Sunday, July 6, 2008

Who needs the FDA?

Last year while traveling, I met an employee of one of my least admired organizations - the FDA - yes, I said it. I asked her quite pointedly why there are apparently more recalls being issued in the last few years than at any time in previous years. She claimed that it was merely a perception and perhaps the news media was to blame. Would that it were so easy.

In years gone by, the FDA was there to help in times of need. Recalls were issued swiftly, medicines did not get fast tracked, only to be recalled due to speedy testing and the agency was one to whom we could look, as the American public, to ensure that our food and drugs were safe enough for our consumption.

I was watching Lester Crawford, the head of the FDA on C-Span recently (you may recall that his confirmation took an agonizing 5 months). He noted that the agency is woefully underfunded, ill-equipped and not functioning at the 21st century level that they need to be working at.

According to a Washington Post article from July of 2005, "The Senate confirmed acting Commissioner Lester M. Crawford as the permanent head of the Food and Drug Administration yesterday, five contentious months after he was nominated by President Bush.
Crawford won a comfortable 78 to 16 majority, but before the vote, he was subjected to sharp criticism from a bipartisan bloc of senators that included four Republicans. Although some praised his long experience at the FDA, others said he was part of a system that needs to be shaken up.

The FDA, which regulates one quarter of the nation's economy, has been without a permanent commissioner for more than half of Bush's presidency, and most recently since spring 2004. The agency's need for stable leadership was cited by some senators as a reason to confirm Crawford."

A perfect example of the ineptitude of this agency is the latest tomato scare. This fiasco has cost the nation's tomato business some $250 million dollars according to NBC nightly news this weekend. And now, after further investigation by the FDA, it would appear that tomatoes might not be the culprit - it could be peppers or even scallions. I am not a scientist, but I can sure tell a tomato from a pepper and a pepper from a scallion.

The price of the war in Iraq is affecting our government's ability to function. Where will it end?

Troops are needed in Afghanistan - is a draft on the horizon?

Will we all become organic farmers so that we can trust for ourselves where our food comes from, rather than trust the government?

Where is big brother and what on earth is he doing?

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