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Sunday, May 9, 2010

What's Up With the FDA?

My mother in law, Mickie, is a faithful reader of this blog. She emailed me the following, and I thought it had so many good points that I should just include the whole thing! Below her email I shared my thoughts on the subject: "What's up with the FDA":

"My question is ..What's up with the FDA?
Years ago they told us that Saccharin can cause bladder cancer and issued a Warning.

Now when you look up the long list of artificial sweeteners, it includes Saccharin. They now say that it is considered a "mild carcinogen" and proceed to make a table of how much is considered a safe amount to consume.

There seems to be a public demand for an artificial sweetener so they keep coming up with them. After time passes the FDA admits they are harmful, but eventually allows them to be back on the "safe list" once again. How can this be?

I read an article recently about Folic Acid. The FDA knew it was important for pregnant women to get enough of this, but then the cereal and other food companies started adding it in their products in large amounts. Then one doesn't realize how much they are getting. Anyone that is not pregnant does not need the amount they are sometimes automatically getting. It is now known that it can be harmful in large amounts. Most people don't realize this and the FDA is not helping us at all.

We are all aware of the harm that hydrogenated oil has, even partially hydrogenated.  Check the ingredients in a small package of Jiffy cornmeal muffin mix. They are still using fully Hydrogenated 
Lard in that mix. The FDA is not helping us control the problem here either.

I think we have to be aware that we, as mothers might just have to control the problem ourselves. A lot of mothers are focusing on reading labels on packaged foods these days, which is good.  I think we need to continue to research and stay informed on food additives as much as possible. They fluctuate with time.

All this is pretty scary....consuming safe, whole foods should be a matter of utmost importance for every Mother.  
I commend your efforts in your blog!"

Thanks, Mickie, for bringing this up.

This is a subject I hadn't looked into much, so I spent some time on the FDA's official website. Just browsing the website was overwhelming. The FDA's motto is "Protecting and Promoting Your Health." They are responsible for Food and Drugs, but also Cosmetics, Tobacco, Medical Devices and more.

I read that they are responsible for "taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement after it reaches market." (my italics)  The manufacturer is responsible for telling the public what's in a supplement.  So, as far as supplements are concerned, just because it's being sold doesn't mean it's safe. The people making the products are responsible for telling us how safe it is. (Sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse to me.) And then, after it has already been sold, the FDA will take action if it is unsafe. Umm... really, FDA? How will that protect my health if I've already bought and used that supplement?

I read a bit in the section on food additives. They said, 'some people might be allergic or have reactions to color dyes, but it's not a high percentage, so we're just going to put it on the label so you can avoid it if you want to.' The corn muffin mix with hydrogenated oil would probably come under the same category. I imagine the official policy would be, 'Well, some studies show it's bad for you, but we've got a lot to do here, so we'll tell the manufacturers to go ahead and put a label on it, and you can avoid it if you want to.' Or in other words, "No Lifeguard on Duty here: Eat at your own risk."

For a government agency who is trying to protect and promote our health, it sure seems like they are leaving a lot of the protecting our health up to us. The FDA says, "Some additives could be eliminated if we were willing to grow our own food, harvest and grind it, spend many hours cooking and canning, or accept increased risks of food spoilage. But most consumers today rely on the many technological, aesthetic and convenient benefits that additives provide." 

I think many consumers today rely on these benefits because these foods are so readily available!  If the FDA didn't allow them to be sold in the stores, then people would go back to the basics of cooking, canning and even growing their own food. 

The good news is that, whether the government is promoting and protecting our health or not, we can protect the health of ourselves and our families. Be willing to grow your own food, harvest, grind, cook and can. I'd rather accept those risks than the risks of being "protected" by the FDA.


  1. I don't want the FDA protecting me anyway. The last thing this country needs is to be told what can and can't be sold as food. I'm not a fan of the hydrogenated lard in the Jiffy Mix but I don't want the FDA to step up and remove it because laws that prohibit people from eating food sometimes come back to bite us. Thus, raw milk is illegal to sell in Montana. What is BEST is for everyone to be informed and make up their own minds. The government needs to butt out.

  2. Kris, That's really a good point. It seems like it's all pretty backward, doesn't it? They step in where we wish they wouldn't and don't step in on other issues. But still, there is irony that they say they are here to protect us when they aren't really doing that part of their job in so many cases.