Much like today, celebrities, doctors and nurses were endorsing, propagandising, and advertising a product, new idea of thinking or a proper way for people to think.
The old adage, we must learn from our history, is as important today as those meaningful words were years ago. Did we learn?
In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle, the chemical company that held the patent to aspartame, the active ingredient in NutraSweet. Aspartame already had a seedy past, including the report of a 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry, comprised of three independent scientists, which confirmed that it “might induce brain tumors.”
The FDA had banned aspartame based on this finding, only to have then-Searle Chairman Donald Rumsfeld vow to “call in his markers,” to get it approved.
Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president January 21, 1981. Rumsfeld, while still CEO at Searle, was part of Reagan’s transition team. This team hand-picked Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., to be the new FDA commissioner. Dr. Hayes, a pharmacologist, had no previous experience with food additives before being appointed director of the FDA.
On January 21, 1981, the day after his inauguration, Reagan issued an executive order eliminating the FDA commissioners’ authority to take action and Searle re-applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame in food sweetener.
Hayes, Reagan’s new FDA commissioner, appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the board of inquiry’s decision. It soon became clear that the panel would uphold the ban by a 3-2 decision. So Hayes installed a sixth member on the commission, and the vote became deadlocked. He then personally broke the tie in aspartame’s favor.
One of Hayes’ first official acts as FDA chief was to approve the use of aspartame as an artificial sweetener in dry goods on July 18, 1981.
Hayes left his post at the FDA in November, 1983, amid accusations that he was accepting corporate gifts for political favors. Just before leaving office in scandal, Hayes approved the use of aspartame in beverages.
After Hayes left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, he served briefly as Provost at New York Medical College, and then took a position as a high-paid senior medical advisor with Burson-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for both Monsanto and GD Searle.
When Searle was absorbed by Monsanto in 1985, Donald Rumsfeld reportedly received a $12 million bonus. Also, while at Searle, Rumsfeld was awarded Outstanding CEO in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981).
Remember–some celebrities, news media, politicians, doctors, nurses and other influencers may have a motive for their stances on issues.
What Have We Learned?
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