FDA Needs to Get a Life

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.

37 comments Add your comment


May 18th, 2009
9:02 am

You’re right; food manufacturers should be allowed to put whatever claims they want on their products, no matter how little evidence they have to back it up.

And as long as meat passes the “sniff test,” it should be sold for public consumption too. Great idea!


May 18th, 2009
9:13 am

Where do you get the information that they are claiming it must be considered a drug?

The are the FOOD and drug Administration, so regulating food is part of their job. Perhaps you should read “The Jungle” again.


May 18th, 2009
9:14 am

What makes the FDA’s actions even more absurd is that this is the very same agency that does not regulate herbals and supplements, and industry that often make claims that are not supported by any meaningful controlled research — even though some supplements may do actual harm to some individuals. Then, too, the FDA has approved medications that were subsequently determined to pose unacceptable risks.

The FDA is a system that has been broken for a long time, but I don’t expect to see it fixed any time in the foreseeable future.


May 18th, 2009
9:29 am

The FDA is nothing more than a ‘tombstone agency’, much like the FAA. Nothing proactive comes from them until the bodycounts rise. Consider that these are the some fools that regulate tobacco; a know poison, and then get all bunched up over cereal and it’s a wonder how a thinking individual could support their agenda.

sane jane

May 18th, 2009
9:38 am

Dissent, I agree that the FDA may be a broken regulatory agency but your pronouncement that the FDA “doesn’t regulate” herbals & supplements is an oft-used (and quite wrong) canard. One of my clients is a line of nutritional supplements and what you’re saying is hogwash.

I believe you’re referring to a line of legal copy that reads (essentially), “These statements have not been reviewed by the FDA; this product is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease.”

What this line means is that the CLAIMS have not been approved by the FDA. (”promote a healthy digestive tract”, etc.) The ingredients themselves are subjected to the same scrutiny as any other food product. (whether that scrutiny is satisfactory enough, however, is a debatable position)

Please learn a bit more about the topic before making such inflammatory statements.


May 18th, 2009
9:53 am

Copyleft @ 9:02 am

Thank you for an early Monday morning laugh…that post was hilarious!

the evil rich

May 18th, 2009
10:05 am

Oh yeah, the FDA does a bang up job, just like the IRS, CDC, postal service and FCC


May 18th, 2009
10:15 am

It’s yet another government agency getting it’s panties in a bunch. Considering whole grains and oats HAVE been proven to HELP lower cholesterol, this is all a bunch of BS. But then that’s all that’s been coming out of the government for years now.

Brad Steel

May 18th, 2009
10:26 am

Great point, Bob! You spend way too little time demonizing government.

You should go after the SEC too. They are way too hard on Wall Street. They were up AIG’s heezy so much that they could barely operate their credit default swap business.


May 18th, 2009
10:30 am

I frequently agree with Mr. Barr but he is way off on this one. AS someone who has worked in an industry regulated by the FDA for over 25 years I have to say they do a good job. They would do a better job if not used and abused by politicians of all stripes. The ignorance in some of these comments about what the FDA does and is supposed to do is truly mind boggling. There is no understadning of scientific experiments, interpretation of data or the effects of foods and drugs.


May 18th, 2009
10:51 am

Is not the answer simple! Just sell it as food and claim nothing. Honey toasted cheerios! Great breakfast! I am into quality of life and not quantity but again I am a product of public schools.


May 18th, 2009
10:57 am

Off subject! Did you hear how the King wanted the catholic church to compromise its morals and beliefs. It was a disgrace! Anyone but a progressive liberal would invite another progressive liberal to church who is an abortionist to present a honorary degree. Torture is bad but pullling a body apart is OK.
The one in charge of Notre Dame should be replaced.

Carrollton's libertarian

May 18th, 2009
11:27 am


Maybe you should read “1984″ and the “Brave New World” again. Name one thing the government has done right. Look how Ford has prospered and GM hasn’t. Ford took no money. Oh yes, read Animal Farm too.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 18th, 2009
11:58 am

And to think, the idiot government will run our health care.


May 18th, 2009
12:11 pm

What a bitter old man with a silly moustache.


May 18th, 2009
12:37 pm

Yeah, this post made me immediately think of the word “crank”.

Bob, there are definite targets for waste and abuse in government, but complaining about the FDA doing their job to regulate health claims in food and drugs is right up there with Bobby Jindal ridiculing “monitoring volcanic activity”… which quickly sank his political stock.

kj: the ingredients you mentioned may have indeed been shown to possibly help lower cholesterol, but a funny thing happens at food plants between “ingredients” and “finished product” that oftentimes removes all of the benefits of the ingredients.


May 18th, 2009
1:20 pm

Honestly, Bob, you’ll say anything, just to create argument. Read the whole story, Bob. You, as usual, have it all wrong in what they are asking Cheerios to do and why. I think you like to make up things to make yourself look important since there is no substance behind most of your rantings. You are looking pretty ridiculous right now.

Che Guevera

May 18th, 2009
1:39 pm

The FDA should be closed down. And maybe then I could return to my highly profitable snake-oil business without the burden of useless government regulation.

All regulators and bureaucrats are incompetent no good lazy bums. Thank you Mr. Barr for exposing these worthless charlatans and putting them all in their place.

Long live Ayn Rand and the free market

Mort Merkel

May 18th, 2009
2:06 pm

Not only does Cheerios lower your cholesterol, but it can make a man larger and improve performance.

Mort Merkel

May 18th, 2009
2:08 pm

Sorry, my previous post should have contained this disclaimer. Thanks, jane.

*These statements have not been reviewed by the FDA; this product is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease.

Consumer taste test

May 18th, 2009
2:12 pm

“One of my clients is a line of nutritional supplements.”

What does it wear? What does it eat? What language does it speak and most importantly, how does it sign the checks?

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

May 18th, 2009
2:17 pm

This, of course, from someone in the state where they send peanut butter to market with feces as an ingredient.

And kill people with it.

Chris Broe

May 18th, 2009
2:29 pm

This over-regulation fiasco swings both ways, Mr. Barr. Count Chocula has a warning label on the box top advising children to use sunblock if they are planning on being exposed to any ultraviolet rays. FrankenBerry’s box has clear warnings about listening to solo violin music or playing with matches after having a bowl. Frosted Flakes tastes great? I don’t think so. It tastes OK. Not great. That’s a health claim, isn’t it? You know, great tasting food, great smelling sex, great feeling music should make you healthier, right? The same people who make cereal make the pet food too. I had sex for a scoobie snack once. (and I liked it!). The FDA and the Peta people cancel each other out, man. Ditto the CDC. This alphabet cereal of Big Brother acronyms is ruining breakfast, (and sex). Look how many vitamins are in the frozen toaster-readies! Look how many condoms are strawberry flavored. Talk about taking the fun out of Pop Tarts. We’re polluting the entire food pyramid, man. Aw, sometimes you just wanna say F it, you know? But at least for once, Bob Barr and I entertain identical views on the health claims spoiler regulatory overkill of the FDA, and the cartoon mindset of the children who eat

Chris Broe

May 18th, 2009
2:52 pm

The FDA and the CDC, the alphabet cereal of acronym watchdog and other crispy critters, are ruining breakfast and sex. Notice how over-fortified the toast-readies are? Notice how many condoms are strawberry flavored? Talk about taking the fun out of Pop Tarts, (not to mention the Aunt Jemima treatment)

Next there’ll be warning labels on Count Chocula about absorbing ultraviolet rays. Why stop there? Shouldn’t a Frankenberry cereal box contain a warning against solo violin music or playing with matches? For once Bob Barr and I are entertaining identical remedies for this systemic polluting of the entire food pyramid, including the food chain itself. Perhaps what’s needed is a clean up on Aisle Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just rambling now.

Karl Rove

May 18th, 2009
3:50 pm

Delicious, I’ll eat to that! Scrum-Diddly-Umptious…..

Che Guevera

May 18th, 2009
4:05 pm

Chris Broe,
thank was funny, bro.


May 18th, 2009
4:25 pm

The FDA should be changed to The Federal Drug Agency. All federal food regulation should come under the USDA, even the seafood industry which is now regulated by the Commerce Department…

Karl Rove

May 18th, 2009
4:31 pm

Delicious, I’ll eat to that! Scrum-didila-umtious….

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 18th, 2009
5:10 pm

Democrats did not inherit anything.

Inheriting $4.8 Trillion Will Leave You Broke: Kevin Hassett

May 18 (Bloomberg) — Sometimes, a single word pops up so frequently in the mouths of politicians that you can be sure that it has been tested and retested with focus groups. When a word gets overused, it’s because political operatives have launched a blizzard of conference calls reminding everyone to recite the party line.

You can say one thing about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party: They are disciplined. Their magic word is “inherited,” and never before in the history of American politics has a word been so abused. The Democrats must have a kangaroo court somewhere that issues heavy fines to those who fail to use it when on television.

If you are a channel flipper, you might start on one channel where Pelosi is saying, “In 2007, the new Democratic Congress began to restore our nation’s fiscal health while inheriting a fiscal challenge of historic proportions.” You might then flip and see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying, “It’s going to take a lot of work to clean up the mess we inherited.”

Turn to the next channel, and there’s White House budget director Peter Orszag saying, “We inherited these twin trillion-dollar deficits.”

Here’s the problem. If something is the unvarnished truth, then party discipline is unnecessary. Every sensible analyst will state the key words over and over again anyway. It’s only when a party is on shaky ground that it relies on such transparent tactics.

So let’s explore that ground.

Democrats in 2007

The issue of inheritance is a bit muddy. President George W. Bush and the Republicans controlled all of the branches of government until the 2006 midterm elections. In 2007, the Democrats began their reign in both the House and the Senate. Policies adopted prior to 2007 could reasonably be dubbed an inheritance. Policies that changed thereafter could not.

There is an easy way, therefore, to establish how much of the current budget mess is accurately referred to as an inheritance. Just as Nancy Pelosi was taking over as House Speaker, the Congressional Budget Office made a long-run budget forecast. That forecast established the Democrats’ inheritance.

If we compare the current outlook to that one, then we can identify the impact of Democratic policies, and accurately assess the blame. While doing so, we need to remember that Bush shares in that blame, since he signed into law the bills passed by the Democratic Congress.

To be fair, it is important to note that a big part of the budget mess is attributable to a falloff in tax revenue that is largely the recession’s fault. To be conservative, let’s just look at what the Democrats have done to spending since they took power, and see what the current budget outlook would be if they had simply kept spending on the path that they “inherited.”

Not Just Stimulus

Back in January 2007, the CBO thought that spending this year would be about $2.9 trillion. Instead, spending is now looking like it will be about $4 trillion. Sure, you might say, that’s the result of sensible Keynesian stimulus and the costs of the financial bailout. But what happens next is almost as striking.

In 2007, the CBO thought that spending would gradually increase from $2.7 trillion to about $4 trillion in 2017. According to President Barack Obama’s May budget numbers, we now expect to spend $4.7 trillion in 2017, about $800 billion more in that year alone.

Extrapolating out the 2007 CBO forecast, our government plans to spend about $5.6 trillion more between 2009 and 2018 than was projected to be spent when the Democrats took over control of Congress.

Trillions in Debt

To put that number in perspective, at the start of the 2007 budget year, Democrats inherited $4.8 trillion in outstanding government debt. That means that all of the deficits that have been run through all of history, funds that were used to finance the Vietnam War and the Iraq War and everything else in between, would be smaller than the spending increases of Democrats over the next 10 years if they are permitted to stay in power and keep up this pace.

Given how huge the Democratic spending binge has been, these numbers have an astonishing impact on the budget outlook. If the Democrats had simply kept spending on the same long-run course they inherited, the budget would show a surplus of $70 billion for 2019, assuming that revenue would be the same as currently forecast.

In Washington, it is unacceptable socially to assert that anyone is telling a lie — unless, of course, he is named Bush. So let’s say it is a pure, flat-out, bald-faced and shameless misstatement to claim that the budget outlook is an inherited problem. The mess is largely attributable to the Democrats’ own policies.

That’s why they keep saying “inherited” over and over.

(Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is a Bloomberg News columnist. He was an adviser to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential election. The opinions expressed are his own.)


Salvatore Giuseppe

May 18th, 2009
9:33 pm

For those thinking this is just the FDA doing the food part of their job, here is an article, with a link to the actual letter. They are requiring relabeling or a “new drug” application.

Also, this is not some unwarranted claim like some here are implying. As noted in the article, the claim cites a specific study which studied the effects


May 19th, 2009
7:46 am


May 19th, 2009
7:51 am

Maniac: Nice cut-and-paste on a totally irrelevant subject. How does this relate to the FDA?

Chris Broe

May 19th, 2009
9:25 am

I was a victim of a errant finger. I deleted the first draft, like always, yet it appears.

I hate writing. I hate reading. I hate the world. Nuke iran!


May 19th, 2009
12:39 pm

Sane Jane:

Point taken. I could have been clearer. You are correct that it has some regulatory authority, but it does not apply the same standards (e.g., three-phase testing for demonstrations of efficacy and safety) that it does with prescription medications. I think that their regulation of herbals and supplements has been seriously inadequate and delayed and I call it as I see it — they are NOT regulating what needs to be regulated. And while they fail to adequately regulate these products for safety, they go after a cereal manufacturer? Give me a break!

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 19th, 2009
2:42 pm

Copyleft, one, I was not addressing you. If I were addressing you I would have asked your pimp if I could speak with you. Two, it proves that this new administration is full of crap and will implode this year. Have a nice day working the streets, madam.


May 19th, 2009
4:17 pm

You certainly seem to know the procedures…. Interesting. (And funny!)

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