By Gina Spadafori
June 19, 2009
NPR calls them “driveway moments” — those pieces you have to hear the end of so you stay in the car even after you get home and keep listening. Usually this is because the piece is especially interesting or compelling, but in the case of the interview with the new FDA boss, I stayed in my car just hoping she’d say something, anything with some substance.
It was not to be.
The interview had been teased with a mention of the pet-food recall, which NPR characterized as having “sickened” pets, which is true only if you grant that most organisms “sicken” before, you know, actually dying, which is what thousands of pets did, NPR’s glossing over aside.
New FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg batted away the question about the pet-food recall’s core issue — the fraudulent substitution of melamine by foreign companies in order to game the protein readings — by acknowledging the challenges the agency faces with globalization and her intent to modernize.
To be fair, Dr. Hamburg has a good reputation and she just started the job. And of course, this is just one interview. But frankly, I would have liked to have seen a little moreÂ determination, a little more acknowledgment that the FDA as it exists today is a shadow of the consumer-protection firebrand it once was — if not an outright servant of the industries it’s supposed to regulate — and how she was going to change that.
After all, we know tobacco kills, and that shouldn’t be news to the anyone including the FDA, which just got handed the task of regulating tobacco products. What we shouldn’t have to worry about killing us or our pets is the food we buy.
Dr. Marion Nestle always stresses what we have said on this blog from the first day of the pet-food recall: This isn’t about “pet food” vs. “people food”: It’s about safe food, and it all comes from the same places.
On her “Food Politics” blog, Dr. Nestle talks about the problems with multi-nutrient supplements:
Itâ€™s hard not to think of multivitamin supplements (which also include minerals) as perfectly safe, since the amounts of specific nutrients rarely exceed recommended levels.Â But according to recent reports, formulation mistakes get made and these donâ€™t always get caught by quality controls.Â Here are two examples.
According to FoodProductionDaily.com, 25% of Adverse Event Reports (AERs) sent into the FDA last year concerned multivitamin supplements. This, says one supplement trade association, should not be interpreted to mean that there is anything wrong with the supplements.Â Maybe not, but how about checking?
She then puts these findings in context of the recent recalls of Nutro. More here.
Finally and also food-related, Pet Connection BFF Dr. Patty Khuy writes about prescription pet diets on her Dolittler blog:
The concept of a â€œprescription onlyâ€ diet has merely been a marketing success for pet food companies who label their products as such and somehow manage to have engendered a belief that a product labeled as a â€œPrescription Dietâ€… requires a prescription.
But this is NOT TRUE! There is no legal basis for requiring a prescription for a product that is NOT regulated by the FDA as a drug. Shall I repeat that or was it sufficiently clear?
Nonetheless, it IS true that any private retail establishment has the right to require a veterinarianâ€™s say-so before you can buy ANYTHING from them. Sure, PetSmart is not about to require a written script for leashes and kitty litter, but if it wants to do business with pet food behemoths like Hills and Iams, then theyâ€™re darn well not going to tick them off by failing to follow manufacturer requirements for sale of Prescription Diets.