NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Food Safety Bill Will Not Make Food Safer

February 10, 2011

We all want safe food.  The question is, how do we get it?  "There oughta be a law," seems to be the generally conceived approach, as evidenced by recent passage of the now-famous food safety bill.  For the foodies who support this kind of top-down solution, beware.  The kind of government meddling that created cheap at any cost is now about to do the same for "safe" food, says the Freeman Online.

But isn't food safety a pressing concern, a public health problem we can't afford to fool around with?  The problem is, the problem isn't.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated number of deaths caused by foodborne illness is somewhere between five and eight thousand a year.
  • Consider that the same number of people die by intentionally strangling themselves each year.
  • Or that the same number of people die from Alzheimer's in California alone each year.
  • Or that four times that number die each year accidentally falling off of things.

Unless you're also on a crusade to flatten everything, I'd think twice about ceding greater authority of our food system to centralized management.  True to form, Congress has blithely offered its professional problem solving services to rid us of the menace of deadly food.  And, true to form, it's about to embark on another unarmed expedition into the tortuous territory of unintended consequences.

  • More regulations always have the effect of reducing the number of operators in that sector.
  • The unintended consequence in this legislative bid to create safer food is to push more and more production into fewer and fewer hands.
  • Regulations are good for imposing minimums, but not at creating excellence.

Source: Paul Schwennesen, "Safe Food at Any Cost," Freeman Online, February 7, 2011.

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