Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Safe Food Act 2007 vs. Let Industry Police Itself

Spinach - Salinas Valley, CAIn an effort to air both sides of this story (the story that addresses how to amass, through production or importation, the healthiest food supply) I offer this:

Food Poisoning For Profit? Companies Are Acting For Their Own Benefit When It Comes To Product Safety

As evidenced by my recent posts on the subject, I lean towards more regulation, both for food (Safe Food Act) and supplements (Good Manufacturing Practices), not less. That doesn't mean I'm not open to other viewpoints.

Steve Chapman, in his article above, offers another viewpoint. Perhaps an effective way of filtering out unwanted microorganisms, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fumigants, and other contaminants from what we consume is to let industry police itself. Litigation or loss of sales does seem to be a potent motivator. Although Upton Sinclair's portrayal of Chicago's turn-of-the-century meat-packing industry (in The Jungle) would make one question the effectiveness of self-regulation.

Would spinach producers have thought to investigate their own product in response to last year's E. coli O157:H7 outbreak? (In this case, the FDA, CDC, USDA, and State of California investigated.) Would they have voluntarily removed all their affected and suspect product from store shelves? Maybe they would have if they feared customers running to a competitor.

If we did increase regulation, how effective would it be? From Mr. Chapman's article:
"David Acheson, recently named to the new job of FDA commissioner for food protection, told the Baltimore Sun, "Right now, we inspect 1 percent of food imports. If we were to inspect 2 percent, would that problem go away? I don't think so." "
Mr. Chapman's Chicago Tribune article was posted on Reason Magazine's blog. It generated quite a few comments, which you can peruse here. Many of them support less regulation, which isn't surprising given Reason Magazine's (from what I can tell) Libertarian stance.

What do you think?

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