Food Supplement Legislation, 1974. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate, ninety-third congress, second session on S.2801 and S.3867, U.S. Government Printing Office, pages 585-586.


Senator KENNEDY. The subcommittee will come to order.

Dr. Pauling, you had completed your comments?

Dr. PAULING. Yes, sir.

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you. Who is next?

Mr. KING. Mr. Chairman, our next speaker this afternoon will be Dr. Roger Williams. I think the committee might be happy to note that Dr. Williams is celebrating his 81st birthday today.


Senator KENNEDY. I’m going to find out what kind of vitamins you’re taking.


Dr. WILLIAMS. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I would like to have my [one] statement which has been furnished put into the record in addition to the oral comments that I will make.

Senator KENNEDY. It will be put into the record at the conclusion of your testimony.


Dr. WILLIAMS. First, I would like to say that I am fully in favor of the Food and Drug Administration and their responsible activities. I am not in favor of mistakes they make but am in favor of the general objectives and any legitimate regulations which they feel they should make.

I am going to limit my remarks largely to the one question of the difference between drugs and nutrients.

Our bodies are made up of cells. A cell under an [electron microscope] may be about so big [indicates.] And this cell is filled with machinery like a chemical factory; all kinds of operations are going on in this. These cells and these operations are what we call metabolism. Now, both drugs and nutrients affect metabolism but they do it in very different ways. The nutrients furnish the building materials for constructing this metabolic machinery and that is the only source of material that the cells get; that is, anything that is a nutrient is furnished them and if it is furnished them it is a nutrient. And they are absolutely essential.

Drugs, on the other hand, work by interfering with this metabolic machinery in some particular way. There are many, many steps. There are thousands of catalysts in this machinery and these drugs interfere in some way with the operation of this machinery. But they do not act constructively. They furnish no constructive material at all, whereas nutrients furnish all the constructive material for the cells.

If an agent furnishes something that is constructive it is a nutrient. It cannot be a drug. Life can exist without any drugs but life cannot possibly exist without nutrients. Therefore there is a definitely scientific distinction between drugs and nutrients and I would like to bring this out.

As I say, they operate in entirely different ways and they do not belong together. Let me use a homely illustration. One of the important functions of the shoe is to keep our feet warm. One of the important functions of electric heaters is to keep our feet warm. But they do it in very, very different ways. I don’t think anybody would want to confuse shoes with electric heaters and say, “Well, we have made regulations for shoes and regulations for electric heaters should correspond.” I don’t see where you can say there are sometimes shoes which are electric heaters and sometimes electric heaters which are shoes. They do perform several similar functions but in an entirely different way.

Drugs and nutrients are likewise different in the same sense.

The Food and Drug Administration sometimes is incorrectly referred to as Food-Drug Administration. I would like to emphasize that word “and” in the correct name, the Food and Drug Administration. The administration of food is one thing and administration of drugs is another. They need to be handled separately and not together. You can’t make regulations that are appropriate for both. Lincoln had a conundrum which he allegedly used and it was: If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Someone would answer five. But Lincoln said, No, calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. Dogs only have four legs.

Well, calling a nutrient a drug doesn’t make it a drug. They are not the same. They function entirely differently and should be treated separately and regulations suitable for one are not suitable for the other. And I can amplify that, if you wish. But that is my statement—the drugs are not the same as nutrients; nutrients are not the same as drugs and no amount of legal pronouncements, no matter if they are made a thousand times would make nutrients into drugs because they are not. They don’t belong in the same category.

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you very much, doctor.

[The prepared statement of Dr. Williams follows:]