Bob Haase’s Another Can of Worms

The Problem with Politics and the FDA

I started out doing some research for today’s commentary and I got off on so many tangents that I did not know where to begin, let alone come up with a title.  I did however come up with enough material to probably last me a year. While on last week’s trip to Arkansas, I picked up some junk food that I knew I should not be eating.  It was one of those Hostess Fruit Pie’s and when I looked at all the ingredients I wondered what those ingredients were.  When I got home I spent time on the computer looking up all the ingredients.  This led me to food additives, to the FDA, and then I realized how these problems are related to today’s political problems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for making sure that the foods, dietary supplements, and drugs are safe to take and other things like cosmetics are safe to use.  You might think that they would be looking out for our best interest when it comes to our health and safety.  Wrong!  The problem is that at least half of the cost of funding this agency comes from drug companies, agricultural agencies, and food producers.  If  the FDA wants to maintain their funding and their jobs they need to base many of their decisions on what is best for their financial supporters and not you and I.  If you think that the financial support of these companies does not bias their decisions you might also think that the financial support of our politicians from large companies and corporations does not influence their decisions either.

Many of the food additives that are put in our foods are banned in most European countries.   Genetically altered grains that are used to make our breads are not allowed to be used in many other countries because of health concerns.  When our food looks good we tend to eat more of it so we add food coloring to maintain or change the color of our foods.  The FDA still approves the use coal tar derived food dyes such as FDC Yellow 5 and 6 which are banned in most European countries.  Studies have associated increases in hyperactivity in children and other health problems with the use of these dyes.

The problem is that when we think we are eating healthy we are eating food with additives that do just the opposite.  An example would be the ingredient Olestra which Proctor and Gamble Company developed at a cost of around a half billion dollars and was approved by the FDA for making “light chips”.   This fat substitute causes depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids that removes valuable nutrients and causes some serious health problems.  It is banned in the U.K. and Canada but is approved for use in the United States.

Other ingredients that are banned in other countries because of serious health risks but approved by the FDA for use here include: Brominated vegetable oil, Potassium bromate, Asodicarbonide, BHA and BHT,  rBGH and rBST, and Arsenic. By using some of these chemicals and other ingredients in raising beef and poultry and as ingredients in our food,  food producers and manufacturers can make a lot more money but at what cost to our health?

The United States pays more in health care cost that any other country but we do not have the same quality of health as other countries spending much less.  Could it be that the FDA and our politicians have something in common?  Could it be that they are more concerned about the companies and corporations that provide much of their financial support than the people that they are suppose to represent and protect?  Maybe it is time to put a cap on spending and use tax dollars to support the funding of the FDA and political campaigns.  If this was done the FDA might be more interested in protecting the people and our politicians might be more interested in serving the people they are suppose to represent instead of large companies and corporations and their political party.

Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m.