From “Snake oil, science and the FDA,” by Paul W. Jackson, Michigan Farm News (Jan. 30, 2009) :
There's something about snake oil that captures American imaginations.
Perhaps it's the invocation of the Wild West's pioneering spirit, or perhaps it makes us think we're smarter than our ancestors who bought bottles of colored grain alcohol because the salesman said it would cure dropsy and gout at the same time.
The spirit of snake oil continues today, but it's taken a new twist. Today's snake oil salesmen would have Americans think food is chronically toxic. They ignore the fact that people are living longer, growing taller and remaining healthier than any time in history.
Having tolerated the idea of food toxicity promoted by snake oil-peddling extremists, the message of how far we've come from an age when winter rural diets consisted of salt pork and stored turnips gets lost. That's where Michigan's farmers come in.
More specifically, Michigan's blueberry, cherry, grape, bean and cranberry growers - to name just a few - have invested a great deal of time and money into research to prove just how beneficial eating certain foods can be. Scientific studies have revealed antioxidant properties and other benefits, and anecdotal evidence continues to mount.
Still, in the back of the mind, the old snake oil image makes some folks cautious.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in particular, is constantly on the lookout for what it thinks is snake oil, and that zeal to find unsubstantiated claims led to warning letters to 29 Michigan agricultural businesses in 2005.
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Read the entire article at: http://www.michiganfarmbureau.com/farmnews/transform.php?xml=20090130/cover.xml.