This week I would like to pose a question that should, but often is not, on everyones’ minds- who is in control of making sure that the food, drugs, and anything else we put into our bodies is safe for us as consumers?
Surprisingly enough, you may not like the answer.
According to a recent report from the UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), things are far from “okay” within the government agencies that are supposed to be protecting us- more specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and organizations like it.
A survey they conducted suggests that there is huge external influence on the factors that determine the changes the FDA regularly makes to policies on food and drug produce. What is particularly startling is that this study was conducted with sources from inside these agencies. It concluded that at least 25% of the people in these agencies believe that, “corporate interests regularly force the agencies to change or remove policies that hurt their bottom line, even when those policies protect the public.”
The survey of these 8,000 workers also concluded that 40% of them believe that these “practices harm public health in order to appease corporate interests.”
Also alarmingly, 30% of these workers believe that “many of the higher-ups at both the FDA and USDA “inappropriately” influence decision making, in addition to having previously worked in the food industry.”
How then have these people been allowed to attain these positions, and more importantly, stay in them?
The answer purely is power and government dominance over the industry. If someone from within one of these agencies should raise questions or go against the protocol of the FDA, there will be repercussions. Dean Wyatt was one such worker who was in charge of slaughterhouse inspections and believed that the standards suggested by the FDA were not beneficial and potentially harmful to the public. When Wyatt actually did his job and reported the infractions that he discovered, he was actually demoted from his position.
Wyatt describes the situation as the following: “Not only is there lack of support, but there’s outright obstruction, retaliation and abuse of power.”
Now to approach the pharmaceutical component of this situation, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which has been highly revered as an institution focused on protecting the public from diseases, in fact has been cited as doing the opposite on multiple occasions.
According to therefusers.com, Dr. Brian Hooker, PhD Scientist, discovered from “his more than 100 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests [that] have resulted in copious evidence that the vaccine preservative Thimerosal, which is still used in the flu shot that is administered to pregnant women and infants, can cause autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.”
Hooker’s report clearly stated that the release of these documents “proves unequivocally that in 2000, CDC officials were informed internally of the very high risk of autism, non-organic sleep disorder and speech disorder associated with Thimerosal exposure.” This report was then analyzed by CDC epidemiologist Thomas Verstraeten, MD.
After these results were exposed and the public was made aware of this problem, Congress called for the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act 1997, which included the more intensive studying of the affects of mercury in drugs, particularly the affects it had on the development of autism in children.
Then in 1999, the FDA requested that all “vaccine manufacturers eliminate mercury from vaccines.”
You might be thinking now, “as unfortunate as that situation was some ten years ago, at least the problem was addressed and corrected, right?” Wrong.
As this was merely a “request” by the FDA and, as we have seen already that the FDA has a history of not limiting the economic capabilities of its larger industries (the pharmaceutical industry being the largest), this request was simply not given a second thought as it would hurt their bottom line.
How could this have happened? Shouldn’t there be some form of system in place to prevent this obvious problem from harming the public?
The answer, as it was earlier as well, is simply another loophole in the system.
Under the FDA’s requirements, “ingredients that comprise less than 1 percent of a product do not have to be divulged on the label.” Put simply, because mercury and other damaging preservatives and ingredients in these drugs that were causing autism in children were small enough, they were able to simply slip under the radar of detection provided by the FDA.
If there that should be changed within the American Healthcare system in terms of reform, higher regulation of the pharmaceutical industry is most definitely at the top of this list. The government needs to be more accountable and less persuadable by big corporations that have extensive fiscal and lobbying influence in Washington. This is a problem that is not partisan, its American.
Pharmaceutical lobbyists endorse whatever candidates they believe will win so they will constantly have influence over these government agencies. They also are significantly more likely to achieve positions within these agencies where they can directly influence and have a hand in the policy-making process.
Not surprisingly, when you want to better understand the changes within what is “recommended” by these organizations to consumers, you will likely find a correlation between the change and who was in charge of the department that initiated it.
For instance, when the recommended amount of milk consumption increased from two to three glasses per day for people ages 9 and older, the Secretary of the USDA was an agricultural entrepreneur who was heavily invested in the dairy industry.
Interestingly enough, most food scientists and dietary doctors will now argue against the consumption of milk at all, stressing that it actually increases your chance of acquiring adverse health effects including prostate cancer (in men) and obesity to name only a couple examples. They recommend soy (more specifically almond) milk as an alternative to actual milk which is high in fat and completely unnecessary, even for bone health, after the the pre-adolescent age.
If the government “pulls the wool” over our eyes, how can we be expected to make healthy decisions and thus have less health problems, when they are causing a majority of them through misleading information and back-door deals with large food and drug industries? This is the agonizing “Catch 22” that we all currently live in.
In closing, I encourage all of my fellow Mainers to investigate deeper into their consumption habits with more skepticism. We should also keep these factors in mind when considering Mainecare reform and how people’s consumption of produce and drugs play into the healthcare industry in Maine.
Reform starts at the top. This means holding the government and its agencies more responsible and requiring more transparency throughout the whole system, not just vertically, but horizontally, to all areas that “feed” into the healthcare system in America.