When it comes to your health, who is the authority you look to for guidance? As children, we trusted our parents. As parents, we often look to professionals, realizing that we don’t always have the answers.
This can be especially important in regards to our health. So children typically trust the ones they feel love them, their parents. That doesn’t necessarily change as we age, but as adults our trust is often placed in the hands of professionals.
Notice we skipped the teen years, when we generally don’t trust anyone. And ironically it’s during these years that many of our lifelong habits, good or bad, are formed.
The fact is, the longer we live the more we experience the pro’s and con’s of choices we’ve made, or that have been made for us. But there are more factors that influence our health. So it’s here that we can positively say “it’s not my fault,” at least not entirely. Why not?
We are highly influenced by what we watch, read, and hear as it relates to our health. And then there are the “professionals.” Whether they are our family doctor or a government agency, it is their job to care for our health.
In this article I want to specifically address the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Before writing this article I had a pretty negative view of what they do regarding anything health related.
My views were definitely skewed by the media. However, the more I looked into how much the FDA is responsible for, the more I appreciated just how overburdened they are. Their task is monumental, and the implications of that are even scarier than I had initially thought.
The FDA is the governmental authority that is responsible for protecting public health by regulation and supervision of food safety. That’s the short version. Their areas of oversight are extensive and space doesn’t allow a full description. Suffice to say the FDA’s oversight includes foods we consume, drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter), tobacco, animal feed, veterinary practices, and more. You could safely say they never have a slow day.
Do you feel the FDA is a good or bad authority regarding your personal health and well- being? Most likely you have an opinion. When you select your answer think of what your general feeling is regarding how well they are doing their job.
c. Not really sure.
Since we live in a country where much of our food is mass-produced, it is a good thing to have an agency that oversees this. In fact, the more you read about the FDA the more comforted you may feel about what they do and how it impacts you personally. After all, if you’re like me, you’ve read about, listened to, and watched a lot of media that has given you a rather bad impression of this governmental agency.
Oh, and before I continue I want to be sure and mention that I am in no way for or against the FDA. They try and usually succeed at a nearly impossible job. The purpose of this article is to help enlighten you as to why so many products, drugs especially, have been approved by the FDA, only to be later recalled due to public safety issues.
The accompanying box, a quote from the FDA website, gives an idea of just how far reaching their authority is. But it should also help you see just how large a task is placed on their shoulders.
Keeping that thought in mind will help you appreciate why they cannot possibly keep up with the demands of their office of oversight.
Imagine for a moment that you want to go to law school. We’ve all probably seen lawyers on TV and can appreciate the complexities of the law. We know that besides laws we are aware of, traffic laws for instance, there are many new laws introduced each year. Thousands of them. So a lawyer would need to be able to grasp many of these and do endless research on laws he is not familiar with.
Now you’ve passed the bar exam and want to do some good working for the FDA. Be prepared to sift through trillions, that’s a 1 with 12 zeros, of regulations.
Are you kidding me? One trillion?!
What about regulations that are no longer up to date with technology or simply out of date period?
What if it was your job to find the regulations that were out of date? What if your job was to update each and every outdated regulation?
I can’t even imagine what one trillion regulations looks like let alone trying to figure out which ones are out of date and how I would even go about understanding all the laws that apply to each regulation in order to make it up to date. Consider how fast new technologies are introduced? And how each of these technologies create new problems for the now outdated technologies.
With technology the solution is often as simple as an upgrade, sometimes a replacement. And if we want that new tech bad enough we get it. Simple. It’s different with our health. We often don’t find out until a lot of time has passed by that the product we’ve been using is really bad for us. It doesn’t help that it’s relatively easy to market products that are not tested or evaluated; think of all the labels that read “not tested by the FDA.”
There are just too many new products introduced as safe for people each year for the FDA to be on top of.
OK, stay with me now…
#1 – The FDA was set up to protect us from food, biological, and medical related health hazards.
#2 – The FDA has regulations in place to help accomplish their job. One trillion regulations.
#3 – Their area of oversight extends beyond the United States to include US territories and possessions.
Let’s consider the number one trillion for a minute. 1 trillion seconds equals over 31,700 years. Turn those seconds into regulations, and imagine that 31,700 people were placed in charge of the 1 trillion regulations.
Sounds like a plan. However, the average person only lives about 80 years and, well, since they can’t start going over those regulations until they pass the bar exam let’s say they only have 50 years to do it.
How long do you think it would take to look over those regulations? An hour per regulation? A day? A month?