TV host, Dr. Oz, and the FDA have gone to war over apple juice after he claimed on his show that the arsenic levels in many brands are poisoning consumers. According to a recent Atlantic Wire article, the FDA is failing miserably to debunk this latest health hysteria despite its best attempt. It looks like in this battle royale between a bureaucratic governmental agency and a charming TV personality, the TV personality is winning. The FDA just doesn’t have the same adoring legion of (mostly) female fans.
The deeper issue (believe it or not) lies beyond whether your apple juice is killing you. Rather, I think this latest incident calls to question the intentionality and the repercussions of Dr. Oz’s proclamation. Is it morally reprehensible that Dr. Oz is fanning the health hysteria if he truly believes it? Debatable. Is it sad that so many Americans are brain-washed by what they see on TV? Definitely.
There are two interpretations of Dr. Oz’s intentionality. Cynically speaking, he may know that arsenic levels in apple juice are safe and is inciting fear for the sake of yellow “televisionalism.” In this case, I would argue that he deserves to be reprimanded for his publicity stunt. More leniently (and more realistically) speaking, Dr. Oz may genuinely think that he is on to something. After all, he is not a chemist and the FDA has been wrong before. If this is the case, then his next steps are crucial to assessing his moral culpability. For his credibility’s (and moral standing’s) sake he should retract his statement and call off his cult of fans who are attacking the FDA with a frenzy.
To see the news story and Dr. Oz’s response, click on the videos below:
Regardless of the intentionality, the repercussions of Dr. Oz’s warning distinguish it from analogous cases such as the Jenny McCarthy vaccination-autism scare. Unlike the autism claim which scared many parents into refusing their children vaccinations, this recent is apple-juice hysteria is relatively innocuous. Aside from apple-juice manufacturers, the general public will probably emerge unscathed. So from a consequentialist viewpoint, perhaps Dr. Oz is off the hook after all.
The effects of the crusade against apple juice have yet to play out. Maybe the same parents who refused to vaccinate their children because of autism will now boycott apple juice. Maybe, the FDA will be forced to print “safe levels of arsenic” on all bottles of juice. Maybe Dr. Oz will declare apple juice safe and apologize with his winning smile. Or maybe, America will realize on its own that apple juice is not out to kill us…seriously.