Law and Disorder

I don’t mean to sound overly cynical. But I’ve said it repeatedly: The government doesn’t have your health in mind–despite what they’d have you believe.

Case in point: the FDA’s latest attempt at modern food safety regulation. It’s a perfect example of just how much priority they give the public.

For starters, I should mention that the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) marks the first time the FDA has addressed this issue in over 70 years.

These are food safety regulations designed to hold food processors and farms accountable for illnesses that sicken–and kill–thousands of Americans on a yearly basis. (A pretty important set of mandates, I think you’ll agree.)

The FSMA was signed into law in January 2011. And yet, the FDA only recently announced the rules that would accompany this new piece of legislation. Two years later.

Of course, the delay is even more infuriating when you consider how overdue most of these new policies were in the first place.

According to FSMA regulation, all makers of food that’s sold in the U.S. (even if their facilities are in a foreign country) need to have a formal plan for food-borne illness prevention. They also need to have plans for dealing with any complications as they arise.

Food companies will have to document these strategies and verify their implementation and effectiveness accordingly. And much like the IRS, inspectors from the FDA will now have the power to audit businesses in an effort to enforce these new safety standards.

You mean to tell me this isn’t happening already?

This legislation also places requirements on fruit and vegetable farms. New policy focuses specifically on the quality of the water used to irrigate the crops. That’s because water is a common pathogen carrier.

But again, we knew this hundreds of years ago when England developed its sewer system to rid its citizens of cholera. Yet, here we are in the 21st century not requiring clean water on the food that we eat until now.

And you know why? That’s right–it’s going to cost a few bucks.

So really, it’s not surprising at all that it’s taken so long for these rules to go public. In fact, the Center for Food Safety sued the FDA over the summer for missing several legislative deadlines.

Standards for hazard analysis and documentation were supposed to be set last July. And safe production and harvesting standards were due over a year ago now, last January.

I’m sorry, but there’s just no excuse for this kind of heel-dragging.

Statistics show that about one in six Americans will be hit with food poisoning every year. (From outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and the like.) Of these, roughly 3,000 people will die from it.

The FDA is well aware of this fact. They’ve made it their business to track down the sources of these outbreaks when they occur (usually contaminated lettuce, cantaloupe, spinach, peppers, or peanuts).

It’s certainly the typical American way. Let’s not prevent something from happening but only deal with the aftermath!

So much for protecting the public health. This system is broken. And you just can’t trust that any governmental agency has your best interest at heart. Because honestly, they usually don’t.

Unless, of course, you’re a big business.

If only the FDA put half the time and effort into securing the food supply that they do into bullying supplement companies and securing profits for Big Pharma. I bet we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

At the end of the day, this new Food Safety Modernization Act could absolutely make a difference. But I just can’t applaud any agency for finally doing what they were supposed to be doing all along.

Instead, I applaud you for being proactive with your own health and safety. Because sadly, despite what the FDA will tell you, you just have to look out for yourself.

New US Food Safety Rules Aim for More Accountability. Medscape. Jan 04, 2013.