FDA VITAMIN BAN UNDER FIRE
On 19 January 1973 the Food and Drug Administration published their "final order" regulating the sale of vitamin and mineral supplements. The new rules were as bad as had been anticipated. Within days loud voices of protest began to be heard, from consumers, health-food manufacturers and dealers, and scientists such as Dr. Linus Pauling (author of VITAMIN C AND THE COMMON COLD). The National Health Federation, an activist organization of health food consumers and manufacturers, called the FDA order "unwarranted and illogical…a rank and arbitrary invasion of the freedom of the American people to freely purchase safe nutritional substances of their choice without a physician's prescription." The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association urged against implementation of the order without further study, and particularly opposed the low limits set for Vitamin A, as did Dr. Pauling.
The FDA order drastically limits the potencies and combinations of vitamin substances within arbitrary limits. According to the FDA's own estimates, the limits will outlaw about 80% of the vitamin and mineral supplements now being marketed. The order sets up five basic allowable combinations of vitamins and minerals, into which all legal products must fit. Excluded are a vast number of current formulations, such as B-complex formulas, calcium plus Vitamin D, combinations of Vitamins A and C, etc. The order also severely restricts the potencies available without prescription (with such upper limits as 5000 units of Vitamin A, 45 units of Vitamin E, 90 mg. of Vitamin C, 30 mg. of niacin). In addition, a host of naturally occurring nutritive factors not on the agency's official supplement list may not be included in combination with vitamins on the list (e.g., bioflavinoids may not be sold in combination with Vitamin C even though they occur together in nature); furthermore, no nutritional claims whatsoever may be made for such factors.
Most amazing of all are the FDA's absolute prohibitions on certain advertising statements, regardless of the evidence supporting the claims. The new order specifically:
(1) Prohibits any claim or promotional suggestion that dietary supplements are sufficient in themselves to prevent, treat, or cure disease (apparently ignoring such diseases as scurvy and rickets)
(2) Prohibits any implications that a diet of ordinary foods cannot supply adequate nutrients (ignoring all recent studies on the inadequacy of many American diets)
(3) Prohibits all claims that inadequate or insufficient diet is due to the soil in which the food is grown
(4) Prohibits all claims that transportation, storage, or cooking of foods may result in inadequate or deficient diet
(5) Prohibits all claims that vitamins and/or minerals derived from natural sources are in any way superior to those derived from synthetic sources
Apparently bureaucratic edicts are now supposed to be sufficient to resolve empirical questions!
In response to this incredible assertion of power, the National Health Federation has announced a three-pronged campaign against the new order. First, NHF has filed exceptions to specific points covered by the order, in hopes of causing the FDA to reconsider. Secondly NHF is preparing a court action to challenge the FDA's legal authority to promulgate such regulations, and to challenge their factual basis. Finally, NHF is urging citizens to support a bill introduced by Rep. Craig Hosmer to amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The bill, H.R. 643, would remove from the FDA the legal authority to propose or enforce regulations of the type discussed here. Conceivably, at least one of these approaches will be successful in preventing the FDA from violating people's right to make their own decisions regarding vitamins and minerals.
• News item, CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 19 February 1973, p. 7.
• "New Food Supplement Regulations Announced by FDA," NATIONAL HEALTH FEDERATION BULLETIN, March 1973, p.1.
• "NHF Maps Legal and Legislative Strategy," Ibid., p.3. (Information on the National Health Federation may be obtained from them at P.0. Box 688, Monrovia, CA 91016)
SAYING NO TO NATIONALIZATION
Recently it has become fashionable to speak despairingly of the situation facing the Penn Central and the five other bankrupt eastern railroads. Almost without exception, the proposed rescue plans involve massive subsidies (as do the industry and ICC plans) or outright nationalization (as recently suggested by various politicians and columnists). In the midst of this rampant statism, the Nixon Administration has put forth a "plan"—one that is, by contrast, a breath of fresh air.
Basically, the Administration plan amounts to a sophisticated end-run around the creaky ICC and union regulations that caused the railroads' plight to begin with. The plan would have Congress authorize the creation of a private, profit-making corporation to pick up the pieces of the bankrupt roads. The corporation would raise money in the private capital markets, issue its own stock, and buy up the economically viable portions of the bankrupt roads. All other portions of the bankrupt systems would finally be abandoned, without ICC approval. Most important of all, no federal (taxpayers') money of any kind would be involved.
Another part of the Administration package, as announced by Transportation Secretary Claude S. Brinegar, would be to make major changes in current regulations, to reduce the likelihood of additional railroads being driven into bankruptcy by the ICC. The new rules would "pave the way for more rapid abandonment of unprofitable branch lines, simplify rail merger procedures, permit bankruptcy courts more authority to streamline insolvent rail companies, and generally add flexibility to the setting of freight rates."
The new proposals represent a clear-cut rejection of the interventionist plans offered by the ICC and the railroad industry. The ICC plan would involve a new 1% transportation tax, assessed nationwide, on all surface transportation, for the benefit of the bankrupt railroads. It also calls for state subsidies, and envisions only minor abandonment of marginal routes. The industry plan calls for creation of a federal, tax-supported railroad reconstruction finance agency to make loans for major capital improvements. Either plan would represent a major new government intervention into railroading. So, of course, would nationalization, which as Brinegar put it, "would only be one more one-way street to more and more federal spending." The Administration plan is the only proposal based on sound free-market principles, and the only one which offers a reduction in the scope of government involvement.
• "Private Agency to Save Failing Railroads Urged," William H. Jones, LOS ANGELES TIMES/WASHINGTON POST, 27 March 1973.
FREEDOM IN THE AIR?
Of late, there's some reason for optimism regarding the recognition of property rights in broadcasting. In spite of charges to the contrary, the director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP), Clay Whitehead, says the OTP is committed to less rather than more regulation of broadcasting. In a letter to the head of a National Association of Broadcasters task force, Mr. Whitehead said more freedom would come when there's "some indication that voluntary exercise of responsibility by broadcasters is an effective substitute for controls."
Another former OTP staffer, former General Counsel Antonin Scalia, recently added to the heresy. Speaking at the forum on "Broadcasting and the First Amendment" at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Scalia startled liberal newsmen and professors by pointing out that the fairness/free press controversy arises out of the wording of the Federal Communications Act itself. The Act contains the inherently contradictory provisions that the FCC must not engage in censorship but must regulate (including the selection of license applicants) on the basis of service to the "public interest." How, Scalia asked, can the FCC decide who is a responsible journalist (and hence, serving the public interest) unless it examines program content? And what is this but censorship? Thus, as long as there is regulation, there will be censorship. Despite the liberals' consternation, Scalia went on to advocate the immediate steps of deregulating radio and loosening the application of the Fairness Doctrine.
At the same time, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, E. William Henry, seems to be checking his premises. At an Oklahoma City conference, the New Frontier commissioner questioned the fundamental regulatory principle that airwaves are "owned by the public"—an assumption, he says, that diverts policy-makers "in mischievous ways". Mr. Henry also described the "scarcity" and "unique impact" arguments as "apparently invalid"; and found the distinctions between print and broadcast in determining claims to First Amendment rights as "most disturbing".
And, a recently-resigned Presidential Advisor has granted credibility to the property rights principles outlined in Ayn Rand's "Property Status of Airwaves" (OBJECTIVIST NEWSLETTER, April 1964). Charles Colson told a P.B.S. audience that Milton Friedman's suggestion that licenses be "auctioned off" is a possible alternative to the administration's proposed license-renewal bill. Mr. Colson says purchasers would retain licenses in perpetuity and could present any views they pleased. He added that present anti-trust legislation would prevent "undue" concentration of ownership.
• Various articles, BROADCASTING MAGAZINE, 5 February 1973, pp. 11, 30, 40. (compiled and submitted by William Westmiller).
• "Broadcasting and the First Amendment," KCSB-FM broadcast, 20 February 1973.
NEW DANISH ANTITAX PARTY
A recent poll in Denmark shows a tremendous increase in voters' support for the Progress Party, a new antitax, antibureaucracy party. The party was formed last year by Mogens Glistrup, a tax attorney, with a program calling for gradual abolition of all income tax and firing of 90 percent of all public administration personnel. Until last year's formation of the Libertarian Party in the United States and Denmark's Progress Party, the only contemporary political party in the world which came close to adhering to a belief in truly limited government—to REASON's knowledge—had been the Independent Party in Denmark. Although the Independent Party is no longer a political force there, it had previously held several seats in the Danish Parliament, and REASON editor, Manuel Klausner, had become acquainted with various of its leaders during his academic sojourn in Copenhagen in 1963-64.
According to polls taken by the Danish business newspaper, BØRSEN, the Progress Party jumped from 7.2 percent of the popular vote in March to 18.2 percent in April. Based on the April poll, BØRSEN predicts that the Progress Party would win 33 of Parliament's 179 seats, if an election were held soon, which would make it Denmark's second largest party.
Progress Party leader Glistrup is popularly known as Mr. Zero Percent, because of his reputation for bringing his and his clients' taxable incomes down to zero. Mr. Glistrup's tax acumen has made him the target of a government investigation which is probing into his methods for doing away with his clients' tax problems. A welcome addition on Denmark's political scene, the Progress Party presents a distinct alternative to Denmark's traditional political parties. The Danish "anti-Socialist" parties are comparable to Britain's Tory Party (see Pauline Russell's report from England in last month's REASON) in their support of the free market. We wish Mr. Glistrup and the Progress Party well in their efforts to turn the tide in this tax-burdened welfare state.