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The Politics of the F.D.A. 238

A fight over posting calorie counts for popcorn is just one example of the clash between the White House and the agency charged with protecting public health. Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the F.D.A. commissioner, was forced to scrap plans to have calorie counts posted for foods served in movie theaters and on airplanes after a phone call from the White House deputy chief of staff in 2010. From the article: "White House officials describe their disagreements with the F.D.A. as part of the normal, constructive give-and-take over policy that has never undermined the agency’s mission. 'Under President Obama’s leadership, the Food and Drug Administration has new authority and resources to help stop kids from smoking, protect our food supply and approve more affordable prescription drugs,' said the White House press secretary, Jay Carney. The administration also views the agency’s hostility to its oversight as hopelessly naïve, given a 24-hour news cycle and a ferocious political environment that punishes any misstep. 'They want a world that doesn’t exist anymore,' an administration official said."
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The Politics of the F.D.A.

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  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:54PM (#39563337)

    BTW what's wrong with movie popcorn that it needs a label? I eat popcorn almost every day, and it's only ~300 calories. (I guess the theater dobs-on lots of butter.) Such a regulation would increase cost though. And they aren't in the best financial health, what with competition from HDTV and home viewing.

    Another interesting quote from the article:

    "In February 2011, the F.D.A. approved an application from KV Pharmaceutical to sell 17P, a decades-old drug used to prevent premature births. Since KVâ(TM)s version, called Makena, was the only one officially approved, the F.D.A. would normally have banned the sale of cheaper unapproved ones. To the agency, the only issue was that KVâ(TM)s drug offered guaranteed safety while those made by pharmacists were riskier.

    "For years, pharmacists had been making unapproved versions of this injectable form of progesterone for $200 to $400 for a 20-week course. Though F.D.A. officials worried about repeated instances over the years when other pharmacy-made drugs had been found to lack potency or be contaminated with deadly bacteria.

    "Once it had won F.D.A. approval, KV announced its price â" $30,000 for a 20-week treatment, a hundredfold increase. Administration officials then stepped in to halt any effort to ban pharmacy-made versions, citing the need to check an exorbitant price increase from a drug company that suddenly found itself with a monopoly, an increase that could burden women who needed the drug. The administration instructed the F.D.A. to issue a press release stating that, "at this time and under this unique situation, F.D.A. does not intend to take enforcement action against pharmacies" that make unapproved versions of 17P. An administration official said that the health department and the F.D.A. worked together on the 17P issue and that the White House was not involved. "The notion that the statement or the action was somehow forced down F.D.A.â(TM)s throat isnâ(TM)t accurate," the administration official said. "F.D.A. officials said they had often been wrongly accused of considering price in drug approval deliberations and had always been able to reply that price was never a factor.

    "We canâ(TM)t say that anymore," a top F.D.A. official said unhappily. Four months later, the White House approved a requirement that sunscreens protect equally against two kinds of the sunâ(TM)s radiation, UVB and UVA, to earn the coveted designation of offering broad spectrum protection.

    "Top F.D.A. officials wanted to prohibit lotions with sun protection factors, or SPFs, of less than 15 from being called sunscreens because they do not protect against cancer or skin aging, while the administration insisted they could still be called sunscreens as long as they carried a label that said such lotions were ineffective."

  • by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:08PM (#39563579)

    Personally I view it as protecting the right to sin. We have to have free choice, which means we have to have the right to be able to freely choose what is wrong for both us and society.

    how can the choice be truly free if you don't have access to information about your choice? And how is legislating access to information impinging on your freedom? You can still eat a 1500kcal popcorn bucket if you so choose, nobody is forcing you to look at the nutritional information label.

    It's just like if all food also had a carbon impact value as part of its labeling, you could still easily decide to buy fresh fruit from out of season imported from halfway around the world, or buy that coffee table you like so much made from rainforest wood, you just would be fully aware of the ramifications of your choice.

    Or are you saying that having the information available infringes your right to be ignorant? in that case do you really believe your choice is free when you don't know if it's right/wrong for you/society (regardless if you want to choose right or wrong)? and what about the right of people that actually *do* want to make informed choices and so need the carbon/environmental/calorie data, shouldn't their rights be protected?

  • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jomama717 ( 779243 ) <> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:12PM (#39563633) Journal
    I seriously think that. I wish calorie information was on all foods, everywhere. I believe this simple act would get a huge number of people to wake up and realize what they are doing to themselves. I used to weight 248 lbs. - way too close to the psychological 250 barrier, so I started counting calories and limiting them to a certain number daily. I was blindly consuming anywhere from 3000-4000 calories a day without realizing or caring, and cut it down to ~2000. No fad diet, didn't cut out candy or cheeseburgers, just counted calories. I lost 36 lbs. in 3 months and now a year since starting I have weighed 205 consistently for 9 months. I'm off blood pressure medication, feel fantastic. I still eat and drink what I want I just do it in moderation, and now in a way that maximizes the amount of actual food I can eat while minimizing caloric intake, which ends up steering you to good food that is high in protein and low in fats and sugars. Absolutely no down side to making people aware of what they are eating.
  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:21PM (#39563807) Homepage

    "Republicans are not distrustful of Science, they are distrustful of politicized scientists and various hangers on." - This is flatly untrue. Republicans deny or abuse science when science interferes with their pro-business agenda (the tobacco-cause-cancer and CO2-causes-global warming denial being a great examples thereof), or when they want it to say things it doesn't (like about fetal pain in early stages of pregnancy). Go read this book [].

  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Reverand Dave ( 1959652 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:21PM (#39563817)
    It's widely known and even some scientists hold the point of view that calories are a myth that is based on shaky science. God gave us these calories to use as we see fit, not the other way around!

    Jesus how do the global warming denialists do that? I think my IQ dropped a few points just thinking that phrase.
  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Elbereth ( 58257 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:30PM (#39563931) Journal

    Bill Maher is an outright germ theory denier []. Most of the Republican party denies evolution and global warming. The Democrats are slightly better, in my opinion, but they've still got a bunch of flakes who have elevated a good idea (organic food) into some kind of pseudo-religion. My sister is like that. She thinks that organic food has magical properties that make it somehow better than any other food. She also refuses to give her kids vaccines. It's funny, because she'll rant about how anti-science the Republicans are in one breath, then rant about some bizarre anti-vaccine conspiracy theory in the next.

    People are hypocritical, ignorant morons. That includes you, me, and everyone else. Thinking that you're immune to this kind of cognitive bias is yet another form of cognitive bias [] (known as bias blind spot []).

  • by metrometro ( 1092237 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @04:47PM (#39564935)

    > BTW what's wrong with movie popcorn that it needs a label?

    Because some theaters use really bad oils to save money. []

    Money quote: "You can get one kind of popcorn with three grams of saturated fat and roughly the same size at another theatre with 38 grams of saturated fat. That's just a phenomenal difference," said Bill Jeffery of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest in Ottawa. "These are things that you can't tell by tasting."

  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:4, Informative)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:16PM (#39565369) Homepage Journal

    I honestly don't think anyone is that stupid.

    You've obviously never worked at a job where you face and have to deal with the general public.

    Growing up, and early in school, I worked as a busboy in restaurants, when old enough a waiter and bartender. I've also worked retails....and from those experiences, you basically understand that about 90% of the people out there are pretty much fucked in the head...stupid....idiots.

    I don't say that lightly...but when you deal with the avg "joe" on a daily basis, it really just kills you to see the ignorance and just general lack of display of intelligence out there. This was pretty far back for me, and I have to imagine in this day in is even worse.

    As hard as it is to believe, yes...there are a LOT of people out there, that do not comprehend that eating McD burgers and fries multiple times a week (hell, multiple times a DAY), washing it down with full sugar cokes....and having Twinkies as snacks in between those meals...will kill them and make them fat.

    Yes, there are a lot of them out there, that are that stupid.

    I know I come off sounding very elitist when I mention things like this....but after working those jobs, and talking to others that have done the same for any significant length of time, you sadly have to admit it is true. And when you understand that, well, I just am not surprised that much anymore by any strange news report, or anything 'interesting' I come across while observing the common man in the street.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."