HYPE! HYPE, I TELL YOU!

So apparently morning-after pills don’t prevent implantation after all? (Which matters because that’s the reason abortion opponents hate them. Or say they do.)

Nurse: Oi vey! I feel like every time we open up a discussion like this, I
put on my sarcastic hat and say something like, “what, does pregnancy
begin at ovulation now, no sperm required?” and then the religious
right is like, “yes, actually, it does.” and then my head explodes and
something inside me dies.

Lawyer: That’s right. We’re all pregnant right now. In fact, we’re born with eggs,
so maybe we’re born pregnant?

Nurse: So now, if, as this article suggests, EC pills actually stop fertilization rather than stopping implantation, you’d think that would make things better, wouldn’t you? I guess my
point is that. . . well, they probably won’t. Whatever the quibble was this time, there will be something else, seemingly unthinkable, to take its place. Such is the nature of this debate. It’s not reasonable or logical.

Lawyer: True, but it’s often couched in those terms. So I think there’s value in
continuing to expose flawed logic. To protect the integrity of logic, if not to win on the actual issue.

Nurse: OK, Mr. Spock!

Lawyer: Plus, there are plenty of people out there who are swayed by logic. So, the
super-fringe will hold fast no matter what. But I have to believe there are people who will listen to reason, or reasonable-sounding things, such that that battle is worth fighting.

Nurse: In terms of the labelling, we sell all kinds of drugs that work without completely understanding the mechanism, and that is all fine and dandy and perfectly legal, right?  Also, the FDA may not really be a great source for cutting-edge science– they are the sanctioned authority, but not necessarily “right.”.

Lawyer: Agreed. What I think is really fascinating here is the power that one line
of an FDA label had. We’ve seen this fight play out a bit with the question of over-the-counter morning after pills, too — a good deal of the debate ends up being about
what’s on the label. But there seems to be a disconnect between how those things get designed and the immense ripples they can create.

Nurse: Finally, I always think it’s interesting when science may be influenced by religion and politics. Who is funding, or suppressing, research? Who knows?

Lawyer: Tell that to Secretary Sebelius.

Nurse: No, ma’am, I don’t like it!

“Smart Choices” Program ain’t so smart…

Lawyer: I have surfaced from an intense week of law school and have finally found a few minutes to look at the news. Man, this stuff raises my blood pressure. Much more than these crazy-heavy casebooks.

The New York Times is running an article about the new “Smart Choices” labeling on packaged foods. Basically, it’s a group of industry folks agreeing on standards for putting this checkmark on food packages. Controversy is arising from the fact that Froot Loops, among other classics of the junk food genre, are getting the check-mark.

It includes the following quote:

“Dr. Kennedy, who is not paid for her work on the program, defended the products endorsed by the program, including sweet cereals. She said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children.

“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”

Now, I know I’m currently studying for a profession that places a premium on logic. Yeah. I get that. But don’t tell me that med school completely discounts it. If they’re really using this standard, then they might want to make the label say something like “All but the very stupidest choices.” I mean, okay. Let’s see. Cigarettes are smarter than heroin. Green checkmark! A Ford Expedition is smarter than a Ford Excursion. Checkmark!

This campaign is misleading and seems like an attempt by food manufacturers to get themselves off Michael Pollan’s shit list when they don’t deserve to be.

Can they do that? Well, yeah, for now, they can. The FDA says they’ll monitor it — and maybe, if it seems to be influencing people’s food choices in a negative way, they’ll think about it more. Can they do more than that now? Should they? It gets more complicated when you look at the fine print — companies are paying to participate in this program. So Kellog’s pays to have that label on its boxes (though it can only put the label on products meeting certain criteria.)

A much better solution: The FDA (whether in its current form, or split into an FA and a DA, as we’ve discussed before) would provide its own labeling system, with more sound criteria, that would uniformly apply to all food products, not just those who had the money wanted to pay to sound healthier than they are.