A note on government stupidity
avatar

There’s plenty of this at home to write about, were I to choose to.

But in a ruling that defies belief, the EU just ruled that drinking water cannot be advertised as the best way to prevent dehydration.

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/284426/EU-says-water-is-not-healthy

So.

There’s stupid.

And then, there’s “Holy shit, what drugs have you guys been DOING?”

And a tip of the hat to Jim Woosley, who sent me this remarkable link.

Print Friendly
DeliciousStumbleUponDiggTwitterFacebookRedditLinkedIn

Comments

A note on government stupidity — 20 Comments

  1. Hi Holly,

    I’d like to know your opinion on something, and I’m not sure how else to bring it to your attention. It does, I think, qualify as governmental stupidity, which is why I’m posting it here.

    Here’s a link to a Forbes article about some bills under debate in Congress: Link. This looks clear and straightforward to me, and it also looks dangerous–but I’m not certain I’m getting it right. I’d like your opinion (I’d also like the opinions of the folks on the HTTS boards but I can’t post it there because it’s political).

    Thanks.

  2. I know I’m late to the party, but there are several reasons to not just jump on the “oh god look how stupid they are” bandwagon.

    1. The ruling is not being accurately reported. This link was provided above, but I will provide it again on the basis that it is important: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2011/nov/18/1

    2. The people quoted in the story are (a) two professors who hate EU regulations to begin with, and created the challenge in order to get a ruling which looks superficially stupid so that they can have something to mock, and (b) a UKIP member, who is by definition a member of an anti-science, anti-EU political party. So, no bias there, then. :-/

    3. Just as a general rule of thumb, you should always fact-check anything reported in the Express, the Sun, or the Daily Mail, since these papers are pretty much the equivalent of the National Enquirer, with less “Bigfoot Marries Elvis” and more “Immigrants Cause Cancer!”

    • Sorry to keep on, but I thought it would be interesting to add a little more detail. As with so much else, detail and context are what make the story.
      Just to make it a little more clear — from the detailed version of the EU ruling itself,

      “The scope of the application was proposed to fall under a health claim referring to disease risk reduction.”
      — The claim was specifically made to be evaluated under a regulation designed to monitor when foods are being touted as disease prevention or treatment.

      “The Panel notes that dehydration was identified as the disease by the applicant. Dehydration is a condition of body water depletion.”
      — It is a bit iffy in the first instance to class dehydration as disease. It only dubiously qualifies as a disease condition.

      But moving on…
      “The Panel considers that the proposed claim does not comply with the requirements for a
      disease risk reduction claim pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.”
      — Specific reason, if a claim is being made that a food reduces risk of disease, then
      this must be well-defined, and well-characterised, and risks treated in the application, and in this application:
      1. “Significant” for “Significant amounts of water” was never defined, which is required under the regulation, and
      2. The “risk reduction” is not quantified, nor is it even noted that it’s not consistent (as, let’s face it, someone working a desk job in an office is at far less risk of dehydration than someone running a marathon in a desert), and
      3. There is no discussion of risk of the food itself, as the regulation for medical claims requires — and after all, consumption of too much water is itself dangerous and potentially fatal. Also, in some states of real dehydration, even consumption of water is dangerous because of salt and other electrolyte imbalance, which is why saline drip is used in hospitals and rehydrating salts are used for performance athletes and those suffering severe diarrhea. So the treatment of risk can’t be ignored on the grounds that risk in non-existent.

      There was no ruling that water does not affect dehydration or that it isn’t healthy. There was simply a ruling that the application as given really doesn’t meet the terms of this specific “medical claims” regulation.

      This is, of course, a much more boring and much less sympathetic story than “government bureaucrats are daft.” This is why it’s so easy to be good at spin if one happens to be a bit dishonest.

  3. “… no water sold in the EU can now claim to protect against dehydration.”

    Emphasis on “sold.” The legislation is a stupid way to try to limit bottling companies convincing people that their water is superior to tap water. Yes, bottled water is a giant scam, but come on. It’s still water.

  4. Kathleen said: “At least the U.S. hasn’t entirely cornered the market on political inanity.”

    In an indirect refutation of this statement, I offer this link on whether tomato sauce, pizza by direct implication, should be considered a vegetable. This is question was recently debated by Congress. I’m sorry that I do not know the outcome of this vote.

    For your edification: MSNBC: Pizza is a vegetable? Congress says yes.

    • The statement was “cornered the market.”

      Our goverment is and has been run by morons, the venal, the corrupt, and the power-hungry for years and years. But so are the governments of most other countries.

      Therefore, we have not cornered the market. Almost anywhere you go, there they are.

  5. My wife got asked to participate in politics a few times. She is quick, witty, likeable, knows some ‘well-connected’ people, and backs down only if opponents will not be persuaded or she really finds she is wrong.

    However, meeting several people ‘behind the scenes’ in the parties, she discovered that they are largely in charge of a lot of politicians who are happy to be puppets.

    They legislate and administer because it makes them feel important. When an important issue comes along, however, they tend to do the bidding of the party, which has gotten them their position.

    The parties, of course, make no product, but provide a service– favorable rules to the games. That service is offered at a cost. So, when we wonder where the stupid policies come from, it often pays to follow the money.

    Water is a low-profit business. Other beverages are not so.

    • Interesting. I worked with W.J. Coyne’s (Rep D Penn ’81-’03) nephew. His nephew told me that when his uncle moved to washington, he became “even more stuck up.” At one point, Rep Coyne voted against his party on something he felt strongly about, so the party had the district lines redrawn (2002). Wiki says he retired, I was told it was to force him out.

      Water is big business ($60 billion globally). Most of it comes from the tap, not the picture on the bottle. Even Coke and Pepsi sell bottled water. In two seperate studies, about 33% of bottled water is worse than tap water. Tap water is regulated, not bottled water. Penn & Teller do a good show on it in their first season of BS.

  6. I (insincerely) suspect that whatever the Brittish have been dumping in their water, they’ve been sending test samples to Washington, D.C., rather than to a lab, for testing. They thought they were safe until they saw the pizza declaration, and now they’re backpedaling–and intentionally grouping their country with Mexico on the tourism map. “Locals are immune, ya know?”

    On a very unrelated note: Thanks for the new link to the sign-in board, Holly!

    • If you’re watching the EU bureaucracy at work, you’ll realized our bureaucracy is a bunch of rank amateurs by comparison.

      Though I’m sure, as hard as they’re trying, they’ll achieve total incompetence soon.

  7. Whenever something looks too outrageous, I like to see if I can find an alternate take. So, for whatever it’s worth:

    http://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/Default.aspx?page=966

    “…The European Food Safety Authority has been asked to rule on several ways of wording the statement that drinking water is good for hydration and therefore good for health. It rejected some wordings on technicalities, but it has supported claims that drinking water is good for normal physical and cognitive functions and normal thermoregulation….”

    Also, an opinion piece defending the ruling and claiming the media is misrepresenting it:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2011/nov/18/1?newsfeed=true

    “The specific health claim tested is outlined in the ruling: ‘The regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration and of concomitant decrease of performance.’ — The claim wasn’t submitted for a genuine product, but was created as a deliberate ‘test’ exercise by the two professors…”

    Please note that I’m not claiming there isn’t any silliness here =^). I just like to find alternate takes when I can.

    • I’m not looking for alternatives, though you may consider this one if you like:

      “The FDA has ruled today that, because carcinogens and other toxins may be included in air at any time, and that inhalation of any of these toxins could be harmful to your health, therefore, the regular consumption of air cannot be considered as healthful or beneficial without further study.”

  8. *Speechless*
    So, we are in the middle of a crisis, and they are discussing if water helps prevent dehydration or not… Now I understand.

    I’m from Spain, by the way.

    • The government IS the crisis. The philosophy of governments worldwide is the crisis.

      I’m going to quote David from his reply above:

      “However, meeting several people ‘behind the scenes’ in the parties, she discovered that they are largely in charge of a lot of politicians who are happy to be puppets.

      They legislate and administer because it makes them feel important. When an important issue comes along, however, they tend to do the bidding of the party, which has gotten them their position.

      The parties, of course, make no product, but provide a service– favorable rules to the games. That service is offered at a cost. So, when we wonder where the stupid policies come from, it often pays to follow the money.”

      The problem isn’t water. It’s government, and the fact that government attracts people who want to tell other people what they can and cannot do, and who are willing to compromise on anything in order to stay in power. That is the path to hell, and at the moment, every government I know of is on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>