Sen. Proxmire gave more than "Golden Fleece Awards" (The Scientist, December 12, 1988, page 17), he also gave Americans a "Golden Fleece Law." In 1976, Proxmire's vitamin bill greatly restricting FDA's regulation of the safety and effectiveness of nutritional supplements slipped through Congress despite opposition from public health and consumer groups. The bill was backed primarily by manufacturers of these dubious products and by the health foods industry. To my knowledge, this was the only bill in this century to go against the principle of caveat vendor (let the seller beware) which applies when buyers and sellers are on unequal terms regarding the value and quality of what is being sold. Then FDA commissioner Alexander Schmidt called the Proxmire bill "a charlatan's dream." It has proved to be just exactly that as Americans are annually fleeced of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on completely worthless supplements allowed by his...

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