One of the most outrageous violations of the First Amendment committed by any part of the federal government is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s censorship of truthful healthcare claims about foods, dietary supplements,and other products.
As should be expected from the agency that sent armed federal agents to stop farmers from selling raw milk, the FDA uses heavy-handed police state tactics to enforce their grocery store censorship.
A recent example is the case of Sam Girod, who faces 48 years in jail for the horrendous crime of using unsolicited testimonials from past customers to market his skin salves (h/t: Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity):
The big problems started four years ago, when a local health department official saw Girod’s products on display in a small Missouri town’s convenience store, and reported them to a state health department official. That agency apparently referred the matter to the FDA, which struck again, seizing products from the store, contending that because Girod included user testimonials at the same store where he was selling the salve, he had to register it as a drug.
According to a 2012 FDA announcement, “FDA requested the seizure….because the products claim to treat or cure diseases but have not received FDA approval, and are not exempt from such approval requirements. Moreover…..the seized products contain ingredients that could cause toxic or allergic reactions in consumers sensitive to these ingredients. According to the federal complaint, Chickweed Healing Salve contains comfrey, which may increase the risk of systemic toxicity, and To-More-Gone contains bloodroot, a caustic, corrosive substance that produces a thick scar that can mask tumor recurrence.”
Obtaining FDA approval for a supplement or salve as a drug requires years of testing, costing millions of dollars, something that is out of reach of most producers. They are content to sell their products as supplements, and not include claims of benefits for specific health conditions. For Girod’s company, it made no sense, since the company never exceeded $200,000 annual sales.
The FDA said in its 2012 announcement about seizing Girod’s products that it had responded “to a consumer complaint regarding the product Chickweed Healing Salve and claims in pamphlets that stated the product helps treat skin cancer. A previous complainant used the product on skin cancer on her leg…..and the product reportedly made her condition worse, requiring medical treatment.” It isn’t clear if the “consumer complaint” was from the local or state public health official who alerted the FDA. Girod’s lawyer, McFarland, said he hadn’t been able to obtain information from the FDA about who might have complained, or the specifics of the complaint.
Girod says he’s never received a consumer complaint, aside from someone saying the salve produced a burning sensation. “I have 50 or 60 written testimonials on how chickweed helped their skin cancer,” says Girod.
Mr. Girod is facing prosecution that may be based on his refusal to allow federal agents onto his property after they searched his property using cameras,which offends Mr. Girod's Amish beliefs:
Mr. Girod’s understanding was that the agents would return to his farm a few weeks later, when he was producing product, and search his production area, with the proviso they not take any photos.
According to Girod, the Amish have an aversion to cameras for cultural and religious reasons. He thought the agents could do their inspection and take notes without using cameras.
The two agents returned a few weeks later, as agreed, and according to Girod, “The first thing they did was pull out their cameras” and photograph his supplies, to see where he obtained his oils. “They had sweet talked me” about not taking photos.
The two agents returned some months later, in November 2013, as Girod recalls it. He was being driven by a non-Amish driver, and spotted the agents about three miles from his farm, being escorted by a deputy sheriff. Several of his older children joined him in following the agents to his farm.
The agents were back to do another search of Girod’s facilities. Based on them breaking their word about the photos the previous time, Girod refused. Besides, he says, they didn’t have a search warrant. The sheriff’s deputy respected his wishes, and, gesturing toward the street, told the agents, “There’s the road.”
The main clues to the agency’s irritation come in the first two counts of the indictment, worth potentially 11 years in prison and $500,000 in fines— related to the unfortunate agent visits. And apparently the rest of the charges, related to selling unregistered drugs in unregistered facilities, were upgraded to felony counts as well—heavy penalties for refusing a search by government agents.
According to the indictment, Girod “knowingly and willfully conspired with others to prevent, by force, intimidation, and threat, FDA Compliance Safety Officers (“CSOs”) N.L.P. and M.D.S. (two investigators) from discharging the duties of their offices, trust, and places of confidence under the United States; and to induce, by force, intimidation, and threat, FDA CSOs N.L.P. and M.D.S. to leave the place where their duties as officers of the United States were required to be performed.”
It adds that “the manner and means used to accomplish the objectives of the conspiracy included, among others, the following:
“Members of the conspiracy, including Girod, physically surrounded N.L.P. and M.D.S. when they arrived to inspect Girod’s establishment pursuant to the injunction.
“Members of the conspiracy, including Girod, obstructed N.L.P.’s and M.D.S.’s attempts to gather information about Girod’s establishment.”
Just for good measure, the twelfth and last count of the indictment, carrying a possible penalty of 20 years in prison, charges that Girod “threatened” a witness who was testifying in the grand jury investigation. It isn’t clear what the threat was.
Girod says he has no idea, either. He said he didn’t try to discourage any witnesses subpoenaed before the grand jury to testify. “I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble.”
The one in trouble is Girod. Looking at a maximum sentence of 48 years in prison is terrifying to him. At his age, he says, “I’ll never see daylight."
Read the whole thing here.
Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul fought FDA healthcare censorship during his years in Congress. He introduced legislation, the "Health Freedom Restoration Act," that would have stopped the FDA from censoring truthful healthcare claims.
He also introduced legislation, the "Freedom of Health Speech Act," which required the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prove someone was making false claims before taking action to stop them from making those claims.
Below and here are Dr. Paul's official statements on this bill from the Congressional Record:
INTRODUCING HEALTH FREEDOM LEGISLATION ______ HON. RON PAUL of texas in the house of representatives Thursday, May 26, 2011 Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce two pieces of legislation restoring the First Amendment rights of consumers to receive truthful information regarding the benefits of foods and dietary supplements. The first bill, the Health Freedom Restoration Act, codifies the First Amendment by ending the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s efforts to censor truthful health claims. The second bill, the Freedom of Health Speech Act, codifies the First and Fifth Amendment by requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prove that health claims are false before it takes action to stop manufacturers and marketers from making the claims. The American people have made it clear they do not want the federal government to interfere with their access to dietary supplements, yet the FDA and the FTC continue to engage in heavy-handed attempts to restrict such access. The FDA continues to frustrate consumers' efforts to learn how they can improve their health even after Congress, responding to a record number of constituents' comments, passed the Dietary Supplement and Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). FDA bureaucrats are so determined to frustrate consumers' access to truthful information that they are even evading their duty to comply with four federal court decisions vindicating consumers' First Amendment rights to discover the health benefits of foods and dietary supplements. FDA bureaucrats have even refused to abide by the DSHEA section allowing the public to have access to scientific articles and publications regarding the role of nutrients in treating diseases by claiming that every article concerning this topic is evidence of intent to sell an unapproved and unlawful drug. Because of the FDA's censorship of truthful health claims, millions of Americans may suffer with diseases and other health care problems they may have avoided by using dietary supplements. For example, the FDA prohibited consumers from learning how folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects for four years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended every woman of childbearing age take folic acid supplements to reduce neural tube defects. This FDA action contributed to an estimated 10,000 cases of preventable neural tube defects. The FDA also continues to prohibit consumers from learning about the scientific evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis; that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of sudden death heart attack; that calcium may reduce the risk of bone fractures; and that vitamin D may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, and cancer. The Health Freedom Restoration Act will force the FDA to at last comply with the commands of Congress, the First Amendment, numerous federal courts, and the American people by codifying the First Amendment prohibition on prior restraint. Specifically, the Health Freedom Restoration Act stops the FDA from censoring truthful claims about the curative, mitigative, or preventative effects of dietary supplements. The Health Freedom Restoration Act also stops the FDA from prohibiting the distribution of scientific articles and publications regarding the role of nutrients in protecting against disease. The FDA has proven that it cannot be trusted to protect consumers' rights to make informed choices. It is time for Congress to stop the FDA from censoring truthful health information. The Freedom of Health Speech Act addresses the FTC's violations of the First Amendment. Under traditional constitutional standards, the federal government bears the burden of proving an advertising statement false before censoring that statement. However, the FTC shifted the burden of proof to industry. The FTC presumes health advertizing is false and compels private parties to prove the ads (and everything the regulators say the ads imply) to be true to a near conclusive degree. This violation of the First and Fifth Amendments is harming consumers by blocking innovation in the health foods and dietary supplement marketplace. The Freedom of Health Speech Act requires the government actually prove that speech is false before the FTC acts against the speaker. This is how it should be in a free society where information flows freely in order to foster the continuous improvement that benefits us all. The bill also requires that the FTC warn parties that their advertising is false and give them a chance to correct their mistakes before the FTC censors the claim and imposes other punishments. Mr. Speaker, if we are serious about putting people in charge of their health care, then shouldn't we stop federal bureaucrats from preventing Americans from learning about simple ways to improve their health. I therefore call on my colleagues to stand up for good health and the Constitution by cosponsoring the Health Freedom Restoration Act and the Freedom of Health Speech Act.
Tags: FDA, nanny state, health freedom