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Interview with FDA Spokesperson – Part Three

Updated on August 20, 2012
Mr. I. M. Clueless from the FDA
Mr. I. M. Clueless from the FDA

Interview with FDA Spokesperson – Part Three

It took some time for me to arrange this third interview with I. M. Clueless, my ingenuous Food and Drug Administration spokesperson. Unlike his willing participation in Part One and Part Two of our interviews, I.M. was difficult to pin down this time.

My customary one-on-one brain wave transmissions elicited no response. I sent emails and letters, made phone calls, left messages. No reply. Finally, I received a phone call from a male with a low whispery voice who identified himself as my hard-to-find FDA contact.

me – Hello, Mr. Clueless. I have been trying to reach you for this third interview. Is all well with you at the FDA?

Mr. Clueless – Not so much. I’ve been keeping a low profile since I think I may be getting a pink slip soon.

me – Why? Did your bosses learn about your participation in our previous ‘Interview with FDA Spokesperson’ articles?

Mr. Clueless – No, I think it was because I shared negative Obama jokes with my team.

me – That’s not PC (politically correct). Let’s move on. I would like to discuss some more disgusting, gross additives and other substances approved by the F.D.A. in the food we eat.

Mr. Clueless – Fire away. I may be moving on soon, too.

Roundup with cattle
Roundup with cattle
Roundup with weed killer
Roundup with weed killer

Beware: Foods labeled asall natural’ may contain GMOs -- genetically modified ingredients.

#1 – Herbicide-flavored food

me – Are you familiar with Roundup?

Mr. Clueless – Isn’t that what cowboys do when they herd cattle? Sorry, just a little FDA humor.

me – Yes, very little.

Mr. CluelessRoundup is an extremely effective and widely used herbicide or weed killer produced by Monsanto. Glyphosate is the active chemical ingredient. Roundup is used primarily on corn and soy crops which are genetically modified to withstand large amounts of the chemical.

me – Did you know that it is so widely used in farm fields and around homes that it is now being detected in streams, the air, and even rain?

Mr. Clueless – That’s because it is such an effective systemic herbicide which is actually taken up inside the plant. It is legally allowed in our food.

me – That’s right. We eat it. And we eat it in an amount that worries scientists because it’s found in most non-organic packaged foods that contain corn-or soy-derived ingredients. Glyphosate is a hormone-disrupting chemical which has been linked to obesity, learning disabilities, birth defects, infertility, and potentially irreversible metabolic damage.

Healthy Hint: To avoid weed killers in food products, eat organic. Eating processed foods is like sailing on the Titanic.

Why shrimp from Oregon you may be asking? Because the fisheries there are certified under stringent Marine Stewardship Council guidelines.

#2 – Shrimp coated in cleaning chemicals

me Seafood is healthy for us. Do you enjoy shrimp, Mr. Clueless?

Mr. Clueless – Yes, I like it breaded, or in a salad, in a shrimp cocktail or scampi. Shrimp is delicious.

me – Did you know that the delicious shrimp you eat could be contaminated with chemicals that are used to clean shrimp-farm pens that get filthy?

Mr. Clueless – That’s why I only eat shrimp that is imported. 90% of the shrimp we eat is imported from overseas, you know.

me – Yes, and imported shrimp is often full of antibiotics, mouse and rat hair, and pieces of insects because less than 2% of all imported seafood (shrimp, crab, etc.) gets inspected before it is sold.

Healthy Hint: For safer options, choose shrimp that are American. An excellent choice would be shrimp from Oregon.

Caution: may be dangerous to your health
Caution: may be dangerous to your health

#3 – Hot dogs with rat hairs

me Is it true that the FDA allows foods, such as hot dogs and sausage, to have a minute amount of insect parts and rodent hairs.

Mr. Clueless – Yes, a minute amount is allowed. That’s why I eat popcorn and not hot dogs at baseball games. (Chuckles)

me – Do you happen to know what the ‘minute amount’ actually is?

Mr. Clueless – Not exactly.

me Here are the findings from a 225 gram sample using AOAC* extraction procedures: 32 insect fragments, 4 rodent hairs, and 1 whole insect (weevil larva)

*AOAC International – provides the authoritative compendium of methods for food, agricultural, pharmaceutical, environmental, and forensic analysis.

Healthy Hints: When you go to the ball game, take better care of your belly. Instead of a hot dog, bring a sandwich – peanut butter and jelly.

In 1997, Japanese manufacturers voluntarily stopped using BPA in food cans and other products.

#4 – Risky Receipts – wait till you read this!

Mr. Clueless – I don’t understand. What is risky about a paper receipt? What does that have to do with dangerous food additives?

me – Let me explain. You already know about the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) that is used in the epoxy linings of nearly all canned foods and drinks. As well as in rigid plastic dishes, water bottles, and baby bottles

Mr. Clueless – Of course. BPA was first approved by the FDA in the early 60s. BPA is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.

me – Did you know that it has been found in varying levels of most canned food tested, even Del Monte green beans – and it has been linked to infertility, diabetes, obesity, sperm damage, and heart disease among others?

Mr. Clueless – Well, BPA is not like cyanide. It won’t kill you if you eat a single can of beans.

me – That’s comforting. Did you also know that some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA leaching from polycarbonate bottles into liquids like water and milk?

Healthy Hints: Reduce your use of foods in cans for real. Opt for glass, or porcelain or stainless steel. And obey my very urgent plea. Use baby bottles that are BPA free.

Mr. Clueless – So what was that ‘risky receipts’ warning all about?

me – A new study suggests that the BPA in paper register receipts could be a major source of chemical exposure. We absorb BPA through our skin after handling cash-register receipts for just a few seconds whenever we make a purchase.

Mr. Clueless – How is that possible?

me – Simple. Thermal cash-register receipts are the norm now, and many of them are coated with high levels of colorless BPA-containing powder on one side. When heat from the printer strikes the paper, it turns the substance into ink so we can read the receipt.

Researchers of this new study, published in the journal, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, found BPA transferred from paper to the skin after handling a receipt for just a few seconds. And some receipts harbor BPA levels up to 1,000 times higher than BPA detected in the linings of metal cans.

Mr. Clueless – We can wash that off with a handy-dandy hand sanitizer.

me – Not a good idea – the hand sanitizer increases absorption into the skin.

Healthy Hints: Important: Appleton Paper supplies over half of the thermal receipt paper used in the U.S. and began manufacturing it without BPA when a number of studies came out finding that the chemical could cause reproductive problems.

To make it easier for the average shopper to distinguish BPA-free receipts, Appleton prints its receipt paper with red flecks on the back made from biodegradable cellulose rayon.

#5 – Newest GMO development

me – GMO or GM (genetically modified) ingredients have long been hidden in foods like corn syrup or soy protein. But now Monsanto has been successful in developing and getting approved the first GMO vegetable sold directly to consumers. Sweet corn!

Mr. Clueless – This is a very important breakthrough. The corn has been genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide: Bt Bacillus thuringiensis – a bacterium that kills insects. Now available at your nearest Wal-Mart.

me – And unlabeled last I heard.

Healthy Hints: Buy your sweet corn at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, Or your farmer’s market – where the source they’ll disclose.

Opposing Viewpoint

“Older people shouldn't eat health food; they need all the preservatives they can get.” – Robert Orben

#6 – Additional additives to avoid

Mr. Clueless – You know that all packaged food is required to list all the ingredients on the label.

me – Yes, and that is part of the problem. Food producers often use long, foreign-sounding, unfamiliar chemical names or just initials in extremely small print.

Mr. Clueless – That’s because labels are often so small.

me – Spot on, Mr. C., and that contributes to the list being tedious and difficult to read. We should avoid foods with these additives: BHA, BHT and MSG.

Mr. CluelessBut BHA and BHT are preservatives and MSG is a flavor-enhancer.

me – Correct. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydrozytoluene) are used as preservatives in chips, cereals, even chewing gum. But they are known to oxidize the cells and cell oxidation is the precursor to cancer.

MSG (monosodium glutamate)is a well-known food additive used primarily as a flavor-enhancer. But it can cause reactions in some people such as headaches and nausea. See my hub: “MSG, Fat Rats and Us.”

me – I want to thank you again for your assistance, I.M. Good luck in finding another job.

Mr. Clueless – Not to worry. I work for the government, remember? We never get fired – just transferred!

© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2012. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Includes valuable information for older workers, and how to negotiate salary successfully.

Comments for Interview with FDA Spokesperson - Part Three

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    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      You are so right, Patricia. It is downright scary and unhealthy, too, all the foreign stuff that resides in the food we eat. That's why it is so important to read all labels on the food we purchase. And to understand what the abbreviations mean.

      If we don't have resources to grow our own food and most of us do not, then we have to purchase organic from markets we trust.

      Thanks for making the rounds of my hubs - you and your comments are always appreciated, m'luv.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida is pretty doggone scary all of the STUFF that is in our food and in our environment. I just updated a hub today (about unbroamted, unbleached flour) and I was thinking...what is NOT contaminated?? What is there that we can eat or come in contact with that is not harmful?? Rhetorical questions are these but it does make me stop and think.

      thank you for exposing this and offering it so that we all can know.

      Sending Angels your way ps

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      You are so right, whonunuwho, this IS scary stuff as is the scary stuff I unearthed in Parts One and Two of this series.

      Even smelling roses could be dangerous. Thorns, you know.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, mary, for your 'fine' comment and tireless hub-visiting. You are much appreciated. Isn't it a shame we have to do our own monitoring of the food we ingest? Even a staple like peanut butter is not exempt from our scrutiny. Thank you for the Up, m'dear, and the sharing.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      This is scary stuff, as is a lot nowadays. Its time to wake up and not smell the roses!!!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      You do a fine job with all the research you do for your Hubs. This makes me want to just stop eating anything from the grocery store. Now, they have a recall for some peanut butter. It's a scary world out there for sure!

      I voted this Hub UP, and will share, too.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      You are so right, tirelesstraveler, hand sanitizer dispensers are all over the place. But using hot water and soap is still the best way to sanitize your hands, both inside and outside the ICU. Thanks for your visit and valid comment.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Had to chime in on hand sanitizers. My friend was isolated in ICU in Feb and everyone had to wash hand 15 seconds (Happy Birthday song twice) with soap. There were hand sanitizer dispensers all over the place. Without alcohol their is no sensitization; nobody wants alcohol because it drys their hands.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      You are most welcome, Rosemary, for this scary food additive information. Knowledge is power! Right?

      So you have eaten only two hot dogs ever? You may be one of the very few adults in the world who can make that statement.

      Hand sanitizers have become so universal, it is almost sacrilegious to point out their negative qualities. Re register receipts, supermarket checkers and others need to handle them like hot potatoes.

      If you need a small magnifying glass to decipher food label information, then take one along with you to the supermarket by all means. Thanks for dropping by, m'luv.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Yes, Ruby, I do believe you now read every single label on the foodstuffs you purchase. Shrimp is my favorite fish so I am extra careful in learning its birthplace.

      Delighted you have learned a great deal from my FDA Interviews - that makes all the research more than worthwhile.

      To remove the stigma of that mental picture of hot dog a la rat hair, here is a funny hot dog riddle:

      Question: What do you get when you cross a chili pepper, a steam shovel, and a Chihuahua?

      Answer: A hot, diggety dog.

      Hugs backatcha.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      You are so right, Alastar, when you label the content of my FDA Interviews as 'unpalatable facts.' That is exactly what they are. We, the people, have to take charge of what we eat since government agencies seem unwilling or unable to do so.

      I think our younger generation is so accustomed to the bombardment of food advertising, especially empty-calorie and risky snacks, that they know not what they eat.

      You are spot on when you proclaim that 'corporate profits and evil agendas rule and our health ... ' Even handling those 'diabolical' cash register receipts may be dangerous. Thank you for your input and your most gracious comments. Bless you, too.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Thank you doc for this well researched information. It is quite scary what goes into our foods. I have only ever eaten 2 hotdogs and they will be the last. yuk. I was surorised to read about the handwash, so thank you for that info. And those receipts... what about the checkout operatprs who must handle hundreds a day.

      Maybe we should all be taking magnifying glasses to the store with us.

      Thank you for sharing this information

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      As a fellow researcher, Alicia, I knew you would appreciate more useful and educational food additive information. There is no question in my mind that we may be shortening our lives by ingesting the scary stuff that often resides - unknown to us - in the food we eat.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      I am not surprised, Amy, to learn that Monsanto (St. Louis) may be disturbed, to put it mildly, that produce loaded with genetically modified ingredients may have to be so labeled.

      Too often, we the people, are misled, deceived or simply uninformed by multinational agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies who are concerned foremost with the bottom line and not the potential harm they may be creating.

      I am familiar with some of the research that is currently being conducted with respect to autoimmune disease and GMO foods, and I believe we 'ain't heard nuthin' yet' about its potential correlation as well as long-term effect.

      As you point out, the only safe food may ultimately be what we grow ourself in our own gardens. And the danger of handling paper register receipts coated with BPA! Who knew? Thank you for your interesting and welcome remarks, m'luv. Just keep examining those dastardly labels - when you can find them. And thank you for your educated comments.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Would you believe I now read every label on cans and boxes? Shrimp is a favorite of mine. I will now be looking for OREGON on the package. I have learned so much from your FDA series. ( I really mean that. ) Thank's. I wish i had a good food joke, but i can't get the hot dog with the rat hair out of my psyche..YUCK..Hugs..

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      This interview truly made me want to puke but thank you a million for doing it, drbj. Your FDA ones have been productive in pointing out some unpalatable facts to a young one who refuse's to listen to me and continue's on with the Doritos ans corn chips. We have to take responsibility for our own food and drink choices nowadays as it appears we're back in the pre 1906 Food and Drug act days. Corporate profits and evil agendas rule and our health and that of the nature and animals around us be damned. My god! We've even got to wear gloves to hold a reciept now! Diabolical! Your a godsend drbj, bless you!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Yes, amillar, lobbying efforts have been going on for some time now, especially in California, to enact laws requiring GMO labeling on our foods.

      The 'terminator seeds' you mention would just about put an end to successful individual farming since it would eliminate the seed-saving practice. In this case, Monsanto is the Orwellian villain. You nailed it with your comment, m'dear.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      You have the right idea, tireless traveler, about eating food from your own garden. Zap those nasty squash bugs - they don't deserve your lovely zucchini. Hope your corn and cantaloupe matures soon so you can start eating again. Thanks for the visit. Does your cow provide your milk? Just wonderin'.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, teaches. I could not agree with you more that eating processed foods purchased at our favorite grocery is becoming more and more dangerous to our health. It is scary indeed. Thanks for your visit and the Up.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Those 'dirty' shrimp, christopher, know no geographical boundaries so you may be ingesting some without knowing it. Most of the shrimp we eat (US and UK) are imported from foreign countries. China, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and India are the top suppliers.

      You are most welcome for the useful warnings but it may be difficult if not impossible to learn from whence your shrimp came. Thanks for the kind comments.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very useful and educational hub, drbj. Thank you for sharing more information about food additives and chemical safety. The chemicals in some of our food and in some of the items that we touch are scary!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Your interview has the serious tone it deserves, drbj. St. Louis based Monsanto is in an uproar about labeling GM produce. They believe it will confuse people. God forbid, we ask to be given "just the facts" so we can make informed choices. Just last Friday, out of the blue, I got a call from a patient advocate regarding an application I submitted to the pharma company that makes Pentasa, the expensive Rx I have taken for the last nine years. I initially submitted the app one-year ago. When I explained my autoimmune condition to the advocate, she brought up the topic of Monsanto and the research being done relating autoimmune disease to the process of genetic modification of foods. It seems the circle of harming the public by our own involves ever expanding greed, from Monsanto altering our food and making us sick to the doctors in bed with the pharmaceutical companies. According to the patient advocate I spoke with there are no guarantees with organic foods anymore, either. A couple of years ago there was an e-coli shallot scare involved with an organic greenhouse in Germany. It's seriously getting to the point where the only safe food is the one grown in our own carefully prepared and tended gardens. I knew about the antimicrobial handwash for "at the desk" actually causing more harm than it helps in creating resistance to bacteria, but I didn't realize it actually increased the ability of toxins into the skin! Thank you for many innovative, yet not commonly known deterrents to the harmful effects that greed has created and foisted upon us. It's a full time job trying to kick the habits that greed pushes through advertising. You kick one and find out eating is another "habit" you have to avoid. Thank you, drbj, for an interesting, entertaining, absolutely mandatory wake-up call.

    • amillar profile image


      6 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Very interesting hub drbj. I notice some of your compatriots, in California I think, are lobbying for GMO labelling on foods.

      I can't remember if you mentioned the 'terminator seeds' in your last hub, but don’t you think there's something quite Orwellian about the kind of people who want control of the world's food supply?

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      I have quit eating. The squash bugs ate my zucchini plants, the cantaloupe and corn isn't ripe and my cow is still in the pasture. Can't afford organic except what comes out of the garden.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Great hub and read on this topic. I have read about many of these risks and toxins you have posted and know the dangers of consuming them. When we shop at the grocery store, almost all processed foods have some toxic chemical additives. Scary. Voted way up.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I hope I'm not living in one of the foreign countries where they have the dirty shrimps. Thanks for another great hub and some very useful warnings

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      You had a three-week food frolic in Orlando, Mohan? You lucky duck! Was it a vacation or a conference or a bit of both? Delighted to learn you are now eating fresh organic food and losing weight as a by-product.

      Thanks for finding these alarming but eye-opening details entertaining and awesome. Appreciate your visit and your comments, old chap.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      If Clueless were really your ex, you are so much better off without him, believe me, Martie. He is as clueless as his name which makes him the perfect foil for my interviews.

      Yes, these facts are shocking and we, the people, are truly sheeple when it comes to understanding what we should be eating as opposed to what we ARE eating. So I am doing my little bit to help folks be more aware of the gross additives they may be innocently ingesting. Bringing this to your attention is my sincere pleasure, m'dear.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      6 years ago from UK

      Drbj - I was hoping to go on a diet after my three week food frolic in Orlando. I've come to the right place. I'm now eating fresh. homegrown organic salads and dropping pounds faster than you could say 'hubs' ( or chubs) you really have gathered a lot of eye-opening details here. Alarming yet entertaining in a gory kind of way. Awesome!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Oh my gosh, drbj! I wonder of Mr. I.M. Clueless could perhaps be my missing ex, because I am Mrs. Clueless. How shocking are all these facts! I'm going to have nightmares about them... I already see them all - little monsters trying to kill me.

      Thank you for bringing all of this to my attention! Going to take this to heart for sure.


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