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Mother's Little Helper was only in trouble if it was mislabeled
April 6, 2009 1:26 PM   Subscribe

The US Food and Drug Administration started regulating the labeling of food, beverages, and medicines after the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and added food coloring and cosmetics with the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. They have just released a new website, the FDA Notices of Judgment Collection, 1906-1963, containing data from thousands of cases of mislabeled or misadvertised products and drugs, available in multiple forms (text, PDF, metadata XML, .TIF image, etc.), with searchable archives. Poking around in the data will yield information on cases ranging from misbranding methamphetamine tablets, to quack "Film-O-Sonic" devices, to bacteria-laden unproven abortifacients sold over the counter, to purported "4-way" cures for baldness, to hunks of radium sold for putting in your drinking water to "stimulate the sex organs" (judged against for stating an unproven use, not for actual danger of product). Organized by the FDA's history office, the new database is a fascinating resource for historians, public safety advocates, researchers, and librarians.
posted by Asparagirl (28 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now Kate Bush has to run up a hill!
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2009


I wonder what happened in in 1964?
posted by pwnguin at 1:41 PM on April 6, 2009


Lots of things happened in 1964. In specific ... I don't know.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2009


You could always e-mail the FDA history office staff and ask them.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2009


So apparently "radioactive water" is a cure for cancer. Intresting.

Also, after the radium stone, was "Barton's Cannibalism Remedy"
posted by delmoi at 2:06 PM on April 6, 2009


What a ridiculous boondoggle. If any of these were actually bad things, the market would select against them and they'd go out of business on their own, without billions of tax dollars needing to be spent.
posted by kafziel at 2:34 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


kafziel, are you joking? Lately I can't tell when someone is mocking conservatives or is one.

I've seen ads for an adhesive pad that "pulls toxins out of your body through your feet" a bra that has little bumps in the side that "cures cancer" and a CFL light bulb that "purifies the air with ions". Con artists will sell the stupidest shit they can if they're allowed and people will fall for it. I don't see a problem with not allowing these assholes to scam people.
posted by stavrogin at 3:04 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


kafziel - unlimited and reliable information, failure of all free market arguments.
posted by daq at 3:05 PM on April 6, 2009


I've seen ads for an adhesive pad that "pulls toxins out of your body through your feet"

The trick is that the pad contains wood vinegar, which turns brownish- black when exposed to moisture. Like foot sweat, or air.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:23 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


What a ridiculous boondoggle. If any of these were actually bad things, the market would select against them and they'd go out of business on their own, without billions of tax dollars needing to be spent.

The best argument against the existence of market based selection is the continued existence of arguments for market based selection.
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


kafziel, are you joking? Lately I can't tell when someone is mocking conservatives or is one.

Poe's law gets broader in application every day.

I do work with a guy who makes that exact argument with complete sincerity, though.
posted by kafziel at 3:52 PM on April 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Somewhere in there was a case where a company upped their killed virus vaccine production by loading more material into their autoclaves (and not exactly killing the stuff in the middle). That might have been around 1964.

If I had to guess, I'd say that 1964-1993 will be there next edition, ending with The Barr Decision.

Hint: If you get a failing result for one of your release tests, it's bad form to keep testing it until you get a passing result.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:55 PM on April 6, 2009


Whoa, Pope Guilty. I'm finally excited to find some proof against those stupid ass things. (My mother is all about that sort of toxin-removing shit these days.) Do you happen to have a citation handy? Thx.
posted by sperose at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2009


I don't have anything on hand, but I will also note that the "soak your feet and remove toxins!" foot baths will turn the water black whether your feet (which likely have dirt on them, causing the water to turn dark anyway) are in them or not. I know people don't care for Something Awful, but there's a couple of threads on the topic.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:22 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Donoghue v Stevenson. 8/26. Nevarr forget.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:16 PM on April 6, 2009


Whoa, Pope Guilty. I'm finally excited to find some proof against those stupid ass things. (My mother is all about that sort of toxin-removing shit these days.) Do you happen to have a citation handy?

Also the burning candle in the ear toxin removal. My mother in law, bless her heart... I just haven't got it in me to tell her. Thankfully I think she's moved onto the next fad.

[I believe Penn and Teller is my cite[?] Who ever it was, it was a pretty comprehensive debunking.]
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:21 PM on April 6, 2009


I have never had a 4-way cure my baldness, but it has helped me forget it for a while.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:50 PM on April 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Amazing. My gf and I just went to see this man speak... it was a fascinating experience, jointly sponsored by Students for a Sustainable Earth and the College Republicans. It was attended by hippies and angry libertarians. My emotions oscillated rapidly between home-grown joy and bone-deep commie rage.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


K.C.
True story, you have a good memory. I'm sure that was the polio vaccine, which was new then within a decade (pretty sure it ws still a shot then, prior to oral) and a bunch of kids got polio from the vaccine. That nearly killed the whole thing, people were afraid of it for years afterwards, and the bad rap kind of spread to include what few other vaccines they had then via misinformation, rumor and hearsay, and you can understand why of course. Which was really too bad, because polio was a terrible disease and people today don't kow how bad. It's not something like a bad cold. (Let's not discuss the pros and cons of vaccines here; we've plowed that ground elsewhere. My only point here is it's a bad thing.)
I think I read recently where the last iron lung patient died. I see the victims around, if you know where to look. A friend has no muscle from the hip down on one leg from it. I used to know someone who had to lift the bad arm with the good one and lay it on the Shift key to type, then remove it.
Some people think they don't have to "because everyone else has been immunized", but every fall the college freshmen pass around a few cases
Probably TMI; just an issue I try to inform about. If I can give one person something to think about, my work here is done.
< / shameless prostheletizing
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:09 PM on April 6, 2009


Joel Salatin is pretty awesome. I wish I could summon anywhere near his degree of faith that things are not well and truly fucked, and that farms like his and people like him will be anything but a quaint memory in the near future, when they are crushed under the relentless tide of a society that simply has no place for such individualism.

Even if it's completely futile — perhaps especially if it's completely futile — the man's tenacity and conviction are beyond admirable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:37 PM on April 6, 2009


UK Detoxing footpads debunked and Boing Boing echoing Wired's comments. In more broad terms: Debunking the Detox Myth.

Snake oil isn't less prevalent in this internet age - people still fall for impossible promises, because they're losing their hair / potency / memory, and they'll do anything to get that back. Skeptics have no hope, they like to think.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joel Salatin is fundamentally retarded. His entire ideology is predicated on blind faith in food suppliers to provide clean, healthy food on the honor system. Whether he himself would or not, he refuses to understand that blind trust without oversight always has and always will lead to Bad Things.

Whatever points he might have about problems in factory farms are drowned in the torrent of bullshit that spews from his brain.
posted by kafziel at 9:18 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I wonder what happened in in 1964?"

Well, I think they wanted this first retrospective album to cover the FDA from its early years of struggle up through their first breakthrough into the big-league. Most music critics agree that the FDA really attracted international attention for the first time in 1962. In 1960, they changed their line-up and added Frances Oldham Kelsey to the mix as a back-up singer, but she quickly skyrocketed to the lead, becoming the most famous member of the band, with her haunting vocals on "Thalidomide crosses the placental barrier and causes serious birth defects in infants." By 1962, she accepted the Distinguished Federal Civilian Service award from President Kennedy and in 1964, the FDA was on top of the world. So this part goes from their turn-of-the-century roots and depression-era struggles with redefinition up through the results of their first big break.

I expect there will be a part two, covering the glory years in the 60's and 70's, and a part three covering their long slide into pills, lousy reworking of previous material, and accusations of being a corporate sell-out that started with the new "Fast-Track" 80's era deregulation craze.
posted by kyrademon at 9:25 PM on April 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think I read recently where the last iron lung patient died.

unrepentanthippie, did you mean the last person still in an iron lung or ventilator because of polio-related paralysis? Because if you meant the last person who was ever in an iron lung for polio died, then you're wrong. My paternal grandfather spent at least a year in one as a kid, and he's still alive and living in Florida...though suffering from post-polio syndrome, not to mention some pretty bad lifelong mental issues from his ordeal.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:52 PM on April 6, 2009


Asparagirl:
Oh, heavens, no; for a while you knew a lot of people who spent time in them and most of them graduated out or died of pneumonia eventually. (My friend was in for a long time, and the girl next to him didn't make it.)There are many iron lung veterans still around. My deepest sypathies on the PPS; it's a bitch.
This poor lady had been living in a tin can for over 50 years, unable to scratch her own nose. (Don't quote me, I may have seen something later about a person who used one part time or something who might still be around.)

Truly Frightenig Story:
My mother had a friend who got it as an adult and they told her she'd never get out. She was a pretty hard to control epileptic. What polio does is attack the voluntary nerves so the muscles can't fire, and the damage is from muscle atrophy. She cheeked her meds for epilepsy and learned to spit them in the wastebasket, on the theory it was an involuntary muscle contraction and eventually got enough muscle tone back to teach gym. She was seizing many, many times a day. (If anyone who knows medicine wuld care to differ, I'm OK with it. This is a 50 years old story I got second hand.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:10 PM on April 7, 2009


Frightenig/Frightening
No excuse, sir.

Just a heads up, and none of my business, but I thought I should mention it. My friend started to have more and more trouble with his PPS. He was used to having one bad night a week, but it gradually evolved into every night. He blamed it on age. When he drove into a ditch unconscious, he came home with a pacemaker and is back to one night a week. (Pulse in the 30's can do that to you.) So if there's any change, he should have it checked, just to make sure he hasn't developed anything new.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 8:49 PM on April 7, 2009


kafziel: "Joel Salatin is fundamentally retarded. His entire ideology is predicated on blind faith in food suppliers to provide clean, healthy food on the honor system. Whether he himself would or not, he refuses to understand that blind trust without oversight always has and always will lead to Bad Things."

I think you're putting words in his mouth. I've never seen anything by him that suggests that he think that; in fact I think a whole lot of his premise is about not putting blind faith in food producers, and instead being a critical consumer, and spending time to learn where your food comes from, how it's produced, and how it gets to your plate. A whole lot of the stuff he seems to rail against comes directly from consumers either choosing to stick their heads in the sand, or being given little choice but to completely relinquish control of their food's origins because the supply chain is made intentionally opaque.

The majority of what he (and I admit to not having read everything he's ever written, so I'm drawing on a couple of essays and the stuff that Michael Pollan has written about him) seems to want boils down to two things: transparency and choice. He wants more transparency in the current industrial system, so that people can see what they're getting right now — the rivers of shit at CAFOs, the occasional live cow hanging from its feet in a slaughterhouse, etc. — and then he wants choice: the ability for both producers and consumers to opt out of that whole system if they both want to, and trade directly. In that case the buyer is losing the benefit of all the government regulation and red tape, but what they're exchanging it for is complete transparency: Salatin runs a completely open operation where anyone can see the gory details of getting a chicken onto their plate.

The impression I get is that what he and people like him want is an alternative system; they don't like the system but at the same time most of them seem to understand that it's not going anywhere in the short run. They want the ability to voluntarily opt out, and sell their products directly to other people who are similarly inclined, and who are willing to forsake a USDA seal of approval (and arguably accept some increased risk) in favor of Salatin's personal reputation and commitment to his ideals.

It's very much not about blind faith; "faith" suggests an unreasonable belief, when what I think Salatin and others like him are going for is an alternative system based on entirely reasonable belief: belief founded on firsthand knowledge, personal reputation, and relationships that link people from one end of the food-production chain to the other.

Where he may be naïve (or at least overly optimistic), is in thinking that such a system can ever scale to really challenge industrial agriculture, but I don't think that makes what he's looking for in the short term unreasonable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:29 AM on April 8, 2009


If any of these were actually bad things, the market would select against them and they'd go out of business on their own, without billions of tax dollars needing to be spent.

....Or, the people who could have spread the word-of-mouth against them would die, so no one would know.

In all seriousness -- sometimes the quack pharmacists depend on people's reluctance to pursue a case to get away with it. I read recently that the guy who makes Enzyte is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for fraud. The reason he was able to get away with his actions for so long was that in order to get a refund from his company, he required complainers to get a notarized note from their doctor testifying to the fact that they had a small penis. Not surprisingly, few people actually wanted to go to that length, and usually they just shut up and went away -- and he knew that, and that's exactly why he required that, and thus he stayed in business until someone got pissed off enough.

The FDA is an impartial entity, so they can pursue things that the individual will not or cannot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on April 8, 2009


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