Have you ever become ill because of eating tainted food? It is likely that you have. Of course, many times when we become ill from tainted food, we are not violently ill, nor do we require hospitalization, so chance are good that you’ve been affected by food more often then you can recall.
However, in our current political thinking, it does not matter that the risk of damage/injury from tainted food is quite small in reference to the risk of expanded the bureaucracy once again, as Tom Coburn notes below:
America has the safest food supply in the world, and it has never been safer. The rates of food-borne illness have been declining for more than a decade. Still, tragic outbreaks do occur and government can take common-sense steps to make our food supply even safer.
Unfortunately, highly publicized events such as last summer’s egg salmonella scare often have the opposite effect. Politicians tend to overreact to a crisis and impose new and invasive regulations. Soon, the law of diminishing returns takes effect with billions in extra spending having little impact, or even a negative impact.
The so-called FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, which the Senate will vote on after Thanksgiving, only expands a disjointed, duplicative and ineffective food safety bureaucracy. The Government Accountability Office has consistently called this bureaucracy “high risk due to (its) greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.”
The Senate has now passed this bill. In keeping with a number of other bills which have been recently passed, it leaves the specifics of enforcement and regulation up to the government agency–in this case the FDA:
Question from GovTrack.us Users: Will this bill prevent me from having a home garden, sharing produce with my friends, or disrupt in any way my local farmer’s market?
Reitzig: What Senate bill S. 510 does it is creates statutory authority for the FDA to come up with regulations governing all aspects of food production and processing. So whether or not it will affect a home garden or a farmer’s market, we probably won’t see anything immediately affecting those, but once they come up with the regulations and start enforcing we could see a disruption in anything, anything from a farmer’s market to a child’s lemonade stand.
Because nothing is explicitly exempted, so they are all implicitly included. So the regulations could very easily include regulations such that they impose overburdensome restrictions on farmers going to market.
GovTrack Insider: But surely it wasn’t the intent of the lawmakers to disrupt gardens or lemonade stands.
Reitzig: Well I think the intent of the legislation is to give much broader authority to the FDA, and then when you look at the language of the bill, when it gives the authority to the FDA to act on “reason to believe”, that’s giving a lot of power, a lot of control, to one person.
An example of that is there is a thriving and booming fresh milk movement, people who want fresh milk directly from farmers they know and trust. Well the FDA, CDC, and other organizations have clearly said they don’t think anybody should drink fresh milk. If you go by that, they would have reason to believe fresh milk might make somebody sick, and on that basis they could just shut down every fresh milk farmer, everybody who is supplying fresh milk to a consumer because they have that reason to believe. Even if the intent is not explicitly stated as control over all farms, that is what is this legislation and they can use that to impose their world view on everyone. [emphasis mine]
Have I mentioned that I distrust the concentration of power?
When attempts to do away with all risk in a given system–which seems to be what many of our elected folks think is their job–one has done away with all related freedoms.
That alone is basis for the House of Representative to find “reason to believe” that this bill should never be voted into law.
Here’s a review of a book on the history of the FDA, in case you are wondering a bit about what its been involved in and responsible for over the last 104 years.