Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Power Grabs by the FTC are Underhanded Threats to Your Health

Power Grabs by the FTC are Underhanded Threats to Your Health

But let’s move on to health related issues. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have both taken serious steps to restrict or eliminate your access to certain foods and supplements. For example, the FTC recently decided to “make up its own law and squash free speech,” the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) reports.9
"Last year, an administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Federal Trade Commission upheld [POM Wonderful’s] right to make what the FDA would call structure/function claims in ads. Structure/function claims include statements such as 'calcium helps build bones.' They don’t directly talk about curing a disease. At the same time, the ALJ found that some of the company’s claims went too far (specifically where they claimed the juice could help heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction).
Because the ALJ’s decision was a partial victory for both POM Wonderful and the FTC, both sides appealed, which necessitated a ruling from the FTC as a whole.
Last Wednesday, the Commission took a much more unreasonable line. It found that thirty-four of POM’s forty-three claims were implied disease claims — fifteen more than the ALJ had found. The full Commission further ruled that a double-blind random-controlled trial (RCT) is required for any 'efficacy' claim and two double blind RCTs for any claim that might seem to be related to a disease. The $35 million on peer-reviewed scientific research previously spent by POM was brushed aside because the studies were not RCTs, which are commonly used for drug testing.
This is a major one-two punch. The FTC is being draconian about what it considers an implied disease claim. One commissioner noted in remarks accompanying the decision: 'It is difficult to imagine any structure/function claims that POM could associate with its products in the marketplace without such claims being interpreted, under the FTC precedent set in this case, as disease-related claims.'"
With its ruling, the FTC grossly blurs the line between the FTC and the FDA. First of all, the FTC is charged with regulating advertising only. Its job is to make sure ads aren’t deceptive or misleading, and you certainly do not need pharmaceutical RCT trials to determine that. Double-blind RCT’s required for making disease claims is actually an FDA labeling standard for drugs — not food. It’s not for the FTC to demand a product provide such evidence. Such studies are extraordinarily expensive, and are typically only done if the substance in question is or can be patented. Natural substances, such as pomegranate juice, cannot be patented (unless it’s genetically engineered).
“Now the FTC is unnecessarily and arbitrarily deciding to use an FDA drug standard for disease claims in advertising. Some industry observers even wonder whether the FDA has asked the FTC to do this because the FDA would not be able to go this far on its own. There is absolutely no statute justifying this. It is making up law without congressional approval,” the ANH writes.
Personally, I believe we’re inching ever closer to a point where you will be completely barred from getting any information about the healing potential of regular foods. I believe that’s their end game, because foods and nutritional supplements are the only competition to the pharmaceutical monopoly. As the ANH so succinctly points out:
“Who benefits from such a change in policy? Just follow the money. If the FTC prevails in requiring double-blind RCTs, only pharmaceutical companies will be able to make health claims on their patented and FDA-approved products.”

FDA’s Sordid History of Overreach and Abuse of Power

Meanwhile, the FDA has been, and still is, engaged in its own shenanigans. The agency, which has been sorely compromised by the revolving door it keeps with both the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, has a sordid history of attacking natural products and procedures that threaten to interfere with big business, including pharmaceuticals, agriculture and more, while allowing obviously harmful products to remain on the market. Here are but a few examples:
  • In December 2011, the FDA reneged on its plan to withdrawal approval of penicillin and tetracycline antibiotics intended for use in food-producing animal feed – a measure it had been planning since 1977.
  • In September 2011, the FDA issued a proposed draft policy on dietary supplements10 that could effectively kill your right to purchase nearly all of your favorite natural vitamins and supplements; the proposed policy treats vitamins and other supplements as if they are drugs but many manufacturers will not be able to afford the FDA drug trial process. This could either force supplement companies out of business or make supplements so expensive you won't be able to afford them.
  • The FDA has been fighting a war against raw milk, which is really an unconstitutional assault on one of your most basic rights, i.e. your right to choose what you want to eat and drink; they have stated that Americans have "no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food."
  • The FDA has long been the world's number one supporter of mercury fillings (amalgams), despite the evidence showing the health hazards of mercury; after making repeated promises to make an announcement about dental amalgam by the end of 2011, they let the deadline pass by unmet.
  • The FDA sent a warning letter to Diamond Food for making truthful, scientifically backed health claims about the health benefits of omega-3 fats in walnuts. Because the research cited health claims that omega-3 fats in walnuts may prevent or protect against disease, the FDA said walnuts would be considered "new drugs" and as such would require a new drug application to become FDA-approved.

Why the War on Raw Milk?

It’s important to realize that the "Food Safety Modernization Act" enacted in 2011 gives the FDA almost unlimited authority to decide if food is harmful, even without credible evidence. Raw foods of all kinds have become targets of FDA overreach and abuse of power, but raw milk is perhaps the agency’s most prominent foe. About 30 US states allow raw milk to be sold, but sales are limited to customers within the states’ borders, as the FDA has a ban on the interstate sale of raw milk for human consumption. The ban began in 1987, but the FDA didn't really begin enforcing it seriously until 2006 -- when the government began sting operations and armed raids of dairy farmers and their willing customers.
Why does the FDA allow damaging junk food filled with toxic chemicals, but prevents people from making an educated, informed food choice in purchasing raw grass-fed milk?
As reported by Food Safety News last December,11 Organic Pastures, the largest raw dairy farm in the US, has filed a lawsuit against the FDA for failing to address a “citizen petition” filed by the dairy back in December 2008, requesting the agency to change its interstate ban on raw milk sales. According to law, the FDA is required to respond to such requests within 180 days. After four years of stonewalling, Organic Pastures is suing for a response. According to Food Safety News:12
“If the agency doesn’t give him what he’s looking for when it responds to his request, he wants to press for a full-on jury trial. 'I want to bring in the experts to talk about this,' he said, referring to pasteurized milk as 'the most allergenic food in America.' In contrast, he said, raw milk has important nutrients in it such as enzymes that kids need to be able to digest milk.”

Take Action!

Food, drug, and constitutional law attorney Jonathan Emord has called the FTC’s decision against POM Wonderful “arbitrary and capricious,” stating that:
“The breadth of [the FTC’s new two-RCT] requirement is truly astonishing… the health marketplace will be dumbed down considerably to the detriment of health conscious consumers… In the end, that will mean a loss in public health as there will now be a multi-million dollar entry fee imposed on any who would wish to convey a health benefit to consumers in the market.”
Indeed, Americans spend more on health care per capita than any other nation on Earth, yet we rank among the worst in terms of health among industrialized nations. There can be no doubt that lack of truthful information about health and nutrition is to blame for this, and the suppression of information is engineered by industries that have no other concern than to make money. And to make money, they need you to be ill informed and chronically sick... As long as people are not permitted to learn about the relationship between food and health, we cannot expect American disease statistics to improve.
I am however heartened by the introduction of a new bill called the Free Speech about Science Act13 (FSAS), which would allow natural product companies to cite peer-reviewed science in their advertising. I urge you to take action to support this bill:
“The Free Speech about Science Act provides a limited and carefully targeted change to FDA regulations so that legitimate, peer reviewed, scientific studies can be referenced by manufacturers and producers without converting a healthy food or dietary supplement into an unapproved drug. The bill amends the appropriate sections of current law to allow the flow of legitimate scientific and educational information while still giving FDA and FTC the right to take action against misleading information and against false and unsubstantiated claims.”