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Many people believe that the government (via the FDA, USDA, EPA, etc.) protects consumers from dangerous products BEFORE they enter the marketplace. While this is generally true for products that cause a quick death, it is not necessarily true for products which may produce long-term deliterious effects.

drumroll please...

  • For approximately 25 years, DDT was deemed perfectly safe. Then, in 1972, it was banned for its destructive effects on wildlife and its potentially carcinogenic nature.
  • Coumarin, which imparts a vanilla-like flavor and is a flavor fixative, was used as a food and tobacco additive for many decades. Coumarin was banned on March 5, 1954 when it was discovered that it caused liver damage in both rats and dogs and was suspected of being carcinogenic.1
  • In 1989, tryptophan, an essential amino acid sold in the U.S. as a nutritional supplement, was manufactured in a new way from a genetically altered bacteria. Over time, thousands of people who took tryptophan from this batch became ill, 1,500 were permanently disabled, and 37 died.

    Subsequently, very sensitive chemical testing showed that although the tryptophan was 99.6 percent pure, and thus 'substantially equivalent', the genetically engineered bacteria had unexpectedly introduced a tiny amount (0.01 percent) of an extremely toxic contaminant. If the FDA had insisted on more thorough testing, using animal or human subjects, this product would never have been allowed on the market.2
  • On November 6, 2000, the FDA recalled phenylpropanolamine - an ingredient used in many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription cough and cold medications as a decongestant and in OTC weight loss products - due to the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding into the brain.3
  • On September 25, 2000, USA Today found that 54 percent of the experts hired to advise the FDA on the safety and effectiveness of medicine have financial ties to the drug companies that will be affected by their decisions.4

1. http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/cigpapers/book/chapter6/3.html
2. http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/ny050401.txt
3. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/ANS01051.html
4. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/DailyNews/fda_interests000925.html


To further clarify my position:

While I do believe that government regulatory agencies provide an invaluable service, they are not perfect. Therefore, I continue to critically evaluate the products that have been approved by regulatory agencies.

As lordaych reminded me, the idea that "they wouldn't let people sell it if it wasn't safe" is just not necessarily true.

kamamer's "Why I trust car doors that will magically pop open and eject me onto a truck bed carrying fluffy mattresses more than I trust seatbelts", while humorous, is an incorrect translation of my ideas. A more consistent translation would be "Why I trust defensive driving more than I trust seatbelts". While I do think seatbelts are great, I don't blindly believe that they alone will protect me from the dangers associated with driving a motor vehicle.

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