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Government Politics Science

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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:39PM (#39563117)

    Insofar as Obama is also right-wing, you're correct. Don't confuse what passes for left-wing politics in the US with the actual thing.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:45PM (#39563203)

    For those who didn't read the article, it's not so much anti science as pro-politics. Making sure the message is not negative: "The Bush administration repeatedly stopped the FDA from issuing rules to prevent contamination of eggs, produce and other foods, though both industry and consumer groups agreed they were needed as the death toll rose from such incidents. Mr. Bushâ(TM)s health department also demanded that it approve all agency press releases.

    Much of the agencyâ(TM)s staff assumed that the Obama administration would restore the agencyâ(TM)s independence. [But] a decision that had nothing to do with the F.D.A. proved the turning point in the agencyâ(TM)s relationship with the White House. In the midst of the bitter 2009 battle to pass a law to provide health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans, the United States Preventive Services Task Force announced in November that most women should not get routine mammograms until age 50 because the risks of the X-ray screens and surgical biopsies that often follow outweighed the benefits in younger women.

    Although the task force did not consider cost in its analysis, Republicans charged that its recommendation was the start of health care rationing, an accusation given prominent play on Fox News.

    "That scared the bejesus out of everybody," a top F.D.A. official said. The Obama administration became extremely risk averse, fearing further controversies might jeopardize the passage of health care reform, agency and administration officials said. It refused many interview requests for agency officials and scientists until the health law passed.

    "To the career people, that was disappointing. Employees here waited eight long years for deliverance that didnâ(TM)t come."

  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:03PM (#39563477) Homepage Journal

    You don't have an unimpinged right to choose if you're prevented from getting all the facts, fuckwit. This is an attempt to let consumers have the facts SO THEY CAN MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.

    You are entitled to your own opinions. You are *not* entitled to your own facts.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:08PM (#39563577)

    A free market only works if the consumer is making informed decisions about what they are buying. Adding calorie/nutrition information to food products gives them that information. Publishing reports about Foxconn workers committing suicides also helps consumers be informed.

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

    by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:12PM (#39563653) Homepage Journal

    Calorie denialism is just another symptom of the Republicans needing to disagree with the Other at every turn.

  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:26PM (#39563887) Journal

    Republicans distrust any science that disagrees with what they believe, and then call it politicized. Democrats do the same damn thing.

    That being said, it seems a lot more disagrees with the republicans than democrats, and the republicans do seem to extrapolate to a lot of 'neutral' science in their mistrust.

    And neither side is against big government. Disagreement only seems to be as to which part of the government should be bigger.

  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:58PM (#39564281) Homepage Journal

    Holy fuck, dude, wtf is wrong with posting calories in food? It's meaningless to me, as I have no weight problem (I have problems putting it on, not taking it off), but I know a lot of fatasses who could use all the help they can get shedding pounds.

    Nobody's saying "fattening foods are illegal". What it is is simple education -- popcorn's not supposed to make you fat. But a whole bucketful of it swimming in trans fats? Hell yes a whole bucketful is fattening, print the "10,000 calories, 9,000 from trans fat" on the tub.

    I'd like to see a truth in labeling law. I worked at a drive in theater when I was a teenager, and the "butter" for the popcorn was hydrogenated soybean oil. So someone thinks they're getting butter (caloric but good cholesterol) when they're raising their bad cholesterol.

    Jesus H Christ, you want the freedom to rip me off and poison me? Typical right wing... corporate rights foremost, human beings' rights don't matter. I should have the right to know what I'm eating. Making you print the damned TRUTH about what you're selling is hardly something to get bent out of shape about.

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

    by MimeticLie ( 1866406 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @04:40PM (#39564827)

    Bill Maher's like the left-wing Rush Limbaugh from what I understand.

    Except people actually listen to Rush Limbaugh.

  • Re:Broadly true. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Larryish ( 1215510 ) <larryish@gmail . c om> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @08:16PM (#39567271)

    http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~lhom/organictext.html [berkeley.edu]

    Contrary to what most people believe, "organic" does not automatically mean "pesticide-free" or "chemical-free". In fact, under the laws of most states, organic farmers are allowed to use a wide variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops.

    So what does organic mean? It means that these pesticides, if used, must be derived from natural sources, not synthetically manufactured. Also, these pesticides must be applied using equipment that has not been used to apply any synthetic materials for the past three years, and the land being planted cannot have been treated with synthetic materials for that period either.

    Most organic farmers (and even some conventional farmers, too) employ mechanical and cultural tools to help control pests. These include insect traps, careful crop selection (there are a growing number of disease-resistant varieties), and biological controls (such as predator insects and beneficial microorganisms).

    When you test synthetic chemicals for their ability to cause cancer, you find that about half of them are carcinogenic.

    Until recently, nobody bothered to look at natural chemicals (such as organic pesticides), because it was assumed that they posed little risk. But when the studies were done, the results were somewhat shocking: you find that about half of the natural chemicals studied are carcinogenic as well.

    This is a case where everyone (consumers, farmers, researchers) made the same, dangerous mistake. We assumed that "natural" chemicals were automatically better and safer than synthetic materials, and we were wrong. It's important that we be more prudent in our acceptance of "natural" as being innocuous and harmless.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?