Big brother takes away those tempting apples

Today you pay up to $5.00 for two pints of strawberries at the grocery store. And that’s not even for organic strawberries. But don’t get too comfortable. You can expect to pay even more in years to come. And the same goes for apples, pears, bananas, and other berries too.

You can thank the FDA and a new set of outrageous regulations for more price increases on fresh fruit.

Let me explain.

During 2011, the U.S. Congress couldn’t settle on a balanced budget, or even on cutting costs. But it found time to pass a new piece of legislation called the Food Safety Modernization Act. The law requires the FDA to find ways to prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Rather than just react to them. According to the FDA’s web site, the new law will “set in motion sweeping improvements to the safety of our food supply.”

In particular, seven new regulations will target fresh fruits grown on trees and bushes. This includes apples, pears, bananas, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries. These are the same fruits that consistently provide high levels of essential nutrients and help protect against a host of common medical conditions.

The FDA says it’s going after these fruits because they are normally consumed raw. But that makes no sense. These fruits have a nearly perfect safety record.

On the other hand, produce that you normally cook, or that is industrially “processed” before eating–such as potatoes and corn–are exempt from the new regulations.

The FDA says the new regulations will “protect” consumers from food-borne diseases. But let’s take a moment to think about this…

Are you more likely to find food-borne bacteria on foods grown on trees and bushes? Or on foods grown on the ground?

Of course, you’re more likely to find it on vegetation grown on the ground. And the actual cases bear out this common sense observation.

You may wonder why the FDA says we need to make sweeping improvements in food safety in the U.S. And I wondered too.

On its website, the agency cites outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in Europe that resulted in dozens of deaths.

Dozens of deaths? (When it comes to drugs, FDA is used to counting deaths in the thousands.)

Tragic, yes. But do we really need sweeping improvements that will cost billions of dollars a year? And all of it just to prevent relatively rare problems that may or may not even occur in the U.S.

I don’t expect these new regulations will prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses. But it will penalize you for having healthy eating habits. Raw, fresh foods will become harder to come by. And more expensive. Meanwhile, less nutritious produce that you normally cook will get a free pass.

The new regulations will also cripple fruit growers…

A recent article in the Washington Post quoted a third-generation apple farmer from Winchester, Virginia. He said, “We’re perfectly willing to look at ways to make [our apples] safer. However, what’s being proposed is very onerous and expensive. . . .

[The costs] would end up getting passed on to the consumer, if we didn’t go out of business first.”

Another farmer told the Washington Post, “Somebody in an office in Washington, D.C., who’s never stepped foot off concrete has decided we need this rule and that rule. We’re starting to get to the point where it’s like, ‘Give me a break.’ We have a darn good product and a darn good industry. . . . The market has already taken care of this problem, if it’s a problem. Which it isn’t.”

First of all, why doesn’t the FDA focus on the specific foods actually proven to cause food-borne illnesses? Such as lettuce (which I reported on in the Daily Dispatch last October, after six recalls of bagged lettuce). And spinach. And peanuts.

But leave the fruit growers alone.

The fruit growers have already been under siege from other politically based government regulators like EPA. Plus, growing fruit is already an iffy business. Now, growers will face new burdens estimated to cost another half-a-billion dollars per year. These regulations will require farmers to pay for regular testing of irrigation water. They will need to isolate farms animals from crops. And they will need to “sanitize” bags used for fruit picking. (While local governments are forcing consumers to “recycle” unsanitary plastic bags at the grocery stores.)

The FDA wants $300 million more in funding from Congress to help implement these new regulations.

But why is the FDA involved at all? Isn’t this the Center for Disease Control’s jurisdiction? And managing the outbreak of food-borne illnesses is something the CDC is actually good at.

Think of all the real problems and real dangers that go ignored by the FDA. Why add fresh fruit safety to their list? Especially since they don’t seem too eager to tackle the issue…

The new law set a deadline of July 2012 for the FDA to release its new regulations. That date came and went, and the FDA released nothing. It did finally issue two regulations in January 2013. But we are still waiting for the other five. (This may remind you of the 13 years it took the FDA to issue Good Manufacturing Practices for dietary supplements, long after high-quality manufacturers had met or exceeded their standards.)

This slow-down has turned the federal government into a veritable three-ring circus. In fact, a non-profit group called the Center for Food Safety actually sued FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg for failing to issue the regulations on time as required by law.

Any guesses what caused the hold up at the FDA (besides its own paperwork)?

Apparently, the White House wanted in on the action. In fact, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) put the brakes on everything to rewrite the regulations. So we still don’t have all seven regulations.

Will the federal government ever get out of the nanny-state business?

I recall in the 1990s, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “discovered” that fresh fruits are healthy. It spent millions of taxpayer dollars promoting the “Five Fruits a Day” campaign. They even offered my colleague a position as the “Five Fruits a Day” lady, which she declined. At that same time, I clearly remember riding the government train service on AMTRAK. And I couldn’t find one piece of fresh fruit for sale among the hot dogs and hamburgers.

Sometimes you have to wonder if the real government agenda is a war on health. To make and keep Americans sick. And on drugs. And in the hands of expensive, invasive hospital-based medicine like Obamacare will do.

The nation is awash in useless and dangerous drugs. Meanwhile, the FDA issues “watches” and “warnings” for drugs that stay on the market, serving only to confuse patients and doctors alike.

The government-industrial-medical complex seems to focus on all the wrong “culprits” when it comes to health. It tries to implicate cholesterol, eggs, meat, saturated fats, salt…and now fresh fruit! What healthy, natural alternatives are left?

Fortunately, there are high-quality dietary supplements–including my own line of Smart Science Nutritionals–that can help provide optimal levels of nutrients if you can’t get your servings of fruit and vegetables, –for any reason.

But there’s one slice of good news about fresh fruit…

Local farms that sell to consumers within a 275-mile radius will be exempt from the new requirements. Score another one for eating locally.