Friday, June 19, 2009

Obama hates Cheerios!

He bowed to the king of the Muslins, turned GM into the Trabi of the Midwest and gave your job to the Mexicans. And he's still not satisfied:

President Obama isn't just rewriting rules regulating the environment and the financial markets -- he is also going after the food industry.

Target and example No. 1: Cheerios.

(Yes, little comrade, in United Socialist States of America is only one flavor of breakfast, and we are out of that too HAHAHAHA!)

"Based on claims made on your product's label," the FDA said in a letter to manufacturer General Mills, "we have determined (Cheerios) is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation and treatment of disease."

If the government's enforcement action against Cheerios were to hold up, the cereal would be pulled from grocery shelves and consumers would need a prescription to buy a box of those little oats.

Well .... in a word, "no." Or in another word, "bullshit." What the May 5 warning letter says is that the label is making specific clinical claims and that if General Mills wants to use those claims to sell Cheerios, it needs an approved new drug application. Otherwise, it needs to shut up and sell cereal.

That's unlikely, but experts say the message is clear: There is a new sheriff in town and when it comes to false, misleading and exaggerated labeling, you had better clean up your act.

"It is showing us that there is a new era," says dietician and a former advertising executive Ashley Koff.

At least this time Fox has two "experts" (making the use of the plural actually correct, unlike "government watchdogs" in this gem). But an ad exec isn't the sort of expert I'd turn to for FDA matters. Labeling claims, like the one Cheerios* is making here, are the FDA's remit; similar fibs in ads fall to the Federal Trade Commission.

Bruce Silverglade of the consumer advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, said it was a welcome and needed change.

"The Obama administration is reversing course, thank goodness, and enforcing the law," he said.

Well, that'd be nice. But the FDA's actually been fairly busy over recent years; indeed, if you look at the FDA's warning letters for 2009 so far, you wonder how they managed to get around to cholesterol claims, amid the flood of products guaranteed to cure the pig flu.

Let's get down to some details. According to a Reuters report last month, the FDA's warning letter to General Mills says that the package label's claims about the effect of Cheerios on cholesterol are inappropriately specific -- the sort you only get to make about drugs -- and that General Mills had 15 days to explain how it would fix things. (Considering that our centerpiece here is in effect a six-week-old piece of administrative trivia, something about how those explanations are progressing might be nice.)

"The FDA sends dozens of warning letters each year," Reuters adds. "Most issues are resolved without further action, but the letters can lead to product seizures and other penalties." Which seems to be what General Mills had in mind too: "We look forward to discussing this with FDA and to reaching a resolution." Which, if you were dumb enough in the first place to ignore the fairly detailed guidelines that suggest how you can phrase things to make your cereal sound healthy without claiming that will "Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks," is a pretty soft landing.

Two general points need to be acknowledged. One, there's far too much attention to the White House in US political reporting (that's a general trend going back many years now). Two, it's past time some outfits turned down the goo-goo reporting on the incumbent a bit.** Both trends give Fox a smoke screen by making its reporting on the executive harder to distinguish at a glance from the run-of-the-mill stuff. But the message is still there: The Brain Police are coming after small business next!

General Mills is a titan of the food business with an army of lawyers. If the FDA can make it back down, others will follow. (Yep. Those who have done considerble in the doctoring way, cancer and paralysis and such, sometimes don't pay attention until they smell the tar. And if the FDA has decided to start bringing the feathers again, that'd be worth some reporting.)

"If I were an industry member and I saw what happened with Cheerios, I would look at this example and say the FDA is going after General Mills," said Koff. "If I'm a maker of a small product I better start to look at any study that I am basing my claims on and what I put on my packaging."

Sounds good to me -- the whole bit about not making medical claims you can't support on your package, I mean. And to his credit, in the video clip accompanying the story, the Fox reporter (the one surrounded by food packages, not the talking dogs in the studio) actually seems to get it: When you make unsubstantiated claims about medical outcomes, somebody ought to come after you.

That's rather comforting, in its own way. Hope the poor guy doesn't have too rough a time on the train to the reeducation camps, because I rather think his employer wants you to come away with a somewhat different message.

* The justification being something like "We've been saying this for two years and you haven't complained yet." Perhaps future generations will call that the Cheerios Defense.
** "Like Obama, Lincoln had run-in with fly"? Have you people no shame, or just far too much space for the trickle of news from the rest of the world?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we look into details yes. Obama is different form the President before. But give him a chance and see what its affect on the future on United State Of America the land of the free and the home of the brave.



3:44 AM, June 20, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...


So, essentially, under the previous administration the FDA let people lie - and Fox thinks that was fine?

Or, under the previous administration the FDA held people accountable - and Fox thinks that was fine, but Obama better not try it?

Don't know which is a worse indictment of Fox.

Though I expect "Fox thinks" is giving them too much credit either way...

11:48 AM, June 20, 2009  

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