Dear Dr. Rentea,
My name is Virginia and I am 8 years old.
Some of my friends say that we can always tell the whole truth in the USA. Is that so?
My Papa says, “Write the guys at the True Botanica company. (But I have also decided to write to the TB Foundation). See what they say. They always tell the whole truth”. (I don’t know why but then he had a hearty laugh.)
So I am writing to you: Please tell me: Can I always tell the truth in the USA?
It’s confusing out there and your friends are both right and wrong. Let me explain.
First of all, you can, and you should, always, and I mean always, be honest and truthful with yourself.
Secondly you can, and you should, tell people around you the truth but only to the extent to which they can take it. While you do that help them to grow strong enough to tolerate the whole truth in due time. After all that’s what God does with us.
Then, if you keep all that in mind, when you are in public pretty much you can tell the truth as long as you are not in the business of manufacturing natural supplements.
You see, for example, if you are a manufacturer of a wonderful product containing berberine you cannot say that it may help people in the managing of diabetes – even though it is the truth. Dozens upon dozens of studies have shown that this natural plant extract does just that, but you cannot say it. Why? Because under an antiquated law only “drugs” can improve, or “mitigate” illnesses and in order for a substance to become a drug you need to spend millions of dollars in order to get it approved by the Food and Drug (FDA) administration.
Here is another example. If you are producing a bag of tart cherries you cannot say on the same page where you display the product that tart cherries have been shown to lower uric acid levels and help with gout because that would make the tart cherries an “unapproved drug” and selling them as such can land you in jail.
We and many companies like us encounter this problem every day and you and your parents suffer because of it. We will never lie to you but we cannot tell you the whole truth either, which is that our ingredients are based on research that proves that they are effective in certain disease states.
I know that this is nonsense Virginia but the government has determined that we should only list our products and then instead of telling you right then and there what the research shows about those items we should let you hunt around the internet on your own in order to find out more details about them. This way instead of having licensed physicians (in our case) present carefully screened and balanced material you may then get the opinions of real quacks and the very snake oil peddlers that the government is trying to protect you from.
The problem is, Virginia, that the Supreme Court recently determined that you can even lie in some fields because freedom of speech needs to be safeguarded. If you lie about having earned military honors it may be annoying to your friends and neighbors but you are not going to have the government come after you and maybe put you in jail. But the Supreme Court has not gotten around to determining that under the First Amendment you can tell the truth in the supplement manufacturing field.
Sadly Virginia there are many powerful groups in the natural and food industry that fight to make sure those bad laws get followed by everybody and thus supposedly we create an “even playing field.” We should concentrate more on changing the bad laws rather than worrying about how to make them manageable. Otherwise it would be same as arguing which is the most humane way to treat slaves. Let’s abolish slavery!
Maybe you can ask your parents to help us do something about it.
Have a Wonderful 4th of July!
Ross Rentea MD
P.S. Since in our country, by and large, freedom of speech is protected, be careful, since people may not always be truthful with you. Watch out what comes at you. If say, in 20 years from now people tell you that you are really thin you should first look in the mirror before taking their word for it.
And one more thing. I think it was your great – grandmother that asked the editor of the New York Sun back in 1897 whether there is a Santa Claus. Virginia, I agree with him that yes, there is a Santa Claus, and totally honest freedom of speech, where you can tell the whole truth, lives in the same place of the loving heart that Santa Claus lives in.
Again Happy 4th of July.
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