Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cheerios Is a Drug

Yes, indeedy, those tiny donut shaped, whole wheat Cheerios are now officially a drug, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Amazing! You can’t get high on Cheerios. Nor can you OD on them. They’re not addictive; nothing happens if you cold turkey Cheerios, unlike caffeine - not that I recommend eating cold turkey and cold Cheerios at the same time. No law prohibits driving while under the influence of Cheerios.

Cheerios are among the healthiest breakfast cereal we can eat. They don’t contain excessive amounts either of sugar or salt. Trans fats are missing. They lack glaze, frosting, powdered sugar and sugared gel.

I don’t even know if Cheerios should be singular or plural, but I do know now that they now constitute a drug. They don’t cure any disease. Nor do they ameliorate symptoms. Noone gets vaccinated with Cheerios. They don’t fight colds, unlike Vitamin C.

But the FDA has declared they are a drug.

The Food and Drug Administration is probably, of all the regulatory agencies, the most critical to the health and safety of the American people. Its duty is to protect us against deleterious food, beverages, cosmetics, and drugs.

This task is impossible. No agency, no billions of dollars, no millions of food and drug inspectors can protect us against the infinite sources of contamination in our food and beverages, or even the adverse health effects of prescription drugs decades later. For example, third generation claims are arising out of DES ingested by grandmothers 4-5 decades ago.

In recent years the FDA has been bedeviled by scallions, onions, tomatoes, peanuts, pistachios, E-Coli, listeria, salmonella, hepatitis, wheat gluten, pet foods, heparin, and Vioxx. Earlier it wrestled with Red Food Dye #2. Politicians have taken pot shots at the agency for decades because of its inability to guarantee our food and drugs are safe.

The FDA was grew out of the Progressive Era as a response to Upton Sinclair’s great “novel” The Jungle. Revelations of human body parts in our meat processed by slaughter houses. In spite of the presence of FDA inspectors, a large slaughter house was recently caught on video sending downed cattle (downers) to be slaughtered and processed into our food supply, often as beef in our school lunch programs. Human digits still show up in our food.

For several decades the FDA was charged with an impossible task under the now repealed 1958 Delaney Amendment – a zero risk of cancer in humans or animals from food additives. Hordes of Norwegian white rats, which have little relationship to humans (except for the occasional lawyer joke) were sacrificed in tests for animal carcinogenesis. If they succumbed to cancer, then the food product or drug violated the Delaney Amendment. The rat and mice tests were so unreliable that lab mice and rats never developed lung cancer no matter haw many cigarettes they inhaled.

Unable to protect us from unhealthy foods, the FDA now proposes to protect us from healthy foods. The FDA~bureaucrats have found a food battle they can win.

The FDA wrote a warning letter dated May 5 to General Mills complaining of its claims that Cheerios “can lower your cholesterol by 4% in six weeks.” Dr. Steven Sundloff, in charge of the Center for Food Safety explains that the labeling “clinically proven to help lower cholesterol” carries a drug claim. Thus, General Mills was essentially marketing Cheerios as a drug. The FDA advised general Mills that if it wishes to continue these claims, it needs to file a new-drug application for Cheerios with the FDA.

Unless General Mills “promptly corrects” the violations outlined by the FDA, the agency reserved the right to take corrective actions, including seizing the product.

The problem is that the FDA will allow a company to clam, in a generic way, that its food product is healthy, but if it gets specific than the FDA will step in. The devil is in th efood details.

I miss the days of Wonder Bread builing healthy young bodies in 11 (or wads it 12) different ways.

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