My children were home from high school Monday and Tuesday with a cold and fever. They slept a lot; and we hastened their recovery with immunological system boosting substances such as astragalus, ginger, elderberry, and miso soup with shiitake mushrooms.
How foolish my wife and I were; if we were to follow the advice of one food manufacturer and the government watchdog agency—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—we should have skipped the astragalus and miso soup and served big bowls of Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies instead.
Before I go any further, for those of you who are unfamiliar with astragalus, I should explain what it is. Astragalus is a root chiefly grown in China where, because of its antiviral activity as well as its ability to strengthen individual’s qi (vital energy), it is a traditional medicine for cold and flu. Astragalus is readily available in natural food stores as herbal tinctures or pills, as well as in the dried root form for adding to soups. Like ginger, I consider astragalus a food grade root; which to me means that there are no side effects in any reasonable dosage.
Dr. Andrew Weil is a well known American physician and author who—having twice been on the cover of Time magazine—probably has done more than anybody to popularize the field of alternative medicine. He markets under his name a product line of vitamins and herbs. One of his products is Dr. Weil Immune Support Formula which contains astragalus and dried mushrooms such as reishi. I don’t personally consume this product, but his formula seems to be a good one.
Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies is a sugar laden cereal with partially hydrogenated oil added for further health benefits (yes, I’m being sarcastic). Sugar is a well-known suppressor of the immunological system.
Now here is a pop quiz: Which product, Cocoa Krispies or Dr. Weil Immune Support Formula, should be allowed to claim that it boosts the immunological system. As you can guess—I wouldn’t be writing about this issue otherwise—the answer, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is Cocoa Krispies.
The FDA has no problem with the ridiculous claim that Cocoa Krispies: “helps support your child’s immunity.” As for Dr. Weil, he is not so lucky. He received, in October, a cease and desist letter from the FDA for claims such as “The Immune Support Formula contains astragalus. . . . Astragalus … is used traditionally to ward off colds and flu and has been well studied for its antiviral and immunity-enhancing properties.” Although this is an absolutely true statement, Weil was warned, “If your firm fails to take corrective action immediately, FDA may take enforcement action, such as seizure or injunction for violations of the FFDC Act without further notice. Firms that fail to take corrective action may also be referred to FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations for possible criminal prosecution for violations of the FFDC Act and other federal laws.”
Your tax dollars at work—allow the absurd false claim that a heavily processed and sugar laden cereal boosts immunity while persecuting sellers of natural remedies. The FDA has been captured by industrial food manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry.
Almost 2 years ago I wrote about the satirical film Idiocracy. I asked the question: Do Crops Need Brawndo? In the movie, which is set 500 years in the future, a Gatorade-type product—Brawndo—has completely replaced water. Indeed, the product called Brawndo has replaced all other foods on the government’s food pyramid chart. Talk about life imitating the movies—if we are to believe Kellogg’s and the FDA, this flu season, a loving parent should ask: Do my children need Cocoa Krispies?