FDA Ignores Science, Pushes for Nutrition Label Changes
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The US Food and Drug Administration is at it again, trying to find even more reasons to get involved in the eating habits of Americans and US residents. To Mercatus Center’s Richard Williams, this is a serious problem.
According to Williams, an expert in benefit-cost analysis regarding food safety and nutrition, the FDA’s tendency to meddle with our food is a tradition to the agency, mainly due to the government’s resistance to looking into new ideas.
The FDA’s latest efforts revolve around nutrition labels.
According to the agency’s latest announcements, products will be required to carry labels with “more obvious” calorie counts, reports ABC. The FDA will also add a new line for added sugar, such as sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup. With this change, the FDA hopes to “help Americans make healthier choices.”
But according to Williams, the label improvements do little to help consumers. Why? Because a very small percentage of the population uses “nutrition labels to eat healthier.”
According to the expert, what we currently know about what consumers eat and how their health is impacted is based solely on “data that come from people trying to remember what and how much they ate.” Studies on this subject have shown that, due to the fact people often forget what they eat, data associated with people’s eating habits are often “flat wrong.” The consequences are as follows: Instead of looking into the issues and dissecting the researching procedures prior to taking the data into consideration, the FDA is simply forcing an entire nation to adjust by basing its knowledge of how healthy people are on inaccurate information.
Back in 1993, Williams wrote in his article for Politico, he worked as the chief economist at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the FDA. At the time, he predicted that the FDA’s implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 would generate good outcomes, helping people make healthier choices. At the time, Williams confessed, he believed that the country would see 40,000 fewer cases of cancer and heart disease over the next 20 years. He also believed that 13,000 deaths would also be prevented as a result of the implementation new nutrition label requirements. Unfortunately, his predictions were off.
Nowadays, fewer people read food labels, claiming it’s easier for them to figure out their taxes than to work toward having healthier eating habits. And how do we know this? Well, research carried out by the Department of Agriculture shows that nutrition labeling laws have no effect on food consumption of ingredients such as saturated fat and cholesterol while another study carried out by independent researchers shows that food labels may be harming consumers who actually read them. According to the piece of research, evidence suggests that labeling requirements have “had limited success and in fact may be misleading to consumers.”
In order to help Americans make better decisions, Williams writes in his column, the FDA needs to walk away from micromanaging people’s lives. First, “the FDA would need to honestly concede how little it knows about how different foods and food combinations actually affect individuals with distinct genetic and environmental factors,” then, the agency would have to review its methods, putting an end to what Williams calls experiments “on the entire American population.”
Will the FDA listen?