Some News Analysis from the NYT:
The Bush administration’s twin moves on Tuesday to ban the dietary supplement ephedra and the sale of meat from cows that appear to be sick on the way to the slaughterhouse underscores a simple White House maxim these days: with an election approaching, even a president who came to office assailing government regulation cannot do too much to protect consumers.
Aside from the most anarchist wings of the Libertarian Party, virtually no one in American politics argues that the federal government shouldn’t ensure minimal safety in the food supply and regulate drugs that could kill people. The rationale for the quick move on Mad Cow Disease was to forestall a panic in the beef market and to reassure consumers of the safety of their meat. The Ephedra ban was almost certainly the normal result of the FDA process after a high-visibility death from any over-the-counter product. Does anyone seriously think this would not have happened a year from now had events unfolded then?
President Bush will get virtually no political mileage out of this; by next November, virtually no one will remember either of these actions. Most things presidents do have little to do with electoral concerns.