Way back in 2010 the Congress of the United States got together behind a law that modernized the food safety inspection system. Everyone agreed, in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation, that the rash of food borne illnesses and tainted foods arriving in our stores from our own factories, China, and similar foreign suppliers had to be dealt with. The final vote in the House of Representatives was 215 to 144. That is as close to unanimous as anything these days.
The bill… is meant to change the mission of the F.D.A., focusing it on preventing food-borne illnesses rather than reacting after an outbreak occurs. The overhaul comes after several major outbreaks and food recalls in recent years involving salmonella in eggs and peanuts, and E. coli in spinach and other leafy greens.
Nobody could argue against that mission. Instead of the FDA reacting to close down dirty food makers and growers, the FDA would enlist industry in it’s own monitoring and task them with inspecting themselves. While that doesn’t sound perfect, privatizing food inspection I mean, at least it gave the FDA the power to close down food plants that were having problems and order food recalls, like other agencies of the government can force automobile recalls.
Under the legislation, food manufacturers will be required to examine their processing systems to identify possible ways that food products can become contaminated and to develop detailed plans to keep that from happening. Companies must share those plans with the F.D.A., and provide the agency with records, including product test results, showing how effectively they carry them out.
Unfortunately, even in 2010, you could see that this change was going to cost some money to implement. Back then the New York Times said this about that…
Ultimately, the agency’s ability to carry out and enforce the law will depend on how much money it has available to pay inspectors and maintain or increase its staff. Republicans will gain control of the House next year and have vowed to cut spending on many domestic programs. Deep cuts could hobble the F.D.A. just as it gains the new authority.
These days all of the Congressmen that don’t want to seem heartless can vote on a law that they can’t reasonably argue against. They can pass necessary legislation and they can go home and say they did what they could to make our food system safe. Then, when the industry lobbies against it, they can just not approve the money necessary to enact the law. Do you think I am exaggerating?
This Congress is strangling the fledgling law by not approving any money to implement it.
In its previous five budget requests, the F.D.A. proposed user fees that would cover the bulk of the cost of carrying out the food safety law. Last year, for example, it asked for $263 million for the law, with about $229 million coming from fees on food companies.
But lawmakers soundly rejected those proposals after lobbying by the food industry.
If you expect this Federal Government, as it is currently constituted to enact any law that will hinder the ability of any corporation to cut every corner in the search for profit, you are sadly mistaken. Your risk of listeria, salmonella, e-coli are all minor concerns compared to allowing our food system to operate in direct competition with the quality of our competitors in China. Money rules all.
I am not going to recommend that you write your Congressman, or that you vote the bastards out of office. While those would be good things, they will never protect you and your family from the quest for food industry profits. There is only one thing that guarantees that.
Buy your food from local producers. Buy real grass-fed beed and pork. Buy free-range chickens at the farmer’s market. Never buy any processed foods, or foods that come in boxes or bags.
I could go on for 1000 more words just copying links to food recalls for contamination, from THIS MONTH! Many times, like the Ice Cream debacle above, the problem is found when you find it by eating tainted foods. One would think that there is no other way to find unsafe practices at food factories, but there is. Food inspectors from the FDA actually can spot unsafe practices before there are outbreaks of food poisoning.
Unfortunately, good government costs money.