You probably remember the fanatical fear that gripped the nation these last few years in response to a few factories with tainted peanut butter. You may also remember the national panic when spinach was a killer stalking grocery stores across the country. These types of events are notorious for being blown out of proportion by the national media & being chaotic by virtue of bureaucratic over-involvement.
While this may be remembered by many consumers as an annoyance, it is remembered far differently by the corporations that are subjected to massive regulation at the hands of bureaucrats from the FDA as well as dozens of state and local regulators across the country.
For the companies that had to deal with these problems, it was more than an annoyance, but rather an incredibly costly nightmare that they can never allow to happen again. When the peanut butter crisis hit, factories across the country were completely shut down in an attempt to trace the problem to it's source without contaminating any other consumers. On it's face this may sound reasonable however it is a massive over reaction that costs untold millions of dollars to the industry and in most cases producing limited results as the contamination is usually traced back to just one factory and by that time the damage has been done. For a business owner or CEO this is absolutely unacceptable.
Billed by supporters as the "Food & Safety Modernization Act", they claim it will help prevent the events I just described. In reality it's simply a marriage of large corporations and the FDA in an attempt to save the corporations money and grant centralized power over our food supply to the FDA.
First, what does the FDA get out of it?
For national food companies, a key issue they have to deal with is diversity of regulations. One state requires this food label vs another state that has a different requirement. California is particularly infamous for their regulations which go far beyond the "quaint" regulations of the FDA. In cases where California's regulations conflict with FDA regulations, Federal Preemption causes the FDA to win. It should come as no surprise that the FDA prefers this outcome.
However, it is well known that the D is much more important than the F in the Food & Drug Administration. For years their focus has been primarily on drugs and as a result, the states have been self regulating to a large degree. This does not sit well with the powers that be at the FDA, but what could they do? It's not as though people are clamoring to be regulated by the federal government. Or are they?
This takes us to what the large food manufacturers, grocery stores and corporate farms get out of it.
As mentioned above, companies have had to deal with regulations from various states for decades and when these recalls swept through the country over the last few years, "Big Food" had had enough. It was time to streamline the process. Make it so there is only one regulatory agency to deal with. And the FDA was more than happy to comply.
This doesn't seem so devious yet does it? Well that's only because I haven't given you the punchline: The cost. $1.4 billion dollars over the next 4 years.
But not to worry! The companies that lobbied for the bill are more than happy to shoulder the burden of this cost! And by shoulder I mean pass down to the consumer in the form of higher prices on food. All rather than just doing what is necessary on their own dime to ensure a safer process for their customers. Just charge us for the bill, and pass the responsibility off to the government.
A mutually beneficial relationship where the regulated are more than happy to submit as long as the power is centralized at the federal level. This is the first bill that our Senate is pushing through after the massive conservative wins in November.
That it was written by Dick Durbin and sponsored by Chris Dodd should be enough to make anyone concerned. But not our friendly GOP. They've signed on in spades in what appears to be the most bi-partisan bill to come down the pike since 2006.
And why not? It's only a massively expensive, deficit adding, power granting, bureaucratic kiss to large corporations who will raise their prices to pay for it further damaging an already weak economy. What's not to love?