Watchdog Groups Criticize FDAWatchdog Groups Criticize FDA
July 24, 2006
WASHINGTON—On the verge of its 100-year anniversary celebration, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does little to reduce diet- and drug-related disease in America, according to Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
Among its diet-related failures, the groups say FDA has not adequately protected against obesity by putting warning labels on sugary foods, including soda. They further questioned why FDA hasn’t revoked the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of salt, a culprit in high blood pressure, and made it a food additive. Also at issue, FDA has only four of its 11,000 employees policing food labels, resulting in a plethora of mislabeled foods, a situation they say is further complicated by the allowance of various “misleading” qualified health claims. FDA was also criticized for its failures in ensuring food safety, as well as for its failure to counter heart disease rates by calling for full disclosure of hydrogenated fats, especially in restaurants.
“A scrappy nonprofit like CSPI, with one litigator on staff, forced labeling changes from major companies like Tropicana, Frito-Lay and Pinnacle Foods,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI. “Yet when we hand the FDA neatly wrapped complaints on a silver platter, it just ignores them.”
While acknowledging FDA has many hardworking civil servants, the two groups chided the Bush Administration and Congress for failing to provide adequate resources to FDA, “leaving the agency rudderless and without a permanent commissioner for roughly 70 percent of the Bush presidency ... and by abdicating much of [Congress’s] oversight responsibility and by slashing the staffing of the food side of the agency by 11 percent since 1978.”
“The FDA’s centennial is not so much a time to celebrate, but to mourn the FDA’s gradual descent into irrelevancy,” Jacobson said. “The great Republican president Theodore Roosevelt would be sick to his stomach if he could see how Harvey Wiley’s hard-charging tiger of an agency became such a pliant pussycat.”
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