President, Strategic Communications, LLC

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bah Humbug for FDA

Ho, Ho, Ho. Has FDA been naughty or nice to the food industry in 2012?

Basically, the agency has been neither, but it has been MIA on just about every major food issue, so paraphrasing one of the great TV lines from Seinfeld, "No gifts for you!"
The story is so familiar it has almost become trite – the federal agency that regulates 25% of the nation's GNP, is overwhelmed by issues, short on expert staff and resources and mostly leadership takes a pass on the "F" in FDA, again.

Now, at the very time it's plate is overflowing, FDA like all other federal agencies, face a serious, 8.2% cut in spending as part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. According to a recent report by OMB, FDA would see a $318 million budget reduction out of its entire budget. FDA estimates $71 million of that would come out of what's left of the agency’s food program.

Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, said in September he believes sequestration would be “a huge blow to our progress on food safety. . . The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which has a central role in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, has had the same permanent FTE [full time equivalent] staffing level as it did in 1992, before the explosion of imports, before the overall growth in the complexity and size that we see in the food system, even before FSMA was enacted,” he said. “We need to beef up the staffing at CFSAN and other parts of the program, so anything that forces us backward — you can just imagine the effect that it would have.”

While the food numbers are bleak, the basic problem here, is that FDA has always been dominated by the drug side of the agency. Most days the folks in CFSAN are MIA in terms of decision-making.

Consequently, the following major policy issues rest gathering dust somewhere at the agency's headquarters. The key risk management question FDA refuses to answer is how many people have to die before FDA considers food policy a top-tier issue?

OK, none of the following rise to the level of the fiscal cliff or nominating a Supreme Court Judge, but the following laundry list is long and includes issues that invites the "greed is good people" to emerge or states, such as California and Washington State to make policy for the nation:
  • Dealing with the current "voluntary" disclosure of caffeine of energy drinks and the safety of these beverages marketed to children
  • Determining a no significant risk to human health level for acrylamides
  • Implementing new sections of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is years overdue
  • Trying to define just what the Hell the term "natural" means
  • Overhauling front panel nutrition labeling and the Nutrition Facts box. What to do with sugar vs added sugars? What do do with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which turn into trans fats? The last time FDA did this, it required a massive commitment of manpower and 18 months of work which resulted in more than 2,000 pages of fine print in the Federal Register. The promise of action in 2013 is laughable.
  • Taking any action whatsoever to defend its position that GMO foods present no significant risk to the public
So, what does the future hold? Great year for food lawyers, not so much for anybody else.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finally, FDA Acts Before More Poeple Die

How many deaths did it take for FDA to flex a little muscle? How many more people will end up in the emergency rooms or die due to consumption of products with no caffeine ingredient disclosures. How many more thousands of hours will the FDA spend in trying to calculate how many angels dance on the front panel lettering of food products, despite no one but a Registered Dietitian understands the information? How many of man-hours will be spent in endless meetings debating whether parents have an obligation to turn off "offensive" television advertising to children or leave it to the federal government to set rules governing what food companies can tell what consumers at what time of the day?

To to give the devil his due,yesterday the Food and Drug Administration halted operations of Sunland Peanut Butter, the country's largest organic peanut butter processor, that supplies product to companies such as Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Safeway, Target and other large grocery chains after 41 people in 20 states, most of them children, were sickened by peanut butter manufactured at the plant in Portale. FDA cracked down on salmonella poisoning for the first time with new enforcement authority the agency gained in a 2011 food safety law, although other legal experts claim the agency could have acted much soonerf it has showed  a little backbone.

FDA is an agency that lives in black-and-white. It cannot distinguish shades of gray and therefore the agency waited until Congress gave it new authority to suspend a company's registration when food manufactured or held there has a "reasonable probability" of causing serious health problems or death. Before the food safety law was enacted early last year, the FDA would have had to go to court to suspend a company's registration. To a non-lawyer, presenting a reasonable case to a judge that a plant was producing food that had "reasonable probability"of killing people was not a high legal hurdle.

A few years short and many deaths later, Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said the agency's ability to suspend a registration like this one is a major step forward for the agency.
"Consumers can be assured that products will not leave this facility until we determine they have implemented preventive measures that are effective to produce safe products," Taylor said. I'm confident Taylor's new found enthusiam will be of great comfort to those families that lost parents, children, aunts, and uncles and who know that FDA fiddled as Rome burned.

In the Washington world or regulation, FDA typically looks for a deep pocket company on which to enforce new statutory authority.

During a month-long investigation, after the outbreak linked to processor Sunland and to Trader Joe's, FDA inspectors found samples of salmonella in 28 different locations in the plant, in 13 nut butter samples and in one sample of raw peanuts.The agency also found improper handling of the products, unclean equipment and uncovered trailers of peanuts outside the facility that were exposed to rain and birds.The FDA said that over the past three years, the company shipped products even though portions of their lots, or daily production runs, tested positive for salmonella in internal tests. The agency also found that the internal tests failed to find salmonella when it was present. FDA inspectors found many of the same problems – including employees putting their bare fingers in empty jars before they were filled, open bags of ingredients, unclean equipment, and many other violations – in a 2007 inspection. Similar problems were recorded by inspectors in 2009, 2010 and 2011, though government officials didn't take any action or release the results of those inspections until after the illnesses were discovered this year.

Sunland's president and chief executive officer, Jimmie Shearer, denied the company knowingly shipped tainted products.

So, does this tell us? FDA knew for a very long time the Sunland plant was a problem. They collected data but took no action. Then, armed with new legislative authority. It swooped in and shut the plant down and issued a press release. How many people died in the meantime?

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Media Relations Rules for Future Candidates

Now that the election is over, here are a few new rules (with apologies to Bill Maher) for future candidates and their media relations sherpas:

New Rule: In an interview, debate or conversation NEVER say anything you would not want your mother to see on the first page of her morning paper.

New Rule: Whether you are gay, straight, transgender or bi-sexual, a CIA Director, Army General, Governor, Senator or Member of the House of Representatives, if you plan to run for office or hold high office, take off your pants for your spouse or companion and your doctor, and nobody else. No one but Bill Clinton can carry off multiple infidelities and come back.

New Rule: Know your shit. "Oops" is not an acceptable third message point, no matter what Texas Governor Rick Perry says to the contrary.

New Rule: In a debate, when your opponent says, "Governor, please proceed...," SLAM ON THE BRAKES, shut your mouth, breathe and turn around to see the knife that is just about to stab you in your heart.

New Rule: When an interviewer or opponent includes "bayonets and horses" immediately step back from the question. Do not walk into the issue.

New Rule: Answer the damn question, before leaping into your memorized message point, it's not that hard. It's "yes that's right," or "No, that's wrong and let me tell you why," or "That's an excellent question, let me get back to you." Only POTUS has the right to ignore your question as Marine One prepares for takeoff from the South lawn of The White House.

New Rule: Under no circumstance try to change Newton's law of motion -- that’s the one about creating an equal and opposite reaction, just in case you skipped that class in college. If you try to suppress the vote, the people whose vote is threatened will come out in mass numbers and kill you at the voting booth.

New Rule: If you are going to lie, stick to it. Do NOT flip-flop, waffle, walk back, or try to parse, your words. The correct answer is, "That's what I said and I am sticking to it." The only exception is when you really fuck up and then you say "I am sorry, my staff gave me bad information."

New Rule: If you are an old, angry, rich white guy, just forget about running for national office AND if you are a old, angry, rich white guy forget about giving ANYBODY millions of dollars in contributions, except a legitimate charity.

Strategic Communications, LLC is prepared to work with you now for a modest amount to help you master these new rules. And, I am more than willing to work with you for a whole lot more money, if you ignore these rules.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What does the election mean for the food industry?

Looking at last night's election from 30,000 feet presents a different long-term vision of the nation than a view from the trenches; however, one thing is certain, both views have changed.

On the national level, GOP leaders, such as U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), realize, in this striking defeat, that his party is now comprised of  old, white, rich, angry men, dinosaurs. Without a massive restructuring, it may have lost the ability to elect any candidate to national office. The GOP also learned that Jim Crow voting repression efforts put Newton's law of motion into play and created an "equal and opposite reaction." I guess Rove and friends slept through that class.

A view from the trenches brings a somewhat more familiar vision. The food industry has a marvelous track record of identifying changing consumer needs, producing new products and marketing them with cutting edge technology to all consumers. It strikes me as somewhat ironic that food companies, which market to every kind of consumer, do not share any common political values with their customers.

In practical terms the question is - How fast will the folks, who work in mahogany offices, figure out the real issue is not what is on the front nutrition panel, since nobody but an RD understands it, but how quickly they can get the information on their products in Spanish, for a start? Remember, the California election ballot, for example, was printed in eight languages from American Indian to Vietnamese.

All this is good news for food industry trade associations, which can take dues dollars, form coalitions and slow down the pace of change, permitting member companies the freedom to create their own branded initiatives to address consumer health and safety issues.

Let's look at what the election may mean to just a few of the major issues facing the industry:

It is certain that FDA's budget will be cut. Absent a grand bargain on the budget, an 8.2% sequestration will cut FDA's budget by about $320 million - $205 million from the Treasury and about $115 million from industry user fees. FDA would have to cut or furlough about 1,000 staffers. Importantly, no matter how much is cut, no regulatory responsibilities will be reduced. An Agency plagued for years with having too much to do with too few resources will have to pick and choose much more carefully where it spends its time and money.

Many Agency watchers have concluded the "F" in FDA has been MIA for years. The budget cuts will make matters worse since all the major food health and safety issues are complex and controversial. Here is how I think they may break out:

Most Do
Now that POTUS has been re-elected, there is no longer any reason for OMB to hold the very expensive food safety modernization regulations, an effort that will save lives and prevent serious illnesses.

Will Have To Do Something
Front panel nutritional labeling. The question here is whether the industry's peremptory strike has enough science behind it so FDA can tinker with it rather than overhaul it. A proactive social media campaign focused on health professionals would help.

Caffeine content transparency - Yes, I know these products are diet supplements and are subject to different rules but energy drink products owned by major beverage companies voluntarily disclose caffeine content. Why not spend some political capitol and encourage FDA to require caffeine and stimulant disclosure, establishing a level competitive playing field? The industry would win major kuddos from the public health community.

Forget It
California's overwhelming rejection of Proposition 37's mandatory labeling of GMO foods should put this issue back in the freezer for the FDA. If you are an investor in the "super-sized salmon" you have my sympathies, but a huge amount of preparing the marketplace work needs to be done with health and nutrition experts before FDA needs to tackle this one. Just one footnote, except more action on this issue at the state level.

The Farm Bill - While the GOP retains control of the House, the Tea Party has been weakened. Perhaps the industry should take a fresh look at the nutrition and sugar programs and try to restore the old McGovern-Dole Agreement. And, despite personal politics, that fact is no domestic sugar producer or state (Florida is still too close to call) voted for the president. The Administration owes nothing to them and revenge is a dish best served sweet, I mean "cold."

White House, MyPlate and Dietary Guidelines - No change in policy is expected from the East Wing of the White House or the nutritional nonsense eminating from its chef. What is really interesting to me is that many in the nutrition community believe the current regulatory regimen is fatally flawed and there is a growing social media discussion about how to change it before the next round of the DG begin. Now is the time for industry to jump on board, and encourage this discussion.

Kid-Vid Advertising - Control of advertising is a fall on your sword and bleed out issue. The industry is using the old chestnut of working with the Better Business Bureau. It has hired a former high Ranking FTC staffer to run the effort, but will the industry's current positioning be able to withstand the coming onslaught of attacks, because the activist community knows this is the game for all the marbles, too? Here's another opportunity to build support through social media aimed at health professionals.

CSPI, Marion Nestle, Mark Bittman, Virginia Stallings, Rachel Johnson, FNS, maybe AND
It's November, and just as trade associations begin to draft their dues letters, the activists will be drafting their own, which will stress the need to have the resources to drive home many of their issues, since POTUS and FLOTUS are now free of political considerations. Look for an uptick in their "now is the time" rhetoric, fundraising, communications and lobbying. 

In sum, lots of challenges with opportunities to play offense and defense. Of course, this can all change if the Administration decides to make obesity prevention a cornerstone of its second term. Remember, the Obama team are now thinking about how historians will view it. So, we end up where we began, at 30,000 feet.

To talk about health professional social media efforts shoot me a note or give me a call.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition Pulls a Romney on GMOFood Policy

The debate over GMO foods got "curiouser and curiouser," to quote Alice, last week at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Annual Meeting in Philly, as the AND leadership pulled a "Romney" on its long-held, often updated and often cited policy position supporting the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) approved for use in food by the FDA.

Drated, redrafted, peer-reviewed and finally published in JADA (American Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Vol. 108, No. 7.) in 1992 and updated in 1995 and 1998, the position of the AND is in line with FDA policy, and safety analyses conducted by the World Health Organization, National Academy of Sciences, and most recently by the American Medical Association in addition to countless other science based organizations such as an IFT expert panel. The policy remained unchanged for twenty years was on the AND website and just about every science-based organization involved with the issue pointed to it as a voice of reason. AND loved it.

Suddenly,without a word of explanation, in September the AND website was wiped clean of all references to the JADA article. According to an email from the AND media relations office, "the Agricultural and Food Biotechnology position paper expired on December 31, 2009" and removed from the website.

The curious thing is although the paper technically "expired" in 2009, it remained active on the organization's website and was a core document in the public debate about GMO labeling for almost three years. It may be more than coincidence that the date AND wiped its website coincided with the launch of the GMO labeling Initiative, Proposition 37, in California. In fairness to AND, it did post a convoluted press release which basically said the prior position "expired" and the Academy now had no position on the issue of GMO foods pending a new study due out in 2013. How convenient?

I know something about food, politics and the way large hierarchical organizations work when they get unhappy calls and emails -- pressure and bullying --  from members. I am a political realist not a conspiracy wingnut.

This is what I think really happened. In the dark of night, behind closed doors, when AND thought no one was looking, the AND leadership rolled over and played dead to robust opposition from its largest state delegation, California. Having the position paper on the website was causing the anti Prop 37 AND members heartburn and they were not happy campers, so AND pulled a "Romney" -- a position that was developed in 1992, peer-reviewed and published in JADA, and promoted for 20 years as science based suddenly was not the position of the AND. In fact, according to AND's press release AND has no position at all. What changed besides the politics, certainly not the science?

I don't want to get into political ad homonyms descriptions, but an old DC medical story makes the case. I will clean it up for general consumption. Two surgeons are killing time in the Doctor's Lounge debating what kind of patient is easiest to operate on. The first surgeon says it is an accountant because once you open the person up everything is connected by numbers. The second surgeon disagrees and says it is a politician because when you open one up you discover there is no brain, no guts, no heart, no spine, no .... well, you get the point.

What did happen was an organizations that prides itself to the public about integrity and transparency showed none of those core character values. For a national organization that represents RDs in states where 80 percent of the food that is produced contains GMO ingredients, the AND action represents a callous disregard for their views. For an organization that rakes in millions from the food industry, including many of the companies that produce wholesome, safe, nutritious products from GMO raw materials, their message was "we will take your money because we do science-based policy," but on hot issues we are going to flip and flop and leave science twisting slowly in the wind because some our more activist members are upset.

AND is a huge centrally controlled organization. It stands by its press release. It has failed to learn one of the basic rules of political issue management-- the cover up it almost always worse than the original act. If the paper "expired in 2009 it should have been pulled at that time, not left in the public domain, promoted and cited  for  three more years. Did an AND staffer just make a career limiting decision? Did he or she quote Rick Perry and said, "Oops?"

People will draw their own conclusions whether AND just was too inept to manage all  the issues of the disappearing policy paper. To me it is just too coincidental that an approved and updated 20 year old science-based paper, which may have "technically expired," yet remained on the AND's website for almost three years after its "best used date," a paper that remained part of the debate about GMO labeling suddenly was Mission Impossible disavowed because it challenged the political correctness of California politics.  For twenty years AND had a position on this most important issue. Today, AND has no position whatsoever. Go figure.

Kudos to the anti-Prop 37 Proposition AND folks for bullying the masters in Chicago into impotence.And shame on AND. Mitt would be proud. The Academy's nose just grew a bit longer and it lost a whole lot of public credibility.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Prop 37: Fasten Your Seatbelts It Is Going to Get Bumpy

About four weeks from now, voters in California will go to the polls to decide whether some foods, sold in some locations, containing some amount of  genetically modified organisms (GMO) should bear a consumer label if Proposition 37 passes. The Initiative is ahead in the polls, despite the fact that almost every major newspaper in the state has opposed it editorially. Social media activity is hot and heavy.

For those of you old enough to remember back to 1986, Prop 37 is modeled after Proposition 65, which required companies doing business in California to  label their products with a cancer or birth defect warning if they contained certain chemicals listed by the State. So, now every California gasoline pump bears a cancer warning because of the benzene in the gas and every room service menu in the state that lists wine bears a birth defect warning. 

Neither warning has slowed consumption. And, consumers are no safer than before despite huge funds spent by production agriculture and food makers. At one time, the activists wanted Vitamin A listed as causing birth defects until they discovered the amount of Vitamin A contained in every carton of milk sold in the school lunch program would trigger a birth defect warning. Vitamin A was quickly dropped from the state's list.

Prop 37 has been called many things by political junkies and pundits. Some say it is the Lawyers Full Employment Act, since there is a bounty hunter provision in it and affected industries always sue. Others call it a consumers right to know provision, but like much of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign positions we are left scratching our heads about the details.

Prop 65 was passed at a time when the federal food use chemical safety program was out of date. The passage of Prop 65 forced Congress to modernize the science and the law. As a result many chemicals used on foods were pulled from the marketplace. The feds did need a firm kick in the ass.

Prop 65, the Clean Water Act, was artfully crafted. Prop 37, not so much.

There are some parts of Prop 37 that make political sense but defy any rational scientific explanation. For example, it requires labels on soy milk (because it may contain GMOs and is "bad"?) but exempts all other milk, even milk from cows fed GMO feed. Coincidentally, dairy is a huge business in California. Foods sold in traditional supermarkets require labels but the exact same product sold in restaurants or delis are exempt (a small business exemption?).A real, where in the Hell did that provision come from, exempts imported food if it bears a "GMO free" statement. Can you imagine what China would do with a loophole so large you could steer a container vessel through it carrying contaminated product?

Taking advantage of the fact that FDA has been unable or unwilling or both to define natural for decades, Prop 37 solves the problem in a few sentences. Any food that is pasteurized, heated, dried, juiced or processed, by definition, is not natural, even though a food, such as almonds, may not contain GMOs. But, if the almonds are roasted and put in a container for sale, they are no longer "natural." Go figure.

In regard to GMOs, the FDA has had firm policy on this issue for a long time. In short, it reiterates basic law. The food sold must be safe and the labeling must be truthful and not misleading.The National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Medical Association (AMA) all believe GMO foods as safe. In the European Union, where labeling is required, politicians will tell you that the labeling decision had absolutely nothing to do with science and everything to do with green party politics. In sum, in the US, the current law is up-to-date and there is no need for a checkerboard pattern of state by state regulation.

By 2012, genetically engineered varieties will be grown on 88 percent of U.S. field corn acres, 93 percent of soybean acres, and 94 percent of cotton acres. A majority of packaged foods on typical grocery shelves include some ingredients derived from corn, soybean or cotton, so if this Proposition passes, most packaged products would be subject to its requirements.

Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, the food industry rolls over and plays dead and major companies will work to meet the obligations of the new law. There is one unsolvable problem - there is not enough GMO free corn available to meet the needs of all food manufacturers. Prices of the GMO free corn would skyrocket, good for those producers, but bad for poor consumers who would see the price of corn flakes and other foods jump sharply up just at a time when Romney and Ryan propose to slash federal funding for nutrition programs.

Or let's assume a more probable outcome, that the food industry's  prime trade associations go into court and argue Prop 37 violates federal law, namely that the food is safe, as established by FDA and the California labeling, provides false and misleading information,since it implies the product is inferior or dangerous or ought to be avoided when, in fact, the GMO free products are identical nutritionally to their GMO cousins.

What happens next?

One thing is certain, the Proposition will be challenged in court and millions will be spent. 

Next, enormous pressure will be put on FDA to step up and defend its own policy. The only problem is that FDA is in shambles. It is overworked, understaffed and have bigger issues, such as microbiological contamination, where people die, to manage better.  It never has had the backbone to challenge California's desire to set food policy and law for the entire country.

Or, if the GOP maintain control of the House, it would take the GOP leadership in the House a heartbeat to use the biggest piece of lumber they can find to take the FDA Commissioner, the USDA Secretary, the HHS Secretary to the political woodshed and smack them soundly around their heads and shoulders. The GOP caucus could decide to threaten to slash more Agency funds, haul its senior leadership to the Hill day after day, week after week, for an endless series of hearings. In effect, they could tell FDA to pick its poison - to defend its policy or face political retribution. All is fair in divorce and politics.

In sum, this Initiative hangs like a sword over the heads of major crop producers, food manufacturers and biotech seed providers. Consumers face skyrocketing price increases. The Proposition represents a massive regressive tax on the poorest of our nation and rewards the wealthiest.Sound familiar?

As the pilots of all the Fortune 100 food companies' G-4's will say, "Fasten your seat belts, it is about to get a little bumpy."

Read more here:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Effete Elites Believe the Rest of us Aren't Neat

Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Mitt Romney's recent comments that 47% of the nation are "victims" demanding ENTITLEMENTS, such as Medicare, college Pell grants (I knew Senator Pell from Rhode Island), closing the donut hole for seniors, Medicare, or nutrition programs for the poor to name just a few, either outraged you or amused you.

It seems to me that the GOP political strategy folks have divided the country between the "makers" (of goods and services) and the "takers," people like my 84 year old mother who is on Medicare and receives my deceased father's social security benefits and the poor kids from the western North Carolina mountains whose only hot meal is the one they get at school.

Nevertheless, we are as of September 1, a nation of 314,440,000 people. 82% reside in cities and suburbs. There were 155.6 million females and 151.4 million males. People under 20 years of age made up 27.3% of the U.S. population, and people age 65 and over made up 12.8%.

In Washington, D.C., a city that was designed to run in circles (for military defense), nutrition politics, in my view, have become a place where the "effete elites" do not think the rest of us are so neat. Ivory tower academicians pontificate what we should not eat or drink. Activist organizations and Trusts are a multi, multi-million dollar businesses of fear mongering marketing and fund raising. These ideologues actually believe what is right for them must be right for everyone else. NYC has a mayor hell bent to cure obesity by executive order. First soda, then politically correct  hospital food. What's next - bacon, desserts?

But what does the 47% want in terms of food? Recent consumer research from the International Food Information Council underscores what every food marketing study has been saying for the past 25  years. Consumers want their food to taste good. Ya think? Price is second and healthfulness comes in distant third.

And, just who are the "1%" of consumers who "get it" on health and wellness? They are more affluent, better educated, women.

In terms of obesity, all sides decry the present situation. That is the only point of common ground.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, consumers make 2.2 trips to the supermarket per week; spend $26.78 per transaction at a store which stocks, on average, 38,718 items.

Production agriculture and food manufacturers have long maintained that they do respond to the needs of the marketplace. There are more "better for you" products on every aisle of the store than ever before. But when you take out everything the purists want to eliminate or severely reduce like sodium, fat, sugars, including high calorie fruit juice, you either have to eat at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Cafe or the food will be, how can I put it, less tasteful or not meeting consumer expectations or just plain lousy. Even family restaurants have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and introduced mini deserts at a reduced price. They are a hit -- consumers now order three to four smaller offerings which add up to more calories than one normal dessert. Remember, people want their food to taste good and according to the National Cancer Institute, grain based desserts are the major source of calories in our diets.

One of the most important and basic rules of issue management is "when you find yourself in a hole. STOP DIGGING!" We are in this enormous hole of how to manage obesity.

The IFIC data suggest education plays a powerful role, but I hope most people would agree, perhaps for very different reasons, that federal efforts have failed to do decrease the number of people who are obese or overweight. Patients who see RDs for counseling, tell them in no uncertain terms, they do not want government, at any level, telling them what they can and cannot eat with their families. Yet this is exactly the course of action the purists pursue.

As a former Chief of Staff to a very progressive U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, the dairy state, I know Farm Bill and nutrition politics well. And, I am aghast to suggest the following -- maybe we should outsource a real nutrition education program, not to China, but create a large block grant for local nutrition education. Eliminate the jobs at the FNS that all the "lefties" occupy. Forget about the brand new calorie counter App USDA just announced with great fanfare. The iTunes store is filled with them. Why did USDA need to create another toy? Because their pr firm told them they needed to have one.  Forget about the Dietary Guidelines that no one but RDs understand. In addition, the RDs don't need to have the food establishments refight the same issues every five years. They know now what needs to be done. Pore the money into state efforts and let the lobbyists, educators, health care professionals, pontificators, et al, fight it out with the parents in urban warfare, state by state. It would be hard for this approach to have a worse outcome that current efforts.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Cole Porter (left) said it best when he wrote the lyrics, "You say ";potato"; I say ";patattah"; / You say "; organic";/ I say ";conventional"; /"; organic";/ ";conventional";/ ";potato"; /";patattah"; Let's call the whole thing off."

Maybe we should stop right here because if you look up "tempest in a teapot" in a dictionary, you will see a copy of the Stanford study which The New York Times  headline writer described as: Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce. OMG!

Let's see if we can agree on the basic facts:
First, the study was peer-reviewed and published in a well-known prestigious journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Second, this study told anyone who knows anything about nutrition absolutely nothing new. There is no nutritional differences between conventional and organic fruits and veggies. Check the Nutrition Fact information in the produce section of your nearby supermarket.

Organic Apple
Third, the co-author of the study, Ingram Olkin, is a respected scientist with publications in JAMA, American Heart Journal, Stat Med as well as others in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The researcher is not a devious plant from "Big Tobacco" sent to "Big Food" to destroy the growing at double digit rate organic industry as the screams of the left assert. Such nonsense.

Did the PI ask the right question, opines Marion Nestle? Well obviously not, for her.

If you reduce the volume by half while constantly stirring with a medium wisk, the debate about organic and conventional boils down to lifestyle and economics, not health or nutrition.

It's about happy cows, grazing in green fields under a bright yellow sun, with huge smiles on their faces bringing in big bucks vs. house brand milk at your supermarket. And, it is about price. How many WIC stickers do you see on shelves at Whole Foods? You see plenty at the Ingles in the mountains of western North Carolina where the local farmer's market emphasizes "fresh."

Anything that is natural or organic, whatever that actually means, is "hot" with the rich, white, college educated, people with large amounts of disposable income to spend on Cakebread Chardonnay and Duckhorn Pinot Noir, but I digress.

The truth is there is room for both in the marketplace and all the yelling does nothing to inform and educate anybody.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Will FDA Preempt Prop 37 and the Dance of Legislation?

In our crazy quilt of food law, pepperoni pizza is regulated by the USDA and cheese pizza is regulated by the FDA. Food labeling requirements promulgated by the USDA preempt all state labeling on meat products, since the Federal Meat Act contains explicit preemption language. Not so, for the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, although many food law experts believe FDA has implicit authority to preempt state labeling requirements that the Agency believes is not in the public's best interest.

California voters this November will cast a ballot on whether foods containing GMO ingredients should bear a consumer warning, the equivalent of a skull and cross bones, notwithstanding that every public health agency in the world have found these foods to be safe. And, in Europe and in other countries where labeling is required, the politicians and regulators will tell you the decision to label had nothing to do with science but everything to do with the power of the "Green" political movement. Fear of political retaliation, not science forced the decision.

Since 1986 California has been the chief cause of concern about preemption and the chief stumbling block for food industry attempts to have Democratic and Republican Administrations' FDAs create a uniform market for labeling.

Despite the law and practice, the reason why we do not have one uniform national market is the simple political truth -- California has too many electoral votes to mess with.

So, the scientific community, the activists in California and the food industry have been performing a "who will blink first" ballet for years. Each side has honed their skills through endless litigation, rehearsals and intense lobbying.

One example of this foolishness involved the birth defect warning required under Proposition 65, the so-called Consumer Warning Initiative, passed in 1986, which required the state of California to warn consumers of "chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or birth defects." The warnings would be on product labeling and be a figurative skull and cross bones.

In its review of chemcials, the Proposition 65 Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) came across Vitamin A. To make a long story short, it turned out the amount of Vitamin A added to milk sold to school children would have triggered a birth defect warning. Now, this raised a huge problem and the ballet started.

At the end of Act II, the SAB did not want to look like fools to their peers and they were loathe to list Vitamin A but the law is demanding. The dairy industry was aghast, to say the least. The FDA  made it clear it would be very unhappy. Legislation began to move in Congress to preempt the Proposition.

Then, near the end of the production, it dawned on the activists that they may have created a monster, one which will devour them. Federal preemption would kill the California law. As deadlines inched closer, as both sides looked over the precipice, a solution appeared -- the activists agreed to be quiet if Vitamin A magically disappeared from its birth defect warnings list. Presto, chango, Vitamin A was gone. Both sides shifted from warp speed to impulse power.

Then a few years later, FDA was confronted with a similar challenge. This time from rBST, a natural hormone which allows milking cows to produce more milk. Milk produced with rBST is identical in every was to milk produced without rBST. There is no laboratory test that can distinguish between the milk. Ben and Jerry were appalled. Small dairy states besieged the FDA with plans to label milk produced with cows not taking rBST. FDA, as always, took the petitions under advisement.

Lots of time passed. Legislation was introduced, the orchestra began to play the overture and then in a stroke of biblical genius, FDA arrived at a solution. It cut the baby in half, just like King Solomon. It allowed the dairies that did not use rBST to make a factual statement that they did not use it but, the Agency required that a new sentence, a science based disclosure that said, "it didn't matter."
So, today, for example, Special Request Skim Plus milk marketed by Farmland Dairies in Wallington, NJ carries a side panel declaration stating:
*Delicious 100% real milk [as opposed to unreal milk] produced from cows not treated with rBST. The FDA has found no significant difference from milk derived from rBST treated cows and those not treated."

The orchestra stopped.

If President Obama wins reelection and Prop 37 passes, the food industry may once again strike up the tune. FDA will be reluctant, as always, to act, but with GMOs in 80% of processed food they really will not have much of a choice? Perhaps King Solomon will be called on again.

However, now may be the best time since 1986 for the food industry to strike. With the "Knuckle Draggers" as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) fondly calls his Tea Party Caucus, firmly in control of the House, preemption legislation could zip ripe through. The GOP Leader in the Senate would jump at the chance to give FDA and the Obama Administration more problems that either one of them need. Of yes, California Sen. Barbara Boxer will scream, but who cares -- California's electoral votes will not be in play for three years.

If Gov. Romney gets elected, an order to FDA to preempt is certainly possible.

In the spirit of transparency, I do not have a dog in this fight - yet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Nutrition Information Only for the Elites?

In 1990 when the late US Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and his GOP BFF, Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), began marking up the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act everyone in the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee room knew food labeling was about to change, with a new "Nutrition Facts" box. It had taken years to lobby and iron out the details. Everyone also knew there would be no sustained effort to educate the public about what information was on the box, despite the title of the law.
Then the federal government got into the information and education business. Soon we had the Food Guide Pyramid and then a revised version, which was supposed to help educate and inform consumers about the nutritional content of the food they were eating.

The most recent set of Dietary Guidelines effectively recalled the crumbling Pyramid and introduced us to the "My Plate" program, where consumers are supposed to fill half their plates with fruits and veggies, a tough thing to do when most consumers have no idea that a potato is a vegetable, much less one packed with potassium (and why is that important?) But, before the ink was dry on the feds new plan, the ivory tower folks at Harvard released had their own different plan and stole most of the media attention. Lesson: power brands, like Harvard, trump federal science.

Now, everyone is fighting about front panel labeling. In a bold tactical move, food manufacturers and retailers unveiled their own proposed plan and voluntarily began to use it, setting FDA and the "Big Food" critics back on their heels. Not to be outdone, the food fundamentalists, the "food police," or the so-called Center for Science in the Public Interest have issued their own color coded, traffic light proposal, which has the proverbial snowball chance in Hell of being adopted. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all different.
The result of 20 years of all this activity -- the nation is more obese than ever.

So now, the "you are too dumb to know what to eat people, the experts and academics" are taking their whack at the issue, hoping simple "tax and forbid" government solutions will solve a complex problem.

Specifically, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban "bad" large soft drinks sold in city restaurants, stadiums and movie theaters, but on August 22 The New York Times (NYT) released a poll of New Yorkers, regarding Mayor Bloomberg’s plan. A whopping 60% were against it. The reaction by the politically appointed head of the city's health department basically was, "We know what's good for you," and said he expected the proposal to be adopted in about three weeks. So much for the messy business of democracy. NYC soda drinkers will just buy two cups of soda, instead of one large one.

Just a few days earlier, in an interview with CBS News about the Administration's new school lunch reform initiative, Kevin Concannon, who is in charge of the school lunch program at USDA, said: "The industry, I think, had a lot of anxiety about this. That's the kindest thing I can say about that." "The kindest thing?" Give me a break. In effect, he washed his purest hands of the politics that his Department was supposed to manage. Congress stepped in and gave every side a bit of what they wanted, something Washington once called a "compromise," before Speaker Boehner's "knuckle draggers," as he affectionately calls the Tea Partyers of his caucus, came to town.

This November California consumers will be voting on Prop 37, an initiative, that if passed, would require food that contains GMO ingredients to be labeled, despite the fact that for nearly 20 years every public health organization in the world have found GMO foods to be safe. FDA firmly believes a warning that 80% of the food supply contains GMOs would be a warning on nothing and would imply non-GMO foods were safer or more nutritious, something that is absolutely wrong and illegal under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

So what do consumers want to know about their food? No no surprise, consumer polling and focus group results have not changed in many years. According to the International Food Information Council's (IFIC) 2012 Food and Health Survey, taste is number one. Ever try one of the very low fat cheese products. Yuck! I vote for Julia Child and please pass the butter. Price is number two and healthfulness comes in third.

The IFIC data reveals most consumers find it easier to figure out their tax return than it is to figure out what they should and shouldn’t eat to be healthier. No surprise there either.

Declaration of Independence

Most importantly, consumers do not want to be told what or what not to eat and they certainly do not want government making those decisions for them and their families, something to do with a strong belief in the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" as spelled out by the Declaration of Independence, I guess.

My RD friends continue to tell me people cannot be coerced or taxed into compliance. They have to want to make a major change in their life and it is a tough, life-long fight. Why are they not being heard by policy makers?

So, where are we? Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are at epidemic rates. Consumers are interested in health but understandably confused. Manufacturers are touting health benefits of a wide range of ingredients in advertising and activist groups do not want food companies to advertise anything but broccoli to kids.

In the meantime, the experts will argue policy with each other and the academics will talk about the latest NHANES study to each other. Consumers are on their own.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Competitive Foods and Obesity - Be Very Careful

Mix funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Charitable Trust with the branding of Harvard and you have a recipe for making news from scratch, no added sugars here. So it is not surprising that a new pediatric obesity study shows that laws strictly curbing school sales of  so-called junk food and sweetened drinks may [emphasis added] play a role in slowing childhood obesity received wide coverage across the country.

The Associated Press (AP) coverage, which most papers across the country used, noted, "even obesity experts who praised the study acknowledge the measures are a political hot potato, smacking of a 'nanny state' and opposed by industry and cash-strapped schools relying on food processors' money. Buried deep down in the AP copy, perhaps by an editor, is the one paragraph of "balance" provided by Boston University statistician Mark Glickman who said, "the study design makes it difficult to reach any convincing conclusions.

What bothers me is that Lindsey Tanner, a very good AP medical writer based in Chicago, goes out and rounds up the usual food critics for comment. Dr. David Lustig is quoted as saying, "if the laws have even a tiny effect, 'what are the downsides of improving the food environment for children today?' He concluded, "The challenge is that there are a great many factors that coalesce to influence body weight. Disentangling these influences and looking at the independent effects of just one is a methodological nightmare." Then Dr. Virginia Stallings adds her two-cents worth, "This is the first real evidence that the laws are likely to have an impact." Stallings, an out-spoken industry critic,  chaired an Institute of Medicine panel that urged standards for making snack foods and drinks sold in schools more healthful.

On the merits of the issue, the children in the study gained less weight from fifth through eighth grades if they lived in states with strong, consistent laws versus no laws governing snacks available in schools. For example, kids who were 5 feet tall and 100 pounds gained on average 2.2 fewer pounds if they lived in states with strong laws in the three years studied. Also, children who were overweight or obese in fifth grade were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade if they lived in states with the strongest laws.

Importantly, the effects weren't huge, and the study isn't proof that the laws influenced kids' weight.
If a fraction of the time and money spent on pushing taxes and food bans were applied to nutrition 101 for kids in school, K-12 and the freshman year in college we would make some progress. As my RD friends remind me, you cannot force a person to change what he or she eats. Once they decide to change, then RDs and other health professionals can help. And, yet another study funded by a big charity that shows mix results at best is really not news.

The authors of the study, released online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Added Sugars," Labeling, Give Me a F------ Break

The presidential election political silly season is upon us and Congress is in recess until after Labor Day.

The USA Olympic Champions are getting covered in tats, the Tea Partyers are having Mark Twain's joke, "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session," etched on their foreheads; and, the Democrats continue to hope that Sir Winston Churchill was right was he commented,"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

The country is facing perhaps the most important election since 1968, and what is the the FDA doing, considering whether to require "added sugar" labeling to foods. Give me a break. Oh yes, this news comes on the heals of two major microbiological contamination recalls involving onions and cantaloupes that led food safety experts to cite recent CDC reports that the country is not meeting its goals for reducing food borne illnesses such as salmonella and listeria. Consumer advocates complained that the government has been too slow to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, which should help prevent food borne illness. The only good news here is that nobody has died, yet.

So, with not enough funds to do its work, with a House of Representatives, axe in hand, prepared to slash FDA dollars, where, you might wonder is the Agency is spending the few resources it has -- to beat the dead horse of "added sugars" again.

The LA Times immediately jumped into the fray with: "Snorre… I mean, Man the Barricades! Put a Stop to This/Get This Done ASAP!"

Let's not let three facts intrude. First, sugar is a required listing in the Nutrition Facts Box. Second, there is general scientific agreement (is that an oxymoron?) that the body does not distinguish one kind of sugar from another -- sugar is sugar is sugar. Sure, honey and pure evaporate cane juice give us a warm and fuzzy feeling compared to HFCS and granulated white sugar, but, metabolically speaking, there is no nutritional difference. And, third, have you ever tried to drink a cup of straight cranberry juice? I tried, and I could not do it, way too tart for me and most consumers which is why the industry sweetens the drink with other, cheaper sugars. Apple juice, Mother Nature's junk food, is a popular choice. Take off the peel and all you have is sugar and a modicum of vitamins.

When HFCS began, to borrow another DC phrase, "to twist slowly in the wind," smart companies found more consumer friendly alternatives, even if they did not meet the strict standard of identity established by the FDA for sugar. Cane juice consumption jumped and some companies actually advertised "contains real sugar" as opposed the sugar that comes from a factory of corn going in one end, lots of pipes and syrup coming out the other end.

Just for the record, the last two rounds of Dietary Guidelines (DG) declined to recommend the "added sugar" approach. Oh sure, the DG panel was dominated by industry and despite the East Wing of the White House's  Let's Move campaign, big, bad industry won. Which brings us back to why the food fundamentalists are trying to end run the DG process and have FDA change the regulations.

FDA is a risk adverse, deliberative Agency, to say the least. They should carefully and painstakingly review the comments and then stick them in a place where the sun does not shine, in a backroom storage facility with no windows.

After all it is excessive calories people consume from a wide variety of foods, just not sugar that provides the risk factor for obesity, CVD and diabetes. Brownell and his usual suspects know, if you consume more calories than you expend, you will put on weight. Perhaps, that is where they ought to focus their personal efforts and let FDA worry about the really important stuff, like surviving.

Friday, July 27, 2012

When the Circus Came to NYC

This week the New York City Board of Health conducted a public hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed so-called “soda ban." To paraphrase one of the more famous lines from Casablanca, the Mayor's office went out and "rounded up the usual suspects." A handful of consumers spoke. Mostly it was a spattering of elected officials and lobbyists on both sides of the issues. You know the ones - the media ego maniac, the sky is falling, Michael Jacobson and the ivory tower sky is following, but we do not need more study because we have no idea whether this will actually reduce total caloric intake, Kelly Brownell. There message was simple, "Don't confuse me with the facts because my mind is already made up.

Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, let me direct your attention to the center ring where we are going to conduct the greatest show on earth -- a public hearing about the role of soft drinks in the diet in the nation's largest city with many "experts" and very few public participants.

Only 100 people attended, most of them reporters, who after making the trek to Long Island City, felt obliged to file a no news story.

No new information or evidence was presented. Each side rehashed the same old arguments. The hearing will not likely change the expected approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, which will limit the size of non-alcoholic beverages sold at restaurants, movie theaters, delis, stadiums, arenas and mobile food cars to 16 ounces. The Board of Health — 11 physicians, public health experts and scientists and the health commissioner — are all mayoral appointees.

One pro-industry group said something to the effect that the deck was stacked which reminded me of Captain Renault's famous quote, again from Casablanca, that :" I'm shocked to find that gambling is going on in here [Rick's Cafe]!" -  after receiving his share of the evenings earnings. Shocked indeed.

In politics, there is a golden rule -- he who has the gold makes the rules. And this was the Mayor's sandbox. The board will formally vote on the plan in September. If approved, it will take effect in March 2013.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Will the Luddites Win on GMO Food?

Luddite - Lud-dite (noun) - an opponent of technological or industrial change.

Just about very leap forward in food science and food safety during the last century has been opposed for some reason or the other, mostly from fear of the unknown, some from not so enlightened self-interest and others from ignorance, so it comes as no surprise that genetically modified (GM) foods are under attack.

Let's look at some examples of other "new" food technologies, because early opposition to these technologies raised the same issues we are debating today and they share a common conclusion, they were wrong.


When the Civil War broke out America was mainly an agrarian society. The Union army quickly turned to the food industry for help in feeding the troops. The results were mixed. As the saying goes, "Swift and Armour (the two giant Chicago meat packing companies) killed more Union soldiers than all the Confederates." The Union forces died from rotten meat packed in cans sealed with lead. If the bacteria filled meat did not kill the soldiers, many died a slow and painful death from lead poisoning.

The unsanitary conditions persisted into the 1900s until publication of The Jungle which prompted an outraged President Theodore Roosevelt to move with sweeping reform legislation.

In the 1880s something as simple as pasteurization was vehemently opposed. Pasteur did not discover microorganisms. He made the immensely important observation that they were not a consequence of disease, decay, and putrefaction—as was the common scientific opinion at the time—but were, in fact,
he causes of these problems, and that eliminating them could eliminate the problem. This knowledge led to revolutionary changes in medicine and food preservation, not the least of which was the understanding that relatively mild heating kills microorganisms and substantially improves the safety and quality of foods without destroying desirable nutritional and sensory characteristics.

As a good Frenchman, he applied his discovery to the preservation of that most important beverage: wine. In order to “prove” the effectiveness of his process, Pasteur shipped a cargo of pasteurized wine around the world in 1868 on the French frigate, La Sybile, “without spoilage of a single bottle.”

Nevertheless, It took almost 30 more years for pasteurization to become the norm in food processing.

Frozen Foods
Ever since man began to throw meat into the snow from the cave in order to preserve it, we have been using frozen foods. However, beginning in 1929, Clarence Birdseye, a well-known taxidermist, offered his quick-frozen foods to the public. Birdseye got the idea during fur-trapping expeditions to Labrador in 1912 and 1916, where he saw the natives use freezing to preserve foods. Modern attempts at refrigeration began in the early 20th century in the meat packing industry. The first quick-frozen vegetables, fruits, sea foods, and meat were sold to the public for the first time in 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts, under the trade name Birds Eye Frosted Foods®. Other experiments, involving orange juice, ice cream and vegetables were conducted by the military near the end of World War II.

Eighty-three years after Birdseye first introduced product into the consumer marketplace, critics still complain about the quality, composition and nutrition of frozen foods but the public has spoken and industry has responded with ever changing products produced from from Fortune 50 food companies to the all organic crowd.


Fear is the powerful motivator and the verbal and minds- eye image of "Frankenfood," certainly gives one reason to pause and hope that all the right people are asking all the right questions about the introduction of this technology into the marketplace in forms that go beyond major crops such as corn and soybeans.

Labeling is a hot-button issue. Currently, there's no federal requirement to label, because FDA has declared the GM foods identical, in nutrition and safety, to their non-GMO cousins. FDA argues reasonably there is no need to label a safe product.

Opponents point out that consumers increasingly feel they have a right to know what is in the food they eat-particularly when it comes to GMO. In a 2012 survey by the consumer research company The Mellman Group, 91 percent favored labeling.

The industry has polled consumers intensively on labeling issues since the Nutrition Facts Box first appeared. This vast body of research tells us that consumers, when asked, want every imaginable type of information on front panel packaging, from country of origin to multiple breakdowns of fat. Whether consumers understand what they are asking for is another question. Most consumers cannot tell the difference of a poly unsaturated fat to an omega 3 product, much less the complexities of grams and percent of daily values of the current Nutrition Facts Box. Most consumers cannot tell you a potato is a vegetable, much less one that is loaded with potassium and dietary fiber, two "nutrients of concern," according to top federal health policy makers. Just ask your nearest Registered Dietitian.

Today, About 80 percent of the major crops come from GM seeds, so a warning on just about every food that contains this genetic material equals a warning about nothing, especially when one cannot distinguish the GM product from the natural product.

The risk avoidance FDA has taken forever, as it usually does, to review GM foods in the scientific pipeline such as a GM salmon. We are going to have to wait longer for a decision. It's an election year and the Obama Administration does not want a GM decision clouding its presidential messaging. There are no votes for the Obama Administration if it approves a GM fish this year.

On the merits of the science, in mid July, the American Medical Association announced in a statement that they saw no health purpose for labeling genetically modified foods -- those made with GMOs (or genetically modified organisms) -- as such.

AMA underscored, "There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education. . .We also urge the FDA to remain alert to new data on the health consequences of bioengineered foods," AMA board member Dr. Patrice Harris.

However, the AMA, inserted a "poison pill" into its statement. The organization went on to recommend mandatory pre-market safety testing with the FDA for any modified food. No other issue, except the freedom to advertise its products to the public, is nearer to the heart of the food industry. In the past, it has "gone to the mattresses" to avoid pre-market approval of foods. Currently, companies "consult" with the FDA since no one wants the Agency to issue a warning letter about their product after they have spent tens of millions to produce and launch it.

In 2006 the American Dietetic Association, now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, issued a policy statement that agricultural and food biotechnology techniques can enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available for human consumption and increase the efficiency of food production, food processing, food distribution, and environmental and waste management. The American Dietetic Association "encourages the government, food manufacturers, food commodity groups, and qualified food and nutrition professionals to work together to inform consumers about this new technology and encourage the availability of these products in the marketplace." Great.

Nearly a decade ago, in 2004 an investigation from the National Academy of Sciences into the relative regulation and safety testing of genetically modified and conventional foods found that either method can result in problems like food allergens and pathogens. “All foods, whether or not they are genetically engineered, carry potentially hazardous substances or pathogenic microbes and must be properly and prudently assessed to ensure a reasonable degree of safety," read the report.
What's Next?
So what do we do? Do we wait, like Pasteur, for thirty years to pass before accepting GM foods into our homes?

California, which likes to set its own food and environmental policies and then force the FDA and the food industry to meet its standards since it has the largest consumer market in the country, may go its own way. There is a Proposition on the November ballot that would require labeling of GM foods.

Obviously the industry is spending a fortune to defeat the measure, but as in so many food controversies since 1986, as California goes, so goes the nation.