The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employs thousands of bureaucrats and spends billions of dollars annually in a supposed effort to ensure various food products, drugs and cosmetics are safe. However, like virtually every federal regulatory agency, the FDA has a pronounced tendency to take itself far too seriously, and to constantly overreach. It did this several years ago, for example, when it attempted to force a Georgia mother who had assembled a simple kit to afford parents a cheap and private way to test their children for illicit drug usage, to submit her home drug-testing kit to the FDA as a sophisticated “medical device” on par with a pacemaker heart device.
Well, those wild and crazy guys at FDA are at it again. Apparently some FDA regulator was pouring his kid or himself a bowl of Cheerios recently, and noticed that the box containing one of the most popular cereals of all time contained a claim that the product could help reduce cholesterol. Realizing that this was a product not yet considered subject to the heavy hand of FDA regulation, the agency has written General Mills and accused the cereal’s manufacturer of making illegal and unauthorized “health claims.” These regulators — obviously suffering from too much time on their hands and too much power in their pockets — are making the ludicrous claim that in making its cholesterol-lowering claims about Cheerios, General Mills is marketing a “drug.” If the boxes of little, donut-shaped oat products contain “drugs,” then in the eyes of the FDA, the product is subject to the extensive and expensive panoply of FDA regulations and restrictions that now apply to pharmaceuticals.
Can you imagine the consequences if this nonsense is allowed to stand; not just for Cheerios, but for every other cereal and food product that includes in its labeling or advertising some health-related claim? Dannon’s claim, for example, that its “Activia” yogurt product “helps naturally regulate your digestive system,” certainly would become suspect. Quaker’s “Puffed Rice” might be brought before the FDA inquisitors for daring to claim its cereal enhances “lower carb lifestyles.” The list of potential food-marketing transgressions whose manufacturers could be hauled before the FDA Star Chamber truly would be endless.
Before General Mills could market a new variant of its venerable Cheerios product, for example, it would have to engage in years of testing and protocols such as currently are required of pharmaceutical companies before they are able to market beneficial drugs to consumers. Supermarket shelves would become bland and devoid of many of the new products consumers come to expect to be able to bring to their families.
Our supermarket shelves would come to resemble the nearly bare and colorless food markets of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. But, through it all, our wonderfully self-righteous and self-absorbed FDA folks would prosper.