NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Safe Food Does Not Need to Be Legislated

April 25, 2011

We all want safe food.  Question is, how do we get it?  "There ought to be a law" seems to be the generally conceived approach, as evidenced by recent passage of the now-famous food safety bill.  Unless you are also on a crusade to flatten everything, however, you may want to think twice about ceding greater authority over our food system to centralized management, says Paul Schwennesen, a southern Arizona rancher and a regular contributor to the Property and Environment Research Center.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated number of deaths caused by food borne illness falls between 5,000 and 8,000 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.
  • Moreover, 70 percent of food borne illness (and presumably deaths) results from poor food-handling procedures during preparation, not from poor food-production practices.
  • The number of people we are attempting to save with this kind of legislation is significantly lower than the number of people who die each year from malnutrition.

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.  Adding more regulations to a sector always reduces the number of operators in that sector, says Schwennesen.

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

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