Let The Diner Beware

News from the medical front has arrived. After scaring us silly for 40 years about eating an egg, a pat of butter or a dollop of hollandaise, turn outs eating cholesterol doesn’t immediately clot your veins with cholesterol.

It always seemed a medieval notion – like humours or herbalist signatures. If a root looks like a skull, eating it is good for headache. If a leaf looks like lungs, a salad of it cures pneumonia. Thus, eating foods rich in cholesterol fills your arteries with cholesterol. Does that mean eating greens makes your blood a spinach smoothie?

A now discredited study got yummy food put on the verboten list in the 1970s even though years earlier, in 1955, a legitimate study showed that the idea was bunkum. All things in moderation, and worry more about your genes than your greens is better advice. But once nonsense is enshrined, a vast inertia sets in. So we’ve been subjected for years to egg beaters and margarine, the latter of which turns out to be far more harmful than butter. Julia Child was right all along. Bon appetit.

In a similar vein, no pun intended, it now seems likely that food additives in bread, margarine and ice cream may cause or contribute to irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s Disease. In this case it’s not the food itself that’s screwing us up but the guck the food industry is adulterating food with.

In a sane world, government watchdogs would have sorted the scientific wheat from chaff, or commissioned studies to disprove the cholesterol nonsense and alerted the public to the truth decades ago. In a sane world, the government would now act swiftly to get the illness-causing muck out of bread and ice cream.

But we all know it won’t happen. A party is in power that believes what’s good for business is good, full stop. And what government does is bad. (With the giant exceptions of the a) the military and b) government subsidies for favored industries. Congress never stints when shoveling enough in their direction). So the goal is not to use the power of government to protect the many from the few, but to reduce the power of government to do anything.

Food inspectors have been cut back. The FDA has been told to speed up approvals of new drugs and to meddle less. Fewer people are expected to monitor more meat, seafood, produce, drugs, doctors, pharmaceutical companies. It’s free enterprise, baby. Get government off the back of the makers and let the buyer beware.

But how can the average buyer be safe if the cop is no longer on the beat? No individual can do his own medical research, develop his own vaccine, and test the foods and drugs he consumes. Ideology has trumped common sense and as a result we are all less safe, more likely to fall ill, poisoned by our food, water, air, or the medicines prescribed to cure us.

What will it take to return to the view that government is actually needed to do for all of us what none of us can do alone? Perhaps when enough Members of Congress get treated with faulty medical devices or tainted drugs they will see the light.

But a lot of innocent bystanders are going to suffer in the meantime because some committee chairman read Ayn Rand at an impressionable age and never recovered. That and the fact that the laissez faire polluters, adulterators and corner cutters are funding the campaigns of candidates of both parties, so looking the other way pays. It’s the American way. The motto of our elected representatives is not “better safe than sorry”, it’s “laissez le bon temps rouler.”

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