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The safety and efficacy of the FDA - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Jun. 9th, 2007

11:56 am - The safety and efficacy of the FDA

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Someone on my friend’s list wrote:

“…before the FDA and other such organizations mandated and checked such things, butchers and bakers would throw in anything vaguely foodlike to stretch their budgets…”

Of course, this is the received wisdom. However, correlation is not causation. Cost benefit analysis of the FDA suggests that by delaying efficacious drugs, the FDA has cost many more lives than it has saved.

And even as we speak, the USDA is fighting to prevent private companies from testing all their beef for BSE (”mad cow disease”).

Over the same time that the FDA regulations were put into place, per capita wealth in the U.S. increased dramatically. As people become wealthier, they tend to become more demanding of their food sources. (Witness the growth of the organic foods movement, and the profitability of Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods). So any increases in food quality may well be due to grocers meeting the demands of wealthier customers, independent of any effects that the USDA/FDA may have had.

Ideally, in order to determine the effects of USDA/FDA regulation, we would randomly assign individuals to either a state that did have such regulations or one that did not, and then see if their mortality and morbidity rates were any different over a long period of time. (Matching for a variables like age, wealth, religion, and others, of course.)

Original: craschworks - comments

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From:tinymammoth
Date:June 9th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
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In most cases, without government regulation of food and drugs, private certification would accomplish the same thing without so many unnecessary constraints on liberty. Real world examples: Underwriter's Laboratories, a private agency which tests almost every piece of electronic equipment sold in the US, Consumer Lab, which tests vitamin supplements for purity, and the testing of motorcycle helmets for safety, which is done by three different competing private companies, each with slightly different standards.

External testing of products is in fact needed and wanted by consumers, which is why the market will create a solution unless the state has already crowded it out.

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From:crasch
Date:June 9th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
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Agreed.
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From:radiantsun
Date:June 9th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)

No Prions!

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uh- that sounds like the best incentive to become a non-beef eater. There are better reasons . . . . but incentive for me is I like my brain!
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From:radiantsun
Date:June 9th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)

Re: No Prions!

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(didn't read the article just interpreted as no mandatory testing for mad cow)
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From:crasch
Date:June 9th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)

Re: No Prions!

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It's worse than no mandatory testing. The USDA currently only tests a small sample of beef for BSE. Some companies want to go beyond the minimum regulatory requirement, and test _all_ of their beef. However, the USDA is trying to _prevent_ those companies from testing their beef because they fear it would put pressure on other companies to test all their beef as well.
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From:radiantsun
Date:June 9th, 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)

Re: No Prions!

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um, that's dumb. That's like saying-- I'm going to stop you from going to school because you want to so that I your sibling doesn't feel pressured to go to school as well.

Not to be a conspiracy theororist or anything . . . but I wonder if the USDA is getting any funding from the companies that don't want to test all their meat?
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From:infrogmation
Date:June 10th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)

The safety and efficacy of the FDA: I'm just talkin' 'bout Taft

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With my minarchist leanings, I tend to think the USA was closest to having it right in the years of the early 20th century when it mandated truth in contents of products sold but before the Feds started prohibiting ingredients.

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From:crasch
Date:June 10th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)

Re: The safety and efficacy of the FDA: I'm just talkin' 'bout Taft

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Yeah, I think that's about right too.
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