Yesterday, it was Chinese dietary supplements that were in the news. Today it s spices from India. And if there is a better way to illustrate how badly the FDA s hands are tied while trying to protect people from substances they should not be consuming, it isn t obvious.
South Korean customs authorities seized an estimated 17 thousand dietary supplements from China that contained a few questionable ingredients: 1) Sibutramine a former appetite suppressant that is banned in the U.S. because of a number of dangerous side effects; 2) Phenolphthalein a laxative that is no longer used; 3) Human flesh from ground up dead fetuses. Huh?
Although the pills in question were confiscated in South Korea, it is not known whether any of them made it to the U.S.
But in case they did, the profoundly unhelpful statement released by the FDA will put precisely no one at ease: "The choice to use a dietary supplement can be a wise decision that provides health benefits. However, under certain circumstances, these products may be unnecessary for good health or they may even create unexpected risks."
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom comments, This inane response from the FDA only highlights what I ve been saying for years when you take supplements, it is anyone s guess what s in the bottle, although I doubt anyone would have guessed this. He adds, This sort of gives the term Chinese food a whole new meaning.
In case a banned diet drug and former laxative doesn t alarm you sufficiently, human flesh isn t such a swell idea either. Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control says, "This is gross, as well as creepy ¦.[B]ecause the birth canal is in close proximity to the rectum, other bacteria like e coli, salmonella and shigella could be present ¦.[I]f these fetuses went through the birth canal, they can quickly pick up bacteria [MRSA]."
Now it s India s turn. A report released by the FDA on October 30th, bearing the subtle title Risk Profile: Pathogen and Filth in Spices noted that 12 percent of spices imported from India contained insects, insect parts, and rodent hairs. Furthermore, 7 percent of the spices contained salmonella bacteria one cause of food poisoning.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava observed Spices can be irradiated to kill pathogenic bacteria, but even that wouldn t remove adulterants such as insect parts. And of course, organic spices could not be irradiated, since that isn t allowed for organic foods and ingredients.
Still, The American Spice Trade Association argued that imported spices are safe because they are treated before marketing, which caused Dr. Bloom to wonder, in the spirit of Halloween, whether the spices were really treated or simply tricked.
He says, Right now a steak, baked potato and a package of Hostess Ho-Hos is sounding pretty good.