The Chemical Feast

Ralph Nader’s Study Group Report on the Food and Drug Administration


A thoroughly documented study showing that instead of helping promote honesty in the market place the food standards set by the Food & Drug Administration deceive consumers and conceal important information.

Major food safety laws — the pesticide, food additive and color additive laws — have been sabotaged by cowardly, bureaucratic backsliding.

FDA labs detected cyclamates danger as far back as 1950, but at least ten danger signals produced no response by FDA officials.

While the FDA clings t the claim that American food is better than ever, the life expectancy of Americans is lower than ever and American food in general is filthier and less nutritious.

(from the back of the book)  •  Google Books  •  GoodReads

“…may well be the most devastating critique of a U.S. Government Agency ever issued…”

– Time Magazine

From Kirkus Reviews

Ralph Nader’s Summer Study Groups of 1969 raided various Washington departments and agencies to expose to public view the workings—and of course, the failings—of federal bureaucracy. This particular task force, under the direction of James S. Turner, checked out the Food and Drug Administration on the issue of food standards and their enforcement and found it wanting.

”Americans should ask why members of the food industry, America’s largest retail industry, have been allowed to let the safety, wholesomeness, and value of their products deteriorate.” The aggressive fact-finding here lays a heavy burden of guilt at the FDA’s door and on the heads of the powerful food lobbyists. Together, in the words of Nader himself, they have fostered ”processing and marketing practices that have transformed the defrauding of consumers into a competitive advantage—a kind of reverse competition (deceptive packaging alone costs consumers billions yearly).”

The sorry record of FDA treatment of the recently-banned cyclamates is reviewed as a representative case study of how they fail to provide the kind of protection for the food supply which the American consumer expects and the Study Group demands. When the FDA does act, it shows frightening vigor in pursuing minor transgressors while failing to tackle the giant corporate frauds. The report illustrates how food standards are manipulated and subverted, and how the FDA neglects its research as well as its regulatory rote and becomes mired in bureaucratic self-defense. On the issue of food-borne diseases, the study advocates an active role for the FDA in influencing food consumption patterns to control ”the nation’s disgracefully high infant mortality rate, low rise in life expectancy, and seemingly insoluble problems of stroke, heart disease, and cancer.” Much to worry about if you are what you eat.

“The quantity of food pouring from our farms and ranches must never be confused with its quality by the time it reaches the consumers’ dinner table or whether it adequately reaches many poor consumers at all. For years the Food Group, as the food lobby is known in Washington has nearly determined the limits of public dialogue and public policy about food quality. It is time for consumers to have information that will provide them with an effective understanding of the secrecy-clouded situation. The report proposes to contribute toward that objective as well as to spur the additional disclosure of facts and materials.”  – Ralph Nader


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