February 09, 2011

You Don’t Like Jalapeno Poppers, You Just Think You Do.

You will not be surprised to learn that Mark Bittman (discussed yesterday) is not the only person better equipped to make decisions about what you should eat than you are. You can add to that growing list First Lady Michelle Obama. 

What equips Ms. Obama to substitute her judgment for yours?

She’s Michelle Obama.

Her latest initiative is to work with the National Restaurant Association to try and convince restaurants to offer foods she thinks you should be eating in quantities she thinks are appropriate.

Of course, she’s not forcing them to do anything.  She’s just suggesting it might be a good idea.  Like when she suggested restaurant menus should provide nutritional information.  Okay, so when they didn’t do it, it wound up in the health care legislation and is now mandatory and is costing the industry hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Total Coincidence.

It’s kind of like when your boss suggests it might be a good idea for you to buy the Girl Scout cookies her daughter is selling. It’s not like you have to.  You can choose not to.  It’s up to you.

By the way, you’re up for a review next week.

You said you wanted how many boxes of Tagalongs?

Why is she talking with restaurants and not simply using her powers of persuasion on the public at large?

In a speech to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), she explained:

And as America’s restaurant owners, you’re responsible for one-third of the calories our kids get on a daily basis. The choices you make determine what’s listed on the menus, what’s advertised on billboards, and what’s served on our plates.”

Okay, this we did not know. Prior to the First Lady’s campaign, we had been under the mistaken impression that parents were responsible for the calories their kids get on a daily basis and that they chose what would be on their plates.

You know how people talk about how powerful the “NRA” is?  We used to think they meant the gun rights guys.

As it turns out, McDonalds, The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s and the others didn’t become successful by offering the kinds of meals, in the portions desired, by individuals exercising their freedom of choice.

As Michelle Obama points out:

“That’s how business works, I understand that. But I’ve yet to meet a single parent who doesn’t understand the threat of childhood obesity. I’ve yet to meet a single parent who’s not eager to buy healthier products. They just need more information. They need easier access to those products.”

Somehow, one of the most competitive, dynamic, and responsive industries in the world let them down.

Er, her down.

J.

February 9, 2011 at 09:39 PM in Current Affairs, Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 08, 2011

But What I Really Want to do is… Dance!

For over a decade, Mark Bittman wrote a food column for the New York Times in which he demonstrated to readers, through recipes and detailed discussions of techniques and kitchen tools, how very much better it is to eat and cook like Mark Bittman.

However, merely encouraging people to behave like he does has ultimately proven unsatisfying, and so Mark Bittman last week bid farewell to his regular column in order to move over to the opinion pages of the Times where, rather than try to persuade his readers to live like he does, he could instead try to persuade the authorities to mandate it.  As he sees it:

 “…the continuing attack on good, sound eating and traditional farming in the United States is a political issue.”

It’s bigger than recipes.  It’s bigger than helping you conquer your fear of fish or describing the importance of having a melon baller on hand.  Something far more fundamental is at stake:

Part of my reasoning in going to the opinion section is to advocate, essentially, for eaters’ rights.”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, with the possible exception of Mark Bittman, that they are required by their government to dine in certain ways, among these, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut back on the sugar and fat, and maybe try to go more macrobiotic.

In his first opinion column, “A Food Manifesto for the Future,” Bittman writes of our current food supply chain:

“It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system.” 

This would be the same system that has produced bountiful amounts of affordable food, fed the world’s hungry, freed up over 95% of the population to pursue interests and vocations outside of farm life (like, say, writing for the New York Times), contributed to 80 years of nearly uninterrupted annual increases in life expectancy (with more projected) and has been sustained for generations.

And yet, it clearly is left wanting, given its broad nonconformity to the way Mr. Bittman thinks it should be.

So, how can we make it better?  Bittman lays out his ideas:

“End government subsidies to processed food.”

You know, we’re starting to like this guy, Bittman.  We could definitely get behind any program that would eliminate the state using taxpayer money to unfairly subsidize one…

“Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption.”

Okay, we should have seen that one coming.

“Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages.”

And Bittman can’t support them all by himself, so he’d like to force you to. (Look, organic fair-wage endive doesn't grow itself, you know.)

“Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Hey, he’s starting to win us over again what with his talk of eliminating...

“...and empower the Food and Drug Administration.”

Fool me once, and all that.

“…the F.D.A. must be given expanded powers to ensure the safety of our food supply.”

So much for small farmers and their employees making a living wage.

“Food-related deaths are far more common than those resulting from terrorism, yet the F.D.A.’s budget is about one-fifteenth that of Homeland Security.”

Of course, FDA-approved prescription-drug-related deaths are far more common than those resulting from tainted food so he might want to leave that one in pencil for now.

“…we must educate and encourage Americans to eat differently.”

Not all Americans, just those Americans who are not Mark Bittman.

“It’s difficult to find a principled nutrition and health expert who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases.”

And of course, those are the only valid considerations.  Enjoyment? Variety? Tradition? Personal preference? Bittman doesn’t value those things as highly.

And neither should you.

“Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.)“

It is not clear to us why he took this overly moderate course as opposed to proposing mandatory conscription into Top Chef.

“We should provide food education for children…”

“We” means “you,” by the way. 

“…cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.”

Braising isn’t a choice, it’s a right!

“Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. Another budget booster. This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health..."

That’s right, if you support basic hygiene, a working judiciary, and Netflix, then you should support the suppression of the free-speech rights of people selling products frowned upon by Mark Bittman.

It’s just common sense.

" — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.”

Okay, so Mark Bittman doesn't like Cheeseburgers and fries, but it's not like he's trying to put McDonald's out of business.

Putting McDonald's Out of Business

Okay, bad example.

Come to think of it, he did call it a "manifesto."

J.

February 8, 2011 at 07:38 PM in Current Affairs, Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 24, 2010

Four Loko: Publicity Enemy #1

Can O'Death

Doctors don’t like it:

“Combining caffeine and alcohol is, indeed, crazy. It can be lethally crazy.”

Politicians and journalists don’t like it:

"A toxic, dangerous mix of caffeine and alcohol."

"Spreading like a plague across the country."

"A witch's brew."

"Blackout in a can."

You know what?

You had me at “lethally crazy.”

Regular readers know that I am more than a little familiar with the process of throwing down a few drinks now and again, or as I prefer to term it: “The alcoholic arts.”

So, when the latest prohibitionpalooza came along, I felt it was my responsibility, despite the many personal risks involved, to investigate the issue myself. While yesterday we explored the public policy discussion surrounding caffeinated alcoholic beverages, today we examine the product that is itself at the center of the controversy, “Four Loko.”

I had already heard that the makers of Four Loko were going to remove the toxic caffeine with which they had illegally “adulterated” their plagued concoction and so wanted to make sure I got some samples of the original witch’s brew before they disappeared from store shelves. Wasting no time, I visited my local 7-11 store in Arlington, VA this past Sunday to see if they had any left.

Lots of Loko

They had some left.

I went back to the refrigerated section where I came upon a twenty-something dude pulling out can after can, juggling the armful he had already accumulated.

Me: You know, they have cases of the stuff here.
Dude:  Really? Where?
Me: Right down at the end of this aisle.
Dude: Excellent, thanks!

He bought two cases.

I feel like I am at least partially responsible for what I can only assume was his certain death.

I purchased three individual cans of the three flavors they had available, watermelon, lemonade, and fruit punch.

That was a bad sign right there.

Regardless, I settled in for the evening, determined to drink one of the oversized cans.

I chose watermelon since it struck me as potentially the most revolting. A watermelon flavored “malt liquor” beverage is about as appetizing sounding as beef flavored tequila.

I didn’t want to drink it straight out of the can since it is well understood that to fully appreciate an exquisitely refined spirit such as Four Loko, you need to engage all your senses including sight.

That raised the question as to what is the proper vessel for serving Four Loko.  My first instinct was “the drain,” but that would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. I ended up choosing a stemless wine glass as its weeble-like shape made it the least likely to be knocked over should I be overcome with the expected caffeinated alcoholic insanity.

And so I carefully decanted the delicately flavored malt beverage into the glass.

Watermelon Loko

Gaaggghh!  What the hell kind of a color is that?

Sure, I had already been warned by the FDA that consuming Four Loko “may result in adverse behavioral outcomes” I just didn’t think gagging was going to be one of them.

Now, I should point out that I have something of a sweet tooth.  I’ll drink the occasional frozen strawberry daquiri or “mud slide” or any of a number of alcoholic drinks designed for people who don’t really like alcohol so you’d think I’d have some tolerance for the stuff, but Four Loko has the kind of cloying, candied sweetness that would offend a honey bee.

No matter, this was for science, so I finished the can and awaited the psychosis to befall me.  The result?

I felt like I had drunk a bunch of alcohol with a maple syrup chaser.  No blackouts, no near-death experiences, no hypnotic states during which I contemplated the likelihood that our entire universe is just a single molecule in a giant’s fingernail.  The only thing I contemplated was whether or not I should take a Zantac.

Having survived Sunday night, I decided to try the lemonade the next night.

Lemonade Loko

Its appearance was improved over the Day-Glo watermelon and it tasted a lot like a Mike’s Lemonade.

That’s not a compliment.

I polished off the can inside of an hour and… pretty much felt like the night before. 

I’m sure if I slammed down four 23.5-ounce cans I’d get really messed up.  That will happen when you drink A LOT of alcohol, regardless of how awful it tastes.

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, taking a break from losing the war on drugs, spoke in approval of the FDA’s actions against Four Loko (Would you rather talk tough to some Ohio State grads or Mexican drug lords?), remarking that:

"These products are designed, branded, and promoted to encourage binge drinking. These drinks are especially unhealthy and dangerous because they combine alcohol and caffeine ”

The only thing in a can of Four Loko that encourages binge drinking is alcohol. 

When you’re twenty one years old you don’t need caffeine to binge drink.  You need something to drink.  I’m pretty sure the time I had to crawl around my dorm floor for 12 hours because I was incapable of standing up wasn’t because someone had spiked the triple-shot kamikazes I’d been drinking with No-Doz.  But you know what? I learned an important lesson.

They don’t mop those dorm floors as often as you might think.

Also, something about responsibility.

My conclusion?  Four Loko is an awful, vile drink, but hey, some people think Martinis are revolting. In other words:

I might not agree with what you drink, but I’ll defend to the death your right to choke down the crap.

Where it Belongs?

But no, I never got around to drinking the fruit punch flavor. I switched to beer.

J.

November 24, 2010 at 07:07 PM in Current Affairs, Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 23, 2010

If You’re Not Allowed to be Loco For Four Loko, Can You Still be Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs?

When it isn’t busy trying to convince you that chopped walnuts and Cheerios are drugs or attempting to suppress the expression of opinions that have not been pre-approved by the proper authorities, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works diligently to ensure you are not subjected to foods that have been adulterated with ingredients not “generally recognized as safe” by which they mean “been generally recognized as safe for decades.”

Specifically, the FDA, responding to an outcry over the recent discovery that college students get drunk and do stupid things, is cracking down on caffeinated alcoholic beverages sending letters to, among other companies, the makers of the infamous “Four Loko:”

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the regulatory status of the ingredients declared on the label of your product, "Four Loko" which contains caffeine that has been directly added to an alcoholic beverage and packaged in combined caffeine and alcohol form. As it is used in your product, caffeine is an unsafe food additive, and therefore your product is adulterated under section 402(a)(2)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(2)(C)].”

This past Saturday I adulterated a bottle of whiskey with an unsafe Dunkin’ Donuts “Box O’Joe.” Imagine my horror at the realization that I have been adulterating alcohol with unsafe caffeine for decades!

As David Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection warned, young drinkers, "may not realize how much alcohol they have consumed because caffeine can mask the sense of intoxication."

You know what else can mask the sense of intoxication? 

Intoxication. 

Regardless, the situation is so dire that in addition to the FDA and FTC, the TTB got involved as well!

Okay, we had no idea what the TTB was either, but it is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and apparently they are so upset that their title doesn’t match their initials like the other cool agencies, they felt it important to pile on in a press release announcing that it had:

“…notified four companies that if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems their caffeinated alcohol beverage products adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, we would consider them to be mislabeled under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, making it a violation for industry members to sell or ship the products in interstate or foreign commerce.”

In other words, if they are deemed to be in violation of the law, the TTB will consider them in violation of the law.

Good of them to clear that up for us.

In an apparent effort to better reach out to youth and appear hip and current, the FDA went so far as to set up a Flickr page dedicated to pictures of caffeinated alcoholic beverage containers. 

FDA on Flickr

Why? We have no idea. It’s like your grandfather going on about how he’s on Twitter and wants to friend you and OMG he can’t believe U cant C where he’s coming from and you know for a fact that whenever you talk about getting him set up for WiFi he doesn’t say anything because he thinks you have a speech impediment.

Clearly, this issue is too important not to address on a more personal level.  That, plus I don’t much like being told that I can’t do something.  You know how your mother used to ask you, “If Billy jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?” 

No, I wouldn’t.

But if Billy told me I wasn’t allowed to jump off the bridge…

Tomorrow, Four Loko, up close and personal.

J.

November 23, 2010 at 07:59 PM in Current Affairs, Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2010

WARNING: The Surgeon General Has Determined That You Make Decisions Other Than Those The Surgeon General Would Make

To comply with The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come up with some new safety warnings. 

According to the agency:

"These new required warnings would consist of nine new textual warning statements accompanied by color graphics depicting the negative health consequences of smoking."

Here are a couple of colorful examples:

Warning Cigarettes Kill You


Warning Cigarettes Lung Disease

The intent of these new, more dramatic warning labels is to make consumers stop and think about whether or not they remembered to set the DVR to record "CSI Miami."

While the law specified that only “the negative health consequences of smoking” may be depicted, in the interest of truth-in-advertising, we thought we’d create a few labels that depict the more positive side of smoking:

Thin

Productive


  Cool

Work Breaks


Hot

J.

November 10, 2010 at 05:10 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2010

And No, You Can’t Have Fries With That - Part 2

The last time we addressed Californians’ attempt to do something about our nation’s growing epidemic of freedom, Santa Clara County was moving forward with an ordinance to ban “Happy Meals” that come with toys unless they meet certain nutritional criteria determined by people who are not you.

Perhaps emboldened by their courage to take a stand against free choice, San Francisco is currently in the process of developing its own set of Happy Meal regulations.

As San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, the chief proponent of the standards, notes:

''There's nothing more important than the health of our children.”

Which, let’s admit, has for too long been left in the hands of their parents, and not, as is clearly desirable, in the hands of an ethnic studies professor.

One provision being Championed by Mar would mandate that the meals provide children with a serving of fruit or vegetables.  This is designed to ensure that these nutritious foods become a growing part of every Californian landfill.

As Mar says:

"As a parent, it's not just parental choice that decides what meals to serve your children. There's the heavy marketing by an industry that connects food with a toy, and that can be a powerful influence.“

Of course, it’s not just that heavy marketing is a powerful influence on parental choice, it’s that, as in Santa Clara, parents are making the wrong choices.

Really, if you people would just cooperate a little bit more, this would be a whole lot easier.  But if you’re unwilling to choose the apple slices over the French fries, well, somebody is just going to have to make that choice for you.

But don’t feel too badly. Mar doesn’t believe the responsibility really rests with you, anyway, but rather:

“It's the responsibility of the industry to promote healthy choices."

We know what you’re thinking, “I am SO craving a Big Mac right now.”

Also, “I thought it was the responsibility of the industry to provide customers with food they want at prices they are willing to pay.”

That’s the old way of thinking.  The new way is to view restaurants not so much as private businesses offering desirable products at attractive prices but more as social service agencies providing products you would want if you were as good a parent as Eric Mar.

However, Mar is willing to be reasonable.  There is the multigrain compromise for example and a proposal to require only fruit be provided at breakfast, with a legislative aid noting:

"Typically, many people might not eat vegetables for breakfast.”

And people say our leaders are out of touch with the people.

So, to sum up:

  1. You are a bad parent.
  2. McDonald's is irresponsible.
  3. Eric Mar likes children.

Now quit whining and finish your broccoli.  It's the law.

Or at least should be.

J.

September 28, 2010 at 03:13 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 06, 2010

First they came for the Cheerios and I did not speak out because I did not eat Cheerios...


As part of its ongoing effort to ensure that food companies do not engage in speech that has not heretofore been approved by the proper authorities, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on Rice Krispies’ outrageous claims that vitamins are good for you.

Specifically, the FTC objects to claims Rice Krispies “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.”

While there are plenty of studies that suggest such a link exists, it’s important to note that none of these researchers has demonstrated with convincing evidence that they are FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. 

According to Leibowitz, he took the action to ensure that:

"Next time, Kellogg needs to stop and think twice about the claims it's making before rolling out a new ad campaign, so parents can make the best choices for their children."

And by “best” choices parents can make for their children, he means the choices parents would make for their children were they as smart as he is.

But that really only makes sense.  What with his extensive liberal arts background and 20+ years on the public payroll, Leibowitz is uniquely qualified to decide what nutritional information cereal makers should be allowed to present to the general public, most of whom do not have B.A.s in American history never mind any experience working for the government.

(Although if current trends persist, government work experience might become a whole lot more common.)

Leibowitz was particularly offended (pdf) in that he had already chastised Kellogg for claiming that Frosted Mini-Wheats increased children’s attentiveness. This, according to Chairman Leibowitz was “untrue.”

Well, not untrue in the sense that it was false, more that it was untrue in the sense that it wasn’t true in the precise manner and form he prefers. 

Sure, we suppose you could permit parents the opportunity to lay out four bucks on a box of cereal to determine for themselves whether or not Frosted Mini-Wheats helps with their children’s attentiveness or simply allow them to use their own judgment regarding the health claims made by clearly self-interested food manufacturers, but Chairman Leibowitz prefers to take a more progressive, modern approach to governance:

Shut Up

J.

June 6, 2010 at 03:30 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 30, 2010

And No, You Can’t Have Fries With That

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has identified one of the primary causes of childhood obesity:

Inadequate involvement of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in family restaurant decisions.

And they mean to do something about it.

A new ordinance passed this week would prohibit restaurants from offering children free toys with meals that are not as nutritious as the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors thinks they should be.

As Santa Clara Supervisor Ken Yeager explains, the government has a responsibility to keep our kids safe.

And don’t you trust his judgment in keeping your kids safe more than your own?  After all, he has degrees in political science, education, sociology, and education (again).

Part of the problem, according to Yeager, is that kids see commercials for the free toys and start “nagging their parents.” He hopes the ordinance will eliminate this by eliminating the toys.

Because what with all their other responsibilities, the last thing we want to do is to saddle parents with the additional burden of being parents.

And as Dr. Sara Cody, General Internist, Santa Clara County Public Health Department, points out:

“What we're trying to do is support children and their choices.”

By taking them away.

Specifically, the ordinance states:

A Restaurant may not provide an Incentive Item linked to the purchase of a Single Food Item or Meal if it includes any of the following:

(1) Excessive Calories. More than two hundred (200) calories for a Single FoodItem, or more than four-hundred eighty-five (485) calories for a Meal;

(2) Excessive Sodium. More than four-hundred and eighty milligrams (480 mg) of sodium for a Single Food Item, or more than six hundred milligrams (600 mg) of sodium for a Meal;

(3) Excessive Fat. More than thirty-five percent (35%) of total calories from fat, except for fat contained in nuts, seeds, peanut butter or other nut butters, or an individually served or packaged egg, or individually served or packaged low-fat or reduced fat cheese;

(4) Excessive Saturated Fat. More than ten percent (10%) of total calories from saturated fats, except for saturated fat contained in nuts, seeds, peanut butter or other nut butters, an individually served or packaged egg, or individually served or packaged low-fat or reduced fat cheese;

(5) Trans Fat. More than 0.5 grams of trans fat;

The first thing that comes to mind would be McDonald’s popular Happy Meals, however parents concerned about their children’s diet should consider other foods that Santa Clara would consider so unhealthy that they would be subject to a toy ban.

Take, for instance, a couple of slices from a medium Pepperoni Pizza from Domino’s.

Sure, that would fall under the ban.

Well, how about a “Fresco Crunchy Taco” from Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet Menu. That certainly sounds like it would be okay.

Nope.

Okay, let’s try the children’s menu at Applebee’s. A grilled cheese sandwich? That’s pretty standard for…

Sorry, no.

Red Lobster has a good kid’s menu including grilled chicken. Grilling is okay, right?

Try again.

A 3" turkey breast mini sub from Subway?

Nope, still not healthy enough.

But don’t despair, there are still plenty of delicious kid-friendly meals that would pass muster with Santa Clara’s toy ordinance, such as a nice piece of broiled fish from Red Lobster!

Bet your kids won’t be nagging you about that!

And then there’s Subway’s Veggie Delite mini sub.

Side Salad on a Bun Because nothing says “this is a special treat let’s enjoy ourselves for one brief moment absent the cares and worries of an often difficult world” like a side salad on a bun!

Regardless of how you feel about the ordinance, Ken Yeager’s efforts to take toys away from kids should make for an interesting re-election campaign.

Yeager Bumper Sticker

J.

April 30, 2010 at 05:07 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 16, 2010

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut... Unless You Work At The FDA.

Which one of these is such a hazard to your health that it is considered “illegal,” and subject to “seizure or injunction?”

Lays Potato Chips Walnuts If you said “clearly the bag of walnuts,” you just might have what it takes to work at the Food and Drug Administration (“Protecting pharmaceutical industry interests for over 70 years!”) which sent a letter of warning to Diamond Foods, the producer of Diamond walnuts pointing out that:

“Your walnut products are drugs within the meaning of section 201 (g)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(B)]," and as such are not generally recognized as safe and effective.”

Well, sure, anyone could see that.

And isn’t it really just common sense that a bag of potato chips would be healthy as compared to a bag of walnuts? As Frito-Lay points out of their snack food products:

Our all-natural sunflower, corn and soybean oils contain good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help lower total and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and maintain HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels, which can support a healthy heart.”

Contrast this with the outrageous claims made by the makers of Diamond walnuts, (or should that be, “deadly walnuts”):

"[T]here's good evidence that omega-3s can increase HDL (good cholesterol), further reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease."

Whoa, you can’t just go around spreading lies like that.

Well, not lies in the traditional sense of the word, but more like lies in the sense of things the government hasn’t given you permission to say yet.

Which is pretty much the same thing.

Frito-Lay knew this, which is why they heavily lobbied presented sound evidence to the FDA to get permission to promote potato chips as heart healthy. 

However, as with Cheerios last year,  the folks at Diamond Foods made the mistake of providing factual information to consumers without first heavily lobbying presenting evidence to the FDA so as to secure permission ahead of time to point out things that are true.

For example, the FDA notes that this information appears on Diamond's walnut package in clear violation of regulations:

"OMEGA 3 2.5 g per serving."

Where do they get off thinking they can just go around telling consumers what is in their product?  Who do they think they are?  God?  Or possibly Roberta Wagner,
 Director
, Office of Compliance
 Center for Food Safety
and Applied Nutrition at the FDA?

Either, or.

So, the next time you reach for a snack, consider what the people from the government say is healthy.

And grab that bag of Doritos!

J.

April 16, 2010 at 02:48 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 01, 2010

You Are Free To Say Anything You Want. As Long As You Have Prior Approval From The Proper Authorities, Of Course.

Undeterred by recent setbacks in its effort to rid us of the dangers of excessive free speech, the Obama Administration has decided to crack down on Dr. Leslie Baumann, a dermatologist and researcher who had the impertinence to express an opinion that had not been previously approved of by the government.

Upon being made aware of Dr. Baumann’s seditious viewpoint mongering regarding a new anti-wrinkle drug, Dysport, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sprang into action and sent a warning letter (pdf) to Dr. Baumann pointing out that “these promotional communications are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (Act) and FDA’s regulations 21 CFR 312.7(a).”

We know what you’re thinking, “Please tell us more about the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and FDA’s regulations 21 CFR 312.7(a), we find the dry recitation of federal statutes fascinating!”

Also, “You aren’t very good at picking up on sarcasm, are you?”

This regulation specifically states that any “sponsor or investigator… shall not represent in a promotional context that an investigational new drug is safe or effective for the purposes for which it is under investigation or otherwise promote the drug.”

Of course, this only applies if you are, like Dr. Baumann, a sponsor or investigator. Otherwise, you can pretty much say anything you want.

In other words, the federal government believes it is in the public’s best interest to allow the people who know the most about a drug to say the least, and those who know the least, to say the most.

Which does at least explain why Barney Frank is in charge of banking regulation.

While we hesitate to reprint Dr. Baumann’s words for fear of doing further damage, we feel it is important that you appreciate first hand, the severity of her offense.  According to the FDA, she made the following statement on The Today Show:

“It’s time that we have something that lasts a little bit longer, and I’m hoping that the minute the FDA approves this, I’ll be able to use it in my practice.”

 A warning letter?  For this brazen violator of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and FDA’s regulations 21 CFR 312.7(a)?  How about some warning imprisonment instead?!

And Dr. Baumann’s communication crime spree didn’t end there.  The FDA also caught her saying in a magazine article:

“Reloxin, the new Botox, will likely come out later this year. Early data shows it may last longer and kick in faster than Botox. It will be nice to have competition on the market—the Botox people (Allergan) raised their price another 8 percent this year!”

You know you like to think you can keep your children safe from this kind of thing, but there she was, Dr. Leslie “Bonnie Parker” Baumann, recklessly suggesting that people might want to consider this new drug. What if someone took the drug?  Okay, they couldn’t, because it hasn’t been approved yet for sale. But what if someone thought about taking this drug?  What then? 

No, seriously, what then, because we’re not 100% sure.

Of course, free-speech extremists might point out that you could always just permit the doctor to speak her mind and rely on individuals to weigh her opinion against her obvious self-interests, her reputation, the efficacy of her past recommendations, and the opinions of other experts they have grown to trust, all available as never before with the advent of the Internet and information technology. 

Yeah, you could do that.

But isn’t it better to let the government preemptively make it illegal for her to disseminate information of which it disapproves?

It's just so messy the other way.

J.

February 1, 2010 at 05:23 PM in Current Affairs, Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack