Does caffeine pose a risk for pregnant women? The busybodies in California are calling for a study to find out.

Leaving no personal choice or traditional pleasure — no matter how sanctified by centuries — left unturned, an advisory panel is calling for a study to determine if sodas and energy drinks containing caffeine pose a risk to pregnant women. Depending on the results, such a study could lead to warning labels on caffeinated drinks, just like those on packs of cigarettes and bottles of wine.

Anyone willing to bet against the proposition that the advisory panel could possibly be satisfied with anything less than such warning labels must digest the panel’s official name before making any bets: The Science Advisory Board Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee. Could such a pompously labeled organization be anything other than a component in a closed loop where hysteria leads to "studies" that lead to self-perpetuating regulatory expansion?

Note how the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which has the ultimate power to fund the study and is another slick bend on the loop, provides the fiction that scientific disinterest governs the California regulatory process: "This is a nonbinding recommendation; however, we will give it heavy weight because this is a panel of scientific experts." Ah, the exalted experts, each put in place by a chain of command that begins with politicians and ends with the "yes men" who owe their tax-funded salaries to the horse-trading among special interest lobbyists and political panderers.

As always the private enterprise victims of regulatory hyperactivism are battling each other rather than taking on the organizations, both state and private, that manufacture panic to ensure their survival. The soft drink business complains that the coffee industry, due to a peculiarity of the California law that instigates the blizzard of warning labels, would be exempt from the warning even though nothing says "caffeine" more strongly than coffee. Should the panel decree warning labels are necessary expect to hear the self-defeating cry for a "level playing field." Meanwhile the state grows bossier and individual choices continue to disappear.



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