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The Politics of the F.D.A. 238

A fight over posting calorie counts for popcorn is just one example of the clash between the White House and the agency charged with protecting public health. Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the F.D.A. commissioner, was forced to scrap plans to have calorie counts posted for foods served in movie theaters and on airplanes after a phone call from the White House deputy chief of staff in 2010. From the article: "White House officials describe their disagreements with the F.D.A. as part of the normal, constructive give-and-take over policy that has never undermined the agency’s mission. 'Under President Obama’s leadership, the Food and Drug Administration has new authority and resources to help stop kids from smoking, protect our food supply and approve more affordable prescription drugs,' said the White House press secretary, Jay Carney. The administration also views the agency’s hostility to its oversight as hopelessly naïve, given a 24-hour news cycle and a ferocious political environment that punishes any misstep. 'They want a world that doesn’t exist anymore,' an administration official said."
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The Politics of the F.D.A.

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  • ...and WTF is the tech angle here?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...and WTF is the tech angle here?

      They had a phone call!

    • /. long ago removed the "news for nerds stuff that matters" moniker. But even if it still existed this seems like it matters to at least the US readership.
      • Aww, an English website run in the US that doesn't explicitly say it's internationally-focused is US focused?

        Cry some more.

      • /. long ago removed the "news for nerds stuff that matters" moniker.

        If you don't understand how a major conflict between science and politics is both News For Nerds and Stuff That Matters, please turn in your nerd card immediately, and don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

    • You eat.

    • Calories in popcorn? (Or are they kilocalories?)
    • ...and WTF is the tech angle here?

      The technical angle is that the FDA's edicts are not science-based. We got the food pyramid conflating fats and sweets and telling us to eat rafts of carbohydrates which are addictive, make you fat, raise your "bad" cholesterol score, and cause heart disease, on the back of the NIH spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer money trying to prove that eating fat was bad for you and failing. Now they want us to believe they're the right people to tell us what we should be putting into our bodies today. Bull S

  • But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:41PM (#39563141)

    ...what in the world would the downside of having the energy content for movie snacks posted? It's not as if it would be prohibitely difficult or expensive to calculate for the vendors. Even McDonalds are doing it, and their meals are a lot more complex than "1 part dried corn, 1 part oil". The only possible reason is that people might not buy as much of it if they realised how fat it made them. But boosting your sales based on a lack of health information seems rather evil, and surely isn't something that movie theaters would do, right?


    • by thoth ( 7907 )

      The article implies (yes I know, that would require actually reading it and not having knee jerk reactions like the dumb ass AC's above) not posting the nutrition content has more to do with the fact a movie theater and/or airplane aren't regular eating establishments, like say an actual restaurant. (article: "the administration has not made a final decision about what food establishments will be covered.")

    • It is somewhat complex.. the "extra butter" that gets added would be separate, so there would be no consistent measure beyond the base amount.. you could label the popcorn as made (without butter-like topping), and the content for the topping separately. The *FACT* is, that nobody actually ordering said popcorn really cares. Most people are aware that the popcorn itself is moderately light on calories/fat, and the additional topping is very heavy. Also varies by size, and packing... some people will pack
      • by Tynin ( 634655 )

        The *FACT* is, that nobody actually ordering said popcorn really cares.

        The way you capitalize really sells your point well...

        Some people own things like the the kill-o-watt wall meter because they want to know things. The establishment could post on something saying what the given nutritional values were, it isn't like they don't have the most insane markup of any nontraditional food court. Like the parent said it would not be difficult or expensive. Plus some people are generally swayed by raw empiricism. Finding out how horrible the toppings are, and how small the serving s

    • What would happen if a bucket of popcorn reported the following nutritional data:

      1200 Calories
      1500 mg sodium
      60 grams saturated fat (more than 2 Big Macs, from the coconut oil)

      Do you think theater owners might object? Do you think parents might object?

      THAT's the downside of posting the nutrients.

      Popcorn Calorie Bomb []

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      The downside is that Fox News gets to run 2 months of stories about how the socialist government is even trying to get between you and your movie popcorn and you had better not even think about voting for them again; fair and balanced.

      It is depressing how much stuff is not being done in Washington because of how it would play out on the nation's most watched news channel. I firmly believe that the hyper scrutiny of the 24 hour news cycle is the primary cause behind the total partisan gridlock in Congre
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      President Obama’s chief health adviser, thought the requirement was unnecessary and would probably be lampooned on Fox News...

      They're afraid of what Fox and Limbaugh will say? Actually this is a valid concern; would a person who went up to the snack bar in a theater really be influenced to not buy a box because a sign says it contains 300 calories? Maybe there are more important things for the FDA to do.

    • When was the last time you studied the ingredients and nutrition table of microwave popcorn?

      Any of the butter flavored ones are LOADED with trans fat.

      I buy the unflavored popcorn and add my own melted butter at smaller dosages - tastes much better, the dairy product has zero trans fat, and you can don't need the ridiculous amount that is packaged with the buttered ones.
  • Obviously, as seen in other issues (i.e. ACTA) the MPAA has the president in their pocket. Isn't it true that movie theaters make all their money on concessions, because they give nearly all of the money from ticket sales to the studios? If you post calories then people buy less popcorn, so you reduce concession sales. If the movie theaters can't stay in business selling concessions, will more of the ticket price have to be kept by the theater, thus reducing the profits of the MPAA members?

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      If you post calories then people buy less popcorn, so you reduce concession sales.

      [Citation needed]

      As far as I can tell, most of the theater-going public seems to consider the purchase of popcorn a mandatory part of the theater experience.

  • by srussia ( 884021 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:05PM (#39563501)
    Mandatory nutrient labelling for dirt. Won't anyone think of the children with pica []?
    • Mandatory nutrient labelling for dirt. Won't anyone think of the children with pica []?

      And this is why people like Colbert have an assured job.

      Because idiots like you will always take it to an extreme over putting a label of numbers onto some object. As if more consumer awareness is bad.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @03:28PM (#39563917)

    There are medical researchers finding that high sugar intake fosters cancer growth, finding this to be particularly evident in those who have cancer. Will the FDA ever label sugar appropriately? Nope. There's even less a chance they'll do this with corn syrup, given the corn lobbyists.

    Speaking of corn, imagine having a corn allergy. Actually, it's not necessarily corn per se, but expressions of certain genetic modifications and some of the molds that grow on corn. But basically every processed food has corn derivatives in it. You name it, it's derived from corn. Citric acid (a common preservative used in just about everything), ascorbic acid, microcrystaline cellulose, xanthan gum (a common thickener, derived from an organism grown on corn), fructose, dextrose, "natural flavors", MSG, etc. And they're added to everything from table salt to orange juice. (Why the hell they would need to add corn-derived citric acid to orange juice beats the hell out of me.) And if you search the web for "corn allergy", you'll get the impression that a corn allergy isn't incredibly rare, and there are communities of people who work really hard to figure out which food products aren't treated with corn products. Imagine being unable to buy CHICKEN without being at risk. That's right, almost all chicken sold in grocery stores has corn-based additives. A corn allergy may be rare, but the sheer ubiquity of corn products makes it so that absolutely everyone with a corn allergy in the U.S. will suffer. Nevertheless, the FDA flatly refuses to even create a legal definition of corn, let alone require products to mention it on the label. Even organic farmers spray their produce with corn derivatives as a sort of non-toxic enrivonmentally friendly pest deterrent.

    If you have a corn allergy, you are royally fucked.

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      If you have a corn allergy, you are royally fucked.

      Thank you, government subsidies, for unintended consequences. (I gave up HFCS years ago, and lost over 50 pounds.)

  • We can stand around and argue the merits of labeling requirements and food regulation all day long. There are an endless series of tradeoffs I don't much know shit about and therefore will refrain from offering an opinion.

    What is not acceptable about the FDA are labeling requirements that allow knowingly factually incorrect information to be stamped on food labels. Tweaking serving size so that trans fat content is below the .5 threshold and therefore always reads zero should in my view be considered a cri

  • I live in New York where all chains are required to post calories, and it's fantastic! It makes it so easy to choose the correct portions. However food producers are definitely cranking up the salt to compensate now. You can't add sugar or fat without adding calories, but you can add salt.
  • by toriver ( 11308 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @04:16PM (#39564487)

    The A in FDA stands for Administration. If you do not want them to administer the areas of food and drugs, just shut them down already.

  • "Give and take over". What a wonderful description.

  • The FDA has been at war with the supplement industry for over 50 years. So we only have second class nutrients in many vitamins and vitamin formulas that suck. The FDA, pharma's industrial whore, has been seething and conspiring to usurp and overthrow the DSHEA since 1994.

    The RDAs are whacked out lies in many cases. This clearly true for vitamin C and D3, probably many more including several "near vitamins".
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:31PM (#39568343) Journal
    One of your flunkies said:

    'They want a world that doesn’t exist anymore,'

    No, they want a world that isn't this neoliberal war-mongering kleptocracy cooked up by BushCo and cheerfully continued by the Obama Admin. You know -a world where there's a sense of common decency and a vibrant social contract between people, and not this dog-eat-dog psychopathic me-first Randian horsecrap we've been force fed since Reagan.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.