Top Secret: Washington Works

January 25th, 2011 by MorganDowney Leave a reply »

Sticking up for Washington DC and for the joys of lobbying is like celebrating the Black Death these days. No one can deny that virtually all the country thinks Washington is broken, corrupt and at least dysfunctional. And that’s when we residents are on good behavior. The rest of the time we are actually working to destroy the republic. Lobbying and the special interests are intrinsically entwined in this pattern of corruption. Lobbyists, tools of the wealthy, use their money and clout, to win special favors by stealing from good, hard-working families.

Well, there’s a dirty little secret: living and working in Washington is actually great fun. It’s a great place to raise a family and the people here, for the most part, are good, hard-working families who also were attracted from across the globe to be part of this exciting city and involved in important issues and causes.

I wax on because today the newspapers carried stories about the food industry moving to front-of-package labels for calories and other information . Food Makers Offer Own Nutrition Label Plan – NYTimes.com. The effort involves the White House, the food industry, the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are battling over whether the labels on the front should basically inform consumers of the ‘bad’ stuff like calories, salt and fats or allow the food industry to promote the ‘good’ stuff as well, like vitamins, protein, etc. At stake is whether consumers can access better, more accurate information.

Ok, I’ll confess! Stop the waterboarding! Yes, it might be all my fault. I believe I was the first person to propose putting calorie information on the front of the package to stop gaming the calorie information on the current Nutrition Label by setting to the number of servings in a package. At least I don’t know of anyone else who started it before I raised in 2003.

At that time, under the Bush Administration, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson became very concerned about obesity. It was the first time obesity got such high level attention. The FDA was charged with formulating a plan and held a public hearing on the NIH campus. I testified and offered up the front of package calorie information as a suggestion. (See the transcript at US Food and Drug Administration: 03n-0338-tr00002, page 145.) I had no corporate interest at stake, no big law firms, pr firms, thing tanks. Just a number of witnesses offering suggestions.  I just thought it was a good idea. Well, someone at the FDA liked it because it continues to get attention.

There is an old adage, “the world belongs to those who show up.” This is one of those instances where that phrase comes true. It happens in Washington all the time which is why many of us love being here and see ideas transform into reality.