FEDS DEMAND TO WITNESS
In May of this year the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered a Texas-based corporation to destroy their entire inventory of books relating to a specific herb. Was it the herb coca from which cocaine is derived? Was it the cannabis or marijuana plant, or the opium poppy with data in the book on processing these "dangerous" substances? No. None of the above. There are mountains of legal documents and free literature available from even public libraries on any of those.
This controversial herb is stevia which, according to its many proponents, is "controversial" only because it is the base for a harmless, natural sweetener, 200 to 300 times more intense than sugar. And, unlike its synthetic counterpart, aspartame, stevia has been proven through numerous scientific trials  (not to mention a couple hundred years of use) to be not only harmless, but beneficial to the health.
The Stevita Company, marketer of the "controversial" herbal extract from stevia, has apparently been the target of FDA administrative firepower for some time, according to the company's president, Oscar Rodes.
The books at the center of this regulatory maelstrom are The Stevia Story - A Tale of Incredible Sweetness & Intrigue by Linda Bonvie, et al., David Richard's Stevia Rebaudiana: Nature's Sweet Secret, and the main target by the FDA, Cooking with Stevia: The Naturally Sweet & Calorie-Free Herb by James Kirkland. Does it seem a stretch of credibility to think it is mere coincidence the FDA is going after a publication (Bonvie's book) that contains a chapter entitled, "What's Wrong with the FDA?"
The Stevita Company's nightmare with the agency began, as Rodes related to The WINDS, "in November of last year when we received a warning letter from the FDA saying that the literature we were selling was illegal because it suggested that stevia could be used in ways other than as a dietary supplement."
The FDA makes a sharp legal distinction between a "food supplement" such as vitamins and for which stevia is approved, and a "food additive" for which it is not approved. The FDA's contention is that the sale of the books and literature by the Stevita Company "adulterated" the product by implying it can be used in other than "approved" applications. This strange logic of how something can be safe when used as a "food supplement" and unsafe when used as a "food additive," apparently lies within the federal agency's convoluted thinking processes. The FDA, according to Rodes, seized all Stevita's product shipments at the port of entry simply because the agency insists that no reference to the herb's property as a sweetener can be listed or even implied in its labeling.
Mr. Rodes went on to inform The WINDS that because the purpose of his business is to market the natural sweetener, they would sacrifice, if necessary, the selling of the publications in order to do that. Even though, according to their lawyers, the Stevita Corporation had already complied with every codified FDA regulation, Rodes' attorneys contacted the FDA agents involved and informed them that they would bring any labeling into even further compliance with whatever the government wanted in order that the Stevita Company could recommence their primary business--selling stevia. Even though compliance with federal regulations seems to be a swiftly moving goalpost that no one seems to be able to find at any given moment, Mr. Rodes' attorneys went so far as to volunteer to the federal agents that Stevita would even stop selling their books. It was then that things went from the bizarre to the "twilight zone".
The WINDS has obtained a copy of an FDA document transmitted to the Stevita Company on May 19th, first via fax and then Federal Express from the FDA's compliance officer, James R. Lahar. In an action strangely reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, agent Lahar stated in that letter that "...a current inventory must be taken by an investigator of this office, who will also be available to witness the destruction of the cookbooks, literature, and other publications for the purpose of verifying compliance"
According to a report in the Casper, Wyoming Star-Tribune, "Lahar now claims he never ordered the books destroyed. In an interview he said, 'the sentence reads to the effect that if books are going to be destroyed, we'd like to observe it.'"
Sometimes it seems that comparisons made between Nazi Germany and U.S. federal agencies are much overused--albeit frequently accurate--analogies. There are times, however, when the similarities are so excruciatingly undeniable that there simply is not a more appropriate parallel to be made. Can such a striking semblance be overlooked between FDA's actions toward the Stevita Company and the book burnings by German Brownshirts in May of 1933? As a point of interest, the FDA's order to destroy Stevita's books came within just nine days of the exact sixty-fifth anniversary of that counterpart in Germany.
When the FDA inspectors arrived to "witness the destruction of the cookbooks, literature, and other publications for the purpose of verifying compliance," Mr. Rodes showed them the video camera with which he informed the agents he would record said destruction.
"If we are going to have to destroy our books," Rodes told the agents, "and they want to witness the destruction--it will be on tape. Then they didn't know what to do because we were taping them. They tried to call their office and they couldn't get hold of anyone."
Why are government officials so fearful of having their actions recorded? Ask Rodney King.
"Then we went into the warehouse to inventory the books," Mr. Rodes continued, "and I said we can put the books into the dumpster because I cannot burn them. They didn't say anything so I said, 'Do you want me to go outside and put them in the dumpsters?' They replied, 'No, you are going to destroy the books.' I said no, if the books are to be destroyed you will have to do it. All this time we were videotaping them.
"Later in my office [with the FDA inspectors] my attorney called me and I told him that the agents are here to destroy the books. Then the two inspectors jumped up from their chairs and said, 'No. No. We're not here to destroy the books. You are going to destroy them.' I said that 'if you require me to destroy the books, it is the same thing as you destroying them.'"
In a communication from the FDA dated June 8th (to the attorneys of a physician who were suing the agency to force them to allow him to purchase the books from Stevita) the federal agency stated, "...the FDA has not at any time 'ordered' that the books in question be destroyed. Rather, the FDA has advised Mr. Rodes that he should take care not to use the books to stimulate sales of Stevita brand stevia as that could cause them to be labeling under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act."
Translation: Allowing the customer to know that you sell the same product as mentioned in the book, constitutes making the book effectively a label for your product. This, of course, implies that the consumer is mentally incapable of distinguishing between the label on a jar and a book with binding and pages. (Would someone please unscrew the lid on that book?)
If one were to parse the sentences in the FDA's letter to the Stevita Co., it can be logically concluded that when such a phrase as "for the purpose of verifying compliance" is used in direct reference to the FDA's desire to "witness the destruction of the cookbooks, literature, and other publications", it must necessarily refer to something required--something that must be complied with. If that "something" to be complied with is not an order or a law--then what? Does it not seem as if the FDA is engaging in a "double-speak" attempt to cover their retreat from a blatant attempt to violate the constitutional rights of a private citizen in the conduct of his business?
When the FDA says that they have "...not at any time 'ordered' that the books in question be destroyed," cannot one rightfully question if the federal agency is perhaps using a dictionary that is not available to the rest of the public to define the word "order"? When a bully is holding a regulatory gun to the head of one's business, the discharge of which will blow said business into oblivion, does not even an implied suggestion by that bully take on the form and shape of a de facto "order"?
Bank Robber to Teller: "This is not an order--it's just a suggestion. And please ignore the loaded bazooka pointed at you."
Has the FDA been taking lessons in citizen abuse from the IRS--or perhaps the IRS from the FDA? Is there a certain oppressive inbreeding that has taken place within the federal government that causes so many of its agencies to blatantly ignore that increasingly obsolete document called the Bill of Rights?
Citations from THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA say that the First Amendment protects "the right of the public in a free society to unobstructed circulation of nonobscene books." A Quantity of Books v. Kansas, 378 U.S. 205, 213 (1964)
The WINDS specifically asked Mr. Kirkland if his publication Cooking with Stevia contained any obscene material. "Not to my knowledge," he replied. "It's a cookbook."
"...freedom of the press embraces the circulation of books as well as their publication." Bantam Books v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 64 n.6 (1963).
The FDA's Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement, Annamarie Kempic, in the previously mentioned letter of June 8th states that, "The FDA Dallas District Office informs me that it was Mr. Rodes who chose the option of destroying the books." This is the FDA leveling the aforementioned administrative gun at his business and then charging Mr. Rodes with pulling the trigger. Rodes told The WINDS that it was ridiculous to imply that he would want to destroy 2,500 books, $10,000 worth of his inventory, voluntarily. What the FDA investigators actually did, according to Rodes, was to mark up his remaining stock of the cookbook in question, thereby making them unsalable--effectively destroying them.
Kirkland, told The WINDS that he recently showed up at a town hall meeting held by Congressman Joe Barton (R TX), during which he held aloft three publications, his own cookbook, one called The Anarchist's Cookbook (which has been around since the '60s) and Hustler Magazine. Kirkland then asked the assembly, "which one of these books has been banned by a federal agency?"
The Anarchist Cookbook, it might be noted, gives explicit instructions on how to kill people using such methods as strangulation by garrote (including how to make the garrote) and high explosives (including detailed directions on how to make the high explosives). The book, incidentally, is still available to the public. Its first three chapters are "Counterfeiting Money", "Credit Card Fraud" and "Making Plastic Explosives from Bleach". Will mothers now be required to register their laundry with BATF?
"Here you've got hard-core pornography," Kirkland said, "how to kill people, and yet the book they ban tells how to make tapioca pudding."
When asked why he thought a federal agency would attempt to pursue and eradicate the marketing of something so harmless and beneficial as stevia, he said he could only comment from somewhat educated conjecture. "Big corporations involving the sugar companies and the artificial sweetener industry" he personally believes are at the root of the assault on this all-natural sweetener. "Apparently," Kirkland said, "the sugar lobby is in this more than I thought they were." Interesting how money keeps coming up in such matters.
Kirkland is not rolling over on this one, however. He said his main objectives are to realize a market for his cookbook and gain FDA approval for marketing stevia as a food, "and I will harass everyone in Washington if I have to," he said. Kirkland has also posted a petition on his website containing the names of every senator and congressman of every state in the U.S. as links that, when filled out, automatically forwards a letter of petition to the lawmakers.
--Imaginary quote from the FDA
The attempted reach of the Food and Drug Administration did not stop with just Stevita's warehouse, Oscar Rodes said. The company was even required to remove everything from their Internet web site. "Even the links. We had links to scientific studies[1, 2] and many sites that wrote about stevia. We even had links to our competitors we were required to remove. They said we had to sever all the links."
The agents returned on May 22nd Rodes said, "just 'to look around' as if they thought I were hiding books or something." The Stevita Company was then informed that they must recall every book from every retailer AND consumer--approximately 4,000 of them--even ones they had given away.
Meanwhile, all of Stevita's product, which is necessary for them to conduct business, remains impounded by the government on the pretense of mislabeling--a problem which, if the FDA allowed it, could be solved by new labels from the corner print shop.
"FDA raiders began searching for their version of 'the offensive literature' - according to an eyewitness shopper at an Arlington, Texas Health Food Store," said Mary Stoddard, spokesperson for Stevita. "The FDA has a list of every retail customer of the Stevita Company." An attempt, according to Stoddard, to intimidate Stevita clientele.
"When called by a national cable television network news reporter," Stoddard continues, "a Dallas District FDA spokesperson said they would neither confirm nor deny the allegation of a literature search or seizure at health food stores, because it was part of an 'ongoing investigation.' FDA spokesperson in Washington D.C., Linda Ravel...told another local network news reporter..."We have not banned any books."
"What they're saying," says author James Kirkland, "is that Stevita can't sell the books as well as the product because the books adulterate the product. They're also trying to say that a health food store can't sell the books for the same reason."
Their "logic" in this is that a health food store, merely by marketing both the book--in their literature section--and the product stevia--in their supplements section--causes the one to become an endorsement of the other.
This, of course, severely narrows, if not completely eliminates, the market for Mr. Kirkland's cookbook due to the fact that health food stores are virtually the only retail outlet sources for such material that is considered non-mainstream literature. Ipso facto; the FDA has effectively banned the sale of the book by more than just the Stevita Company.
During this protracted encounter with Uncle Sam's finest, a Dr. Whitaker, who was unable to obtain any of the books, asked a Washington D.C. attorney, Jonathan W. Emord, noted for First Amendment advocacy, to look into the matter. Emord contacted the FDA and threatened suit against them for release of the books for sale to his client. The WINDS obtained a copy of the FDA's letter to Emord's law firm in which the federal agency is found backing off and agreeing to the sale of 350 of Stevita's books to Dr. Whitaker for "research purposes". In that letter from the FDA to the doctor's attorney the agency said, "we are not aware of any legal impediment to Dr. Whitaker's purchase of...the books....It is our understanding that you will not initiate legal action today. It is our belief that we can reach a satisfactory resolution of the matter."
Does that last sentence sound as if the FDA is perhaps intimidated by the threatened legal action on a First Amendment issue and the potential media fallout that would result from it? And why does the FDA see "no legal impediment" to the doctor's purchase of 350 copies of the banned books for "research purposes"? Even if Dr. Whitaker is optically ambidextrous he still, most likely, has only two eyes.
The WINDS asked Mr. Rodes if, in all his dealings with the FDA, they had ever presented him or his attorneys with any legal document such as a search warrant, a subpoena for records, etc. His reply: "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just the letters which were very intimidating, very threatening."
This question was asked because of previous encounters by The WINDS with individuals who had been intimidated by federal agencies using what appeared to be legal documents that were not--such as an attempt by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to obtain the sales records of certain hydroponics supply companies to determine who purchased a certain book. In those instances they presented the business owners with a document that had no more legal efficacy than a sales receipt, but said that the recipient was "commanded to appear" and to "produce for examination the following books, records and papers...." Many, of course, complied, thinking they had been served with a legal subpoena. It becomes more than just obvious that the purpose of such tactics is to elicit cooperation from the agencies' victims by the generation of fear.
"It scared the hell out of us, I'll tell you," said Oscar Rodes.
Does there seem to be a wanting of rational intellect in a line of reasoning that says something is harmful or deadly as a "food additive" that becomes innocuous and benign when relabeled "food supplement"? If such as the FDA claims is so, how do these magic labels work and may the public please have some? The advantages would be astronomical.
Imagine the tax dollars that could be saved by the Defense Department (supposing the government was actually inclined to saving tax dollars) in the dismantling of America's atomic arsenal. All they would have to do would be to relabel the plutonium in its nuclear weapons as a "food supplement" and the complex problems presented by its disposal would be eliminated over night. And what about the highly toxic fluoride waste generated by the fertilizer, glass and nuclear industry? Why, they could just add it to city water supplies and people could drink it. Uh, wait a minute -- never mind -- they're already doing that, only without the magic labels. Then, of course, there are the nearly limitless advantages to covert applications to be made of this "weird science". Instead of imposing economic sanctions on India and Pakistan for their testing of nuclear weapons, agents could just sneak in and stick these marvelous little labels on their A-bombs and they would be rendered as harmless as goat's milk. Well, actually, according to the FDA, more harmless.
An owner of a long-established health food store informed The WINDS that he was ordered by his state's equivalent of the FDA to remove locally purchased goat milk from his inventory even though he had it labeled as "Pet Food" because there was still the possibility that someone would use it for human consumption.
With this kind of intricate care taken by federal and state authorities for their citizens, it is a truly remarkable thing that anybody ever dies.
FDA regulations, indeed all governmental administrative law, seems to quite effectively mimic a law of physics called the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle. In quantum mechanics one can never know, at the same time, both the given position and the precise speed of a subatomic particle. With government regulations a perverted likeness to Heisenburg's theory appears to function quite well--for their purposes at least. One cannot, it seems, know the precise meaning or even the existence of a given regulation at any given moment--especially when the agency wants it to say something else at that moment.
Such an incident was reported by The WINDS in July of last year when the county of Orofino, Idaho had its offices raided by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, because of noncompliance with federal regulations regarding use of flood disaster funds. When the county commissioner had several times pleaded with FEMA to provide him with guidelines, he was told that none existed--then was charged with violating them.
When considering the foregoing, it is easy to entertain fantasies about reforming the system; that these are just things that happen with federal agencies run amok and they can be corrected. It should be realized, however, that the driving force behind the government that drives these federal agencies knows precisely what it is doing. It is fueled by money and driven by a genius for gathering to itself power and control. It will not rest until all the earth has surrendered to its form of world government. The spirit actuating this world power is as ancient as the earth and utterly malevolent, remorseless and unstoppable--except for One who has decreed its end; One from Whose decision there is no appeal.
For the rich men of the land are full of deceit, and its inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is treacherous in their mouth. Therefore I will begin to smite you, and will make you desolate because of your sins. Micah 6:12-13.
1. "Stability Studies of Stevioside and Rebaudioside A in Carbonated Beverages" [conducted for the Coca Cola Company], Shin S. Chang* and Joanne M. Cook
- Crosby, G. A.; Wingard, R. E., Jr. In Developments in Sweeteners- 1"; Hough, C. A. M.; Parker, K. J.; Viltos, A. J., Eds.; Applied Science Publishers: London, 1979; p 140.
- Kaneda, N.; Kasai, R.; Yamasaki, K.; Tanaka, 0. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1977, 25, 2466.
- Katayama, S.; Sumuta, T.; Hayashi, G.; Mitsuhashi, H. Utilization and R & D Date of Stevioside"; ISU: Tokyo, Japan, 1976; pp 102, 303.
- Kobayasbi, M.; Horikawa, S.; Degrandi, I. H.; Veno, J.; Nijisuhasi, H. Phytochemistry 1977, 16,1405.
- Kohda, H.; Kasai, R.; Yamasaki, K.; Murakami, K.; Tanaka, 0 Phytochemistry 1976, 15, 981.
- Mosettig, E.; Beglinger, U.; Dolder, F.; Lichti, H.; Quitt, P.; Waters, J. A. J. Am. Chern. Soc. 1963, 85, 2307.
- Salunoto, 1.; Yamasaki, K.; Tanaka, 0. Chem. Phorm. Bull. 1977, 25 (12), 3437.
- Tanaka, 0.; Yamasaki, K.; Kasai, R.; Koda, H. Japanese Patent 41275, 1977.
- Wood, H. B., Jr.; Allerton, R.; Diehl, H. W.; Fletcher, H. C., Jr. J. Org. Chem. 1955, 20, 875.
- Received for review May 13, 1982 Accepted November 15, 1982
- Corporate Research and Development Department, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, Georgia 30301
- 0021-8561/83/1431/0409$01.50/0 1983, American Chemical Society
* "Effect of the Stevioside and of the aqueous extract of Stevia Rebaudiana (BERT) Bertoni on the glycemia of normal and diabetic rats
By: Professor Carlos Eduardo Pinheiro, Presented to the II Brazilian Convention on Stevia rebaudiana (Bert) Bertoni - September 1982.
2. "CONTRACEPTIVE EFFECT OF THE STEVIA AND OF ITS SWEETENING PRINCIPLES"
Prof. Mauro Alvarez Ph.D., State University of Maringa
Dept. of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Artifical sweetner: Aspartame
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