution and does not release food and drug products that may have some potentially severe side effects. This sounds reasonable, but shouldn’t educated individuals and doctors make these decisions? What if, for instance, there is a drug that may help people combat a particular disorder, but the FDA refuses to release it to the public because there is a one in a 100 thousand chance the drug ‘might’ cause heart failure. If drugs are labeled with all potential risks and side effects, then it should be up to individuals and doctors to decide if the reward outweighs the risk. One example of such an FDA abuse is over the drug Gabapentin. Gabapentin is a drug that has been around a long time and was initially used as an anti-convulsant for epilepsy patients. Over the years, doctors have found other uses for Gabapentin to alleviate symptoms for neurological disorders including restless leg syndrome and more severe ailments such as fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and benign fasciculation syndrome. Although there has never been any solid proof that Gabapentin causes cancer in humans, researchers are confirming that it caused pancreatic cancer in rats. Thus, the FDA is trying to recall Gabapentin - a drug that alleviates pain and suffering for millions of users around the globe. It should be patients and consumers, not the government, who decides if a product reward is worth the risk. My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)


  1. Hi Patrick!

    Congratulations on the new blog – it looks great! I’m excited that I get to be your first commenter (at least I think I am).

    Very good post. Gov’t has a place but it should not be taking over the job of the free market.

  2. Hey, Patrick. Left a message for CW at her place here at blogspot. Can't imagine why you can't log on and comment here. I also notice that when I followed your site, it didn't put up my usual avatar. I only got that little silhouette thingie. Hmmmm

    I will return (like a bad penny). You do good work. Oh, don't forget to let DrPete know where you are.