Dead People Don’t Eat: Food Governmentenomics and Conflicts-of-Interest in the USDA and FDA


  • Gabriela Steier



Conflicts of interest permeate the governance of the federal advisory committees that issue recommendations to consumer protection agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and therefore, American consumers need a federal solution to protect their health from biased recommendations. In order to promote a business-friendly food pyramid, agribusinesses and food industrialists lobby for dietary guidelines that boost their sales. The resulting guidelines cause great damage to public health, spur environmental pollution, and result in a loss of democratic freedoms. As a result, the FDA and USDA's bifurcated task of protecting both food producers and consumers, creates a conflict of interest within the agencies that often favor the food industry over consumer protection.

This paper describes the problems embedded within the FDA and USDA's conflict of interest and the resulting revolving door of the heavily invested lobbyists, and finally, suggests statutory amendments to solve this problem. The proposed amendments will dispense with ineffective disclosure requirements and eliminate the possibility of waiving conflicts of interest for advisory committee members. By rebalancing the composition of the advisory committees and the scientific basis for the dietary recommendations, the proposed amendments will close the loopholes that large food industrialists currently abuse. As a result, consumer protection agencies, such as the FDA and USDA, are empowered to police the federal advisory committees issuing the dietary recommendations and prevent government officials from breaching their fiduciary duties to American consumers.