The Usual Suspects

The new food-safety bill, soon to be law, features all the usual suspects of the regulatory state

  • Strong support from large corporations, who know the regulations will kill off their smaller rivals and make it harder for new entrants to compete with them
  • Regulations nominally aimed at fixing a recent "crisis" (e.g. last year's salmonella outbreak) with no actual logic of how the new regulations would have prevented the past crisis.  In fact, they very likely would not have  (just as TSA new x-ray machines sold as a way to stop future underwear bombers likely would not have detected the original underwear bomber)
  • Numerous special exemptions, subsidies, etc. for narrow, favored constituencies
  • Pious statements from the priests of statism, who define small government per se as a problem.  Example from Tom Harkin, "It's shocking to think that the last comprehensive overhaul of the food-safety system was in 1938."  Why is the lack of new legislation a better indicator of a problem than, say, incidence or death rates which have fallen consistently for years.

For an extra bonus, those who most vocally support the law are also politically among those who most support the local food movement, which one can pretty much write off unless they get exemptions from this law.  And if they do, what's the point?  Do I really fear the operating safety of Nestle more than Joe who has a farm 30 miles away?  Remember the toy safety law -- it was spurred by a series of recall of mostly Matel toys, but in the actual law Matel became exempt from Federal inspection while the regulations have become a crushing burden for small toy makers.

More here.


  1. DrTorch:

    This is really disturbing.

  2. Noah:

    Matel and the toy law is an excellent example of the influential insiders twisting the law to their advantage, but Matel is NOT exempt from the safety law. The law allows a manufacturer to operate their own testing lab which Matel does giving them a huge cost advantage on economy of scale.

  3. Orion:

    Small farms are sorta exempt-most everyone except large agribusiness despises this legislation. A far right conservative person shared it with me. There are exemptions for very small farms, but how can those farms get capital and stay in business if they can't expand their reach without coming under the regulatory scrutiny of this law. The law keeps small farms small (less than 250 or 500K annual sales and selling within a 265 mile radius I believe) and it allows the big to get bigger. I am sure the small farm exemption was put in after some progressive's got upset about their heirloom tomatoes.

    -I like my food local where practical so I fall in that camp.

    BTW-I know a lot of individual craftsman who make wooden toys and the toy safety law drives them crazy. Some stopped making toys altogether, some put disclaimers on their wares, and all lost a lot of business.

  4. Bob Smith:

    "For an extra bonus, those who most vocally support the law are also politically among those who most support the local food movement, which one can pretty much write off unless they get exemptions from this law."

    I think this misses the point. As you say, True Believers most support this law, and this law will likely be enforced by True Believers. That means enforcement will likely be harsh and arbitrary, favoring the True Believer's constituencies. The local food movement supports this law because they believe they will be unofficially exempt from it, just as the Holder Justice Department has an unofficial rule that they will not prosecute certain crimes if the perpetrator is black or the victim white. True Believers also support this law because they *want* food to be more expensive, since (according to them) inexpensive food causes all sorts of bad things to happen, especially to the poor, who paradoxically will be most harmed by more expensive food. I am always impressed when True Believers intentionally harm the people they claim to be helping.

  5. Dr. T:

    Minimizing hazards related to fresh foods is a goal of the Department of Agriculture. The Dept. of Agriculture simply can beef-up* its inspection arm.

    The FDA already has regulatory authority over food processing and labeling. It does not need congressional authority to perform more frequent and more thorough food safety inspections.

    This is "food safety theater" (analogous to Bruce Schneier's "security theater") with added pork*. The proposed law will confuse regulatory control (by transferring some Dept. of Agriculture functions to the FDA), generate "turf" wars, (didn't we already go through this with Homeland Security), waste money (nothing new there), and save no lives. Congresspersons will approve this stupid law so they can brag to constituents that they made food safer (although they didn't).

    * I couldn't resist the puns.

  6. james herman:

    Correct. Large agri business loves this type of regulation. Indeed it cuts off the small competitors at the knees. Irradiation is the single most effective process, for both meat and vegetable, known for foodstuff sanitary preparation......basically about a half a frequency difference between it and your micro wave oven. Irradiation has been proven time and time and time again as the lowest cost most effective solution to food safety. But no, virtually all research and development monies from the USDA were eliminated over the last 15 years for the most part at the request of the big three meat processors and their DC lobbyists.

    Imagine what an additional 20 or 25 meat processors nationwide would do to the price of a burger..........

  7. aczarnowski:

    More and more, recently, I've been wishing I could knowledge back in the box. Since I learned the definition of regulatory capture I've been seeing it everywhere. The .gov grind is depressing the hell out of me.