Friday, July 31, 2009

How The Government Made Food Safe

I have to hand it to Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward and her brief, to-the-point coverage of the House's passage of the New Food Safety Bill. Her headline says it all: "New Law Passed. Food Now Safe."

Yesterday the House passed a shiny new food safety bill, since the one we've been using dates from 1938 and it was all old-timey and stuff. The bill, which the Senate will take up in the fall, gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a bunch of new inspection and tracking powers. Also, there's more funding for food safety research—because it's not like anyone else is out there trying to extend safe shelf life or otherwise prevent food-borne illness.

Upon passage, bill author Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) crowed (in a Washington Post print edition pull quote, no less):

"This will fundamentally change the way in which we ensure the safety of our food supply."

Which, when you stop and think about it, is a weird thing to hype. Not that our food will be safer—no promises there—but that we are totally going to all the bureaucratic stuff differently now. Ah, Washington.

As someone who's worked closely with many different folks in the food industry, there's a hell of a lot to be said about the utter ridiculousness of this bill and this entire process. To relay one secondhand story, a mid-sized food producer here in Connecticut attempted to try and see Connecticut's Third District Representative Rosa DeLauro with concerns about the bill. DeLauro, who just so happens to be the fairy godmother of this bill, didn't see the concerned parties herself, but her staff told the food producer that the bill was needed and their concerns weren't warranted. When queried for specifics, the staff couldn't give any, other than the bill was quite necessary. I'm probably screwing up a few of the details, but the gist was that DeLauro and her staff didn't know what they were talking about.

And it's not surprising. This bill isn't about food safety and it's not even about a bigger, more powerful government. This bill is specifically for those who think that government has the solution to all of our problems and gosh darn it, if we only let them do what they need to do, they can make the world better for all of us. This is about the "just fix it" attitude I've discussed in great detail here on this blog, where all of our problems can be solved if we just try hard enough.


Post a Comment

<< Home