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FDA is Planning to Track Dietary Supplements Using Data-Mining Technology

January 4, 2000

Fifty-two federal agencies are using or planning to use "data mining" for a variety of purposes, according to a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report. Data mining is the application of database technology to uncover hidden patterns in information that allow for the prediction of future results. In the 52 agencies, 68 data-mining efforts are planned and 131 are operational. Fifty-four of those in operation obtain data from the private sector (such as credit card data). Of the 199 total efforts, 122 use or will use personal information.

According to the study, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to use data mining to track, review, and report adverse events involving food, cosmetics, and dietary supplements. The FDA's data-mining effort will utilize personal information, data from other government agencies, and private-sector data.

Why should citizens care about this issue? Because the purpose of government (including the FDA) is to protect individuals rights—not control their lives or make personal health-care decisions. The FDA should not be allowed to track and monitor citizens' use of dietary supplements unless first obtaining individuals' permission.

The consent of the governed is a key principle that must be upheld by the U.S. government and its agencies.

Source: GAO Report #GAO-04-548, Data Mining: Federal Efforts Cover a Wide Range of Uses, May 2004.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2004 issue of Health Freedom Watch.