Last week, TV personality and baby boomer heart throb Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared before the Senate to discuss the controversial claims he’s repeatedly made on his daily show, where he uses (his word) “flowery” language to show how passionate he is about weight loss products. The problem, of course, is that doctors aren’t supposed to be flowery.
John Oliver makes this rather shrewd point (and too many more to count) as part of a recent episode of his late-night show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But Oz, for all his “miracle bean” proselytizing, may not be wholly to blame for the airwaves bringing medical fantasies to viewing audiences, Oliver concedes. After all, no television show can exist without a thumbs up from the Federal Trade Commission, which, itself, can’t know what’s kosher without a green light from the one agency responsible for regulating dietary supplements: the Food and Drug Administration.
Unfortunately, the FDA goes by the honor system. As Oliver rightly points out, in order for a company to bring a new supplement to market, just about the only thing it needs to do is list what’s inside the product it’s selling. The company doesn’t need to get FDA approval or show the product is safe (or even that it works). And in return, it gets to make just about any health claim it wants. Oh, and even the ingredient list may be up for grabs: Out of 44 herbal products sold by 12 companies, nearly 60 percent tested by Canadian researchers contained plant species not listed on their labels.
How does the FDA get away with such loose policing tactics? The short answer is lobbying. The long answer, well… maybe Oliver explains it best.