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FDA regulations smell fishy

Editorial Cartoon by Michael Escañuelas

Editorial Cartoon by Michael Escañuelas

Less than two weeks ago a suit was filed in California Superior Court charging several makers of fish oil pills with marketing products containing PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) levels beyond the safe limits for human consumption, and illegally failing to reveal the level to consumers. PCBs in high enough doses are known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. Because the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate and test all dietary supplements, customers who use any contaminated merchandise do so at their own risk. (Ironically people take fish oil to decrease their risk of cancer and heart disease.)

The FDA regulates most everything we ingest with the intent of keeping us safe, so why does it overlook the vitamins and dietary supplements so many of us use on a daily basis?

Consumers need to know the vitamins they use are actually going to benefit them, without harmful risks.

Knowing we can consume products without having to worry about extreme consequences is comforting and guarantees industries loyal consumers.

Realizing that taking a vitamin we thought was beneficial to our health could potentially be harmful is disturbing. The FDA needs to regulate our vitamins and supplements just like everything else we put into our bodies.

Congress defined the term “dietary supplement” in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994. It states that a dietary supplement is “any product taken orally that contains a dietary ingredient intending to supplement the diet.” The intentions of the supplements are probably noble, but no one can ensure the safety of the products without regulations.

In 1994, the DSHEA was signed into law by President Clinton, stating the manufacturing firms are responsible for determining that its products are safe and any claims made are not false or misleading.

The firms are not required to submit evidence of safety to the FDA and are not forced to reveal any safety issues related to the products to its target consumer or the FDA.

It is the firm’s responsibility to determine their product is safe. How many times have firms neglected their responsibilities? If the product is deemed unsafe, the company loses revenue.

The FDA needs to assume more responsibility in protecting consumers.

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