In the Senate this past Tuesday, food-safety legislation, called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act, was introduced, which would give the FDA new power to order recalls and open companies’ internal records for inspection. It is one of many proposals that are competing to rework food regulation and oversight. The legislation was proposed after the major recalls the United States has faced recently, such as peanut butter laced with salmonella and spinach infected with e-coli. The Senators who introduced the legislation claim these are not isolated incidents and are the result of an underfunded, outdated and overwhelmed food-safety agency.
Many manufacturers prefer this bill to the one proposed by Representative Rose DeLauro, which would allow government-mandated schedules of inspection, as well as creating a stand-alone food safety agency. Instead, the Senate’s Food Safety Modernization Act would be a risk-based approach to inspection. Manufacturers also believe the creation of a new agency would eat up the funds that should go towards improving the FDA’s current safety operations.
Let’s hope this bill gets some traction and gets passed in some form that actually helps improve our safety. It is clear that many federal agencies charged with oversight of consumer products, like the FDA and CPSC, are understaffed and underfunded. It is also clear that the recent "hands-off" approach has failed (see also the example of the SEC "regulating" our securities markets). The hands-off, market-regulating approach, while admirable, is a dream that cannot adequately work. Corporate greed is too strong, and too creative.