No time for second thoughts on regulation

07/09/2012 04:27:00 PM
Tom Karst

This approach, Linnekin observes, likely resulted in USDA inspectors transmitting filth from diseased meat to fresh meat on a daily basis.

“Food may actually have been safer when the USDA failed to regularly inspect some plants for a mere three decades,’ he correctly deduces.

Finally, he said the third way in which food safety regulation can make people less safe is when a regulation attaches a “false veneer” of safety to a particular food based on the “public's misplaced faith in the ability of regulators to ensure food is safe. For this talking point, Linnekin highlighted the summer 2010 recall of hundreds of millions of eggs despite the present of USDA oversight at facilities.

Linnekin’s opinion may be enticing to some in the industry. Why don’t we just forget about this Food Safety Modernization Act anyway? You remember that bit about strong federal oversight? Never mind.

But I can’t buy the Kool Aide that Linnekin is selling. As unwieldy as regulation can be, as wrong as the politicians can be who play games with the outcomes, it is needed. The public needs the government to hold food marketers accountable for food safety practices on their farms and in their factories. Science and best practices will improve over time.

Linnekin is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit groups that describes itself as the “ first nationwide membership organization devoted to food freedom—the right of every American to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing.”

The group is against food regulations and bans which restrict food freedom.

“With few exceptions, the government has no right to tell people what we can and can’t eat,” the group states on their site.

“One thing KFL will never do is advocate in favor of (or against) any particular foods or dietary choices,” the mission page states. “We believe strongly that adults should eat what they want (or what they and their doctor think is best for them). And we also believe that children should eat what they and their parents think is best for them. Government shouldn’t tell you what to eat, and neither should KFL.”

If Linnekin was truly arguing for absolute freedom, he would have never added “adults (and children) should eat want they want.or what their doctor (or their parents) tells is best for them.”

This is not the time for do-nothing politics and silence as America grapples with recurrent episodes of foodborne illness, bulging waist lines and a rising toll of health issues related to the American diet.

Government can play a role in making food safer. They won’t get it totally right of course. But it is time to get on with it. Feds, what are you waiting for?


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