WHETHER OR NOT FDA COMMISSIONER DAVID KESSLER decides to approve olestra, his ruling is sure to be bitterly attacked. That's nothing new for the maverick scientist (and, by training, doctor and lawyer), who in his fifth year as the U.S.'s top health official has achieved a rare combination of public controversy and political longevity. He heads the agency everybody loves to hate, yet he's outlasted most of his predecessors.

In a city where bureaucrats fear their own shadows, Kessler is an anomaly. He seems to make decisions not for political expediency but because he sincerely believes he is doing right. In...

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