Heinz Variety or None at All?
Heinz Variety or None at All?

eresa Heinz Kerry—who could very well be our next First Lady—may delight in telling everyone what vitamins to take. But will she and her husband extend their own right to choose into the same right of self-medication for everyone else? More precisely, if elected, will John Kerry stand up to a horde of political fixers obsessed with overthrowing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)?

We have not heard the last of S. 722, Senator Richard Durbin’s (D-IL) Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2003—cosponsored by Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and John McCain (R-AZ)—which had been extraneously appended to a Department of Defense bill. Fortunately, S. 722 has been temporarily derailed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) because, as he says, it is “a solution in search of a problem.” (Have you ever wondered why liberals are so infatuated with economic safety, while conservatives lean more toward social safety?)

S. 722 would have given the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a political appointee who takes recommendations from the FDA, the discretionary power to yank a product from the market based on adverse reports. Since the FDA has been an avowed enemy of supplements, this is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. In effect, the FDA would have the ability to remove a supplement—any supplement, including vitamin C and vitamin E—from the market if as little as one adverse event report were filed, entirely independently of whether it was purely anecdotal and without any scientific grounding. After which, only if the producer could prove its absolute safety—at a cost conceivably amounting to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars—could any product so flagged be returned to the market. Should the billionaire Kerry and wife occupy the White House, do you think that any such enactment would limit their ability to choose vitamin C, or whatever, for themselves and their friends?

Remember that the cause of a “safety emergency” was the perceived (media-orchestrated) belief that ephedra and certain steroids were killing our sports heroes and threatening our youth. How illusory an emergency that was, compared, say, with 182 deaths due to acetaminophen in 2002, or the 50 initial deaths due to early consumption of Viagra (endorsed by a one-time presidential candidate), or the estimated 120,000 deaths due to legal, and heavily regulated, pharmaceuticals every year. But no matter … though the flames have died down for now, when the next specter of imminent supplement danger is predictably resurrected once again—rallied by the next tabloid-driven hysteria—there will be political fireworks.

Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety

What may be a root problem with the kind of political thinking that threatens our health horizons is the concept of “public safety.” Was it mere chance that Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution led directly to the Reign of Terror? While the American Revolution had a brief flirtation with public safety committees to enforce legal tender laws when the Continental dollar was sinking, they were strictly at the local level, and the idea of public safety did not play a big role in the founding documents. Perhaps it is inevitable that this idea is self-corrupting. Nevertheless, whenever you see the word Safety in a proposed Act, as is the case with S. 722, you should slide back the safety on your cognitive .45 automatic.

The “57 Varieties” slogan of the H. J. Heinz Company—the source of Teresa’s wealth—may have understated the number of choices offered when it was first adopted. Even back then, there were more than 60 varieties. However, what the slogan did convey was choice. Henry J. Heinz offered his customers not only quality, but choice. However the political winds blow, let us hope that in the future we are still free to choose our nutritional supplements. Only then can we truly be safe from the committees and would-be tyrants who would deny us our health freedom.

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