Monday, October 04, 2010

Food safety bill: the Big Business/Big Nanny alliance

Food safety bill: the Big Business/Big Nanny alliance; Overlawyered

Surprisingly or otherwise, some big business groups like the Grocery Manufacturers of America have allied with consistent Big Government advocacy groups like the Consumer Federation of America and Center for Science in the Public Interest to push S. 510, the food safety bill pending before the Senate (which might win consideration in the lame-duck session). In a post at Cato at Liberty recently, I cited writer Barry Estabrook, an ardent critic of the food industry (“Politics of the Plate“), writing at The Atlantic, who says the bill could “make things worse”:
You needn’t go along completely with Estabrook’s dim view of industrialized agriculture to realize he’s right in one of his central contentions: “the proposed rules would disproportionately impose costs upon” small producers, including traditional, low-tech and organic farmers and foodmakers selling to neighbors and local markets. Even those with flawless safety records or selling low-risk types of foodstuff could be capsized by new paperwork and regulatory burdens that larger operations will be able to absorb as a cost of doing business.

It’s true that S. 510 includes language not in earlier drafts that nods toward the idea of tiering regulatory burdens. But as the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance notes (background), most of the small-producer-friendly changes are left to FDA discretion, so it really depends on how much you trust that process. Note also these comments (background) by Peter Kennedy for the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which focuses primarily on defending raw milk, and in particular Kennedy’s discussion (as things that may be particularly burdensome to small entities) of HARPC (”hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls”), traceability, penalties, expansion of federal jurisdiction, and produce standards, as well as the terms of S. 3767, the “Food Safety Accountability Act of 2010,” a new measure introduced by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. On the “pro” side, here is an advocacy sheet (anonymous on its face, but attributed in some quarters to Senate staffers) defending the measure as fair to small farmers.

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