Food Police

Q: "If government isn't checking your food for safety, who will?" A: Walmart, Whole Foods, You

|

"If government isn't checking your food for safety, who will?" ask Alice Guilhamon and Chris Dickey in a Daily Beast article about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's seizing of mimolette, an imported French "mite-rind" cheese that is covering with microscopic critters that are introduced by the cheesemakers to create a particular effect. Mite-rind cheeses have been around for centuries and include many artisanal cheddars and such famous fromages as Stilton.

As Reason reported back in June, the FDA claims that mimolette's rind contains too many mites and is holding the latest shipment of the cheese hostage somewhere in New Jersey. True to bureaucratic form, the FDA won't give a clear answer as how many mites are too many, or what the French exporter or American importer can do to spring the product in dispute. Safety first, kids!

At the Beast, Guilhamon and Dickey actually agree with Reason's take on the issue, but sniff at the idea that food sellers (and food buyers!) might regulate themselves absent public-sector food inspectors who…are currently keeping watch over a cheese for which they admit "there's no reason the public or the government should care. There's no record of a significant health threat – or any health threat – from mimolette."

But, but, but, insist Guilhamon and Dickey…

It's not really the connoisseurs in the United States who have been outraged by the de facto ban on mimolette—it's the libertarians….

If government isn't checking your food for safety, who will? Most people don't have the resources to measure the amount of bacteria in their hamburgers, or, for that matter, the time to count the mites on their mimolette.

Read their whole article, which name-checks Reason and our video (below) with Jill Erber, the rightly annoyed owner of two Northern Virginia cheese shops.

Two quick points: Is it really necessary to imply that libertarians can't be connoisseurs? Erber herself manages to be both.

More important, all sorts of groups would check your food for safety is the government didn't.

First and foremost, the people selling you food would do so for the simple reason that dead, sick, and unsatisfied customers have a way of really hurting profits.

Does anyone seriously think that federal, state, and local food inspectors are the only thing between us and certain death? As Reason's Ron Bailey noted back in 2006 during a media frenzy over a bagged-spinach scare, it's technology and market incentives that keep food fresh, not bureaucrats who refuse to explain their arbitrary regs. Bailey is, I rush to add, a farm-to-table journalist who grew up milking chickens and watering cows. No food-safety system will ever be perfect, but it's the free flow of information and customer outrage—not the remanding of cheese to some sort of FDA-run black site—that keeps us increasingly safe from food-borne pathogens.

The bigger the producer or purveyor gets the more intensely it will police whatever it's selling. For chrissakes, even Walmart—the stand-in for every negative trend ever and the nation's number one purveyor of organic veggies!—is implementing a balls-out "produce traceability initiative" to make customers feel so good about buying food (that's covered by a money-back guarantee even for perishable food!).

There's also the example of Whole Foods, which arguably gives you too much information about every goddamn lentil you buy off its shelves. Nobody forces Whole Foods to practically give you baby pictures and a family tree of the veal you're picking up. The company does that because its employees, shareholders, and customers think it's important.

As Guilhamon and Dickey's article suggests—remember, they agree that mimolette should be allowed to pass through Customs as easily as a French tourist on vacation—food inspection is one of those topics that clouds men's and women's minds. Yes, the food inspection process is flawed, over-the-top, misplaced, etc. Yes, the market provides ready examples of systems that go far beyond what the government provides in terms of information and seriousness. So, "If government isn't checking your food for safety, who will?"

What's French for WTF?

Watch Reason TV's "Cheese Lovers Fight Idiotic FDA Ban on Mimolette Cheese!":

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

181 responses to “Q: "If government isn't checking your food for safety, who will?" A: Walmart, Whole Foods, You

  1. “If government isn’t checking your food for safety, who will?”

    My food taster, obviously.

    1. Literally “will work for food”.

    2. Who can afford a food taster nowadays? I’ve had to delagate that duty to my monocole polisher.

      1. Good lord, the privation!

        SEQUESTERSTERITY!!

      2. You pay your food-tasters? With something other than the food they are tasting? What kind of backwater do you live in if there are no starving urchins lying about?

        1. Exactly. Go to your local orphanarium and share some of your food. Then it’s not only free, but also tax deductible.

          1. “tax deductible”

            Dammit. Why didn’t I think of that? I’ve just been having my driver take samples out into the slums.

            1. They’re really happy to get it. I’ve never had any trouble getting receipts.

          2. What a fool I’ve been! All these years paying for a food taster. I’ve shamed the Kochtopus-worshipping libertarian community, haven’t I?

            1. You guys still eat food? I’ve had that surgically dealt with.

              1. You joke, but if I didn’t have to eat, my life would be better. Same goes for sleep.

                1. I thought the sleep avoidance treatments went without saying. There’s no way I could manage my economic empire, with all that eating and sleeping, day in, day out. Who has the time for that?

          3. “orphanarium”

            You, sir, are a great man.

  2. If the government isnt certifying your food as kosher, who will?

  3. As my French teacher would say, as she looked at us warily, trying to determine what ills we were perpetrating THIS time: “Quelle fromage est ce que c’est?”

    I think that pretty much fits here.

  4. It’s like they have this idea that all food they buy has been inspected.

    It’s just ludicrous.

    1. “I’m gonna need ta chekc yo’ aisho’…”

      Maybe if they had the TSA on this, they COULD inspect all the food. There’s, like, 7 million of them or something.

    2. Yup. They think a geek with a magnifying glass is examining every green pepper and chicken breast. And because they think there is this huge, preventive inspection going on constantly, big government is justified.

      1. Sure it is not going on right now, thanks to sequester.

        1. Exactly. That whole tainted peanut butter scare was like that. They had this idea that every few minutes on a production line someone was pulling a sample to be tested before it was packaged and shipped. Of course, they still didn’t blame the inspectors… because any failure in the system is because the government didn’t have enough control over it yet.

          1. It is amazing how divorced from reality these people are. There are 300+ million people in this country, eating three meals every day. I can’t even begin to calculate how much food that must be 99% of it purchased from restaurants or grocery stores.

            It takes a special bread of idiot to think any inspection scheme could cover anything but a tiny fraction of that.

            1. There are 300+ million people in this country, eating three meals every day.

              LIES! Fully half the population is starving to death! Hence – food stamps!

              You’re an evil, evil man, John. EVIL!

            2. I make special bread out of nut flours.

          2. Consider how many people get food poisoning in restaurants DESPITE the inspections that go on.

            1. Well duh, we need FDA inspectors at EVERY restaurant to prevent this tragedy from happening!

              /sic

              1. Bonus: INCREASED EMPLOYMENT. Multiplier, everyone wins!

                1. Exactly. Government programs cannot fail. They always successfully create more public servants who can never be dismissed.

            2. Given how some restaurant kitchens are run, I’m more surprised there isn’t more food poisoning.

              A friend who worked in a kitchen once described their health inspection to me. Apparently, the inspector took a quick look at the kitchen and then quizzed the kitchen staff on some safety rules. If they got one wrong, he would tell them the answer and continue asking the same questions until they got them all right.

              1. That just says it is not that hard to run a restaurant and not make people sick.

                1. Exactly. It really isn’t. Especially if most of your food is cooked. Even if stuff is old or poorly stored, cooking things to the proper temperature really eliminates most danger.

                  If I had to make an uninformed guess, I would say that salads are probably the most likely thing to make you sick at a restaurant.

                  1. I would say that is an excellent guess zeb. People mostly get sick from contaminated raw vegetables. Really, a raw diet is about as unhealthy a diet as you can eat.

                  2. People that handle food after bathroom visits that do not involve washed hands disagree.

          3. That’s the beauty of being a proggie. If a government program fails, it’s only because it didn’t go far enough, so obviously we need more government programs. It’s government programs all the way down!

            1. I compare them to medieval doctors. The patient is sick, must be bad blood, so bring leeches. Hmmm, the patient weakens, so obviously we need… more leeches!

      2. I was at the store just the other day inspecting the green peppers. They were subpar, even in ours, the most well financed regulatory state in the history of mankind, the peppers on display were dinted up. So, I didn’t buy any of their peppers. Found a fantastic set of green, yellows, and reds at a curb stand near my house (ran by a sweet, little skinny blonde and braless cutie). She had pulled them off the rows just a few hours before to beat the huge storm coming up, so no time for a government expert with a microscope to look them over. Yet, somehow I’m still alive.

        1. So you inspected the peppers and melons.

    3. Indeed. So the FDA is responsible for any bad food we get, then? Where do I write to get reimbursed for my medical expenses?

      1. Obamacare will cover that for you!

        /prog

  5. Bonus points, Nick, for “milking chickens and watering cows”. Moooooo bawkbawkbawk!

    1. We don’t have a cow. We have a bull.We don’t have a hen, we have a cock.

      Ew, Bailey. Ew.

  6. Who has the most to lose when a store poisons its customers? This defines who should be involved in verifying the safety of food.

    1. Same idea for those companies who fly people all over the world. Seems they’d have at least passing interest in protecting at least their PLANES, nevermind their customers.

      1. I know. A single 787 costs between $200M and $250M. It’s going to take a long time to recoup that cost. And if you crash the thing and kill 200+ passengers, not only do you have to write off the purchase costs, but you end up with at least that much in liability settlements. Meanwhile, if a plane crashes what does the government lose? Nothing, assuming the plane was evenly populated with Democrats and Republicans. In fact, plane crashes are an excuse to increase government oversight of the industry, so government actually gains.

    2. The best lesson I ever had in “who should be involved in verifying the safety of food” came while looking at a poultry processing plant. The USDA inspectors looked at the chickens go by. They looked at people. They looked at workstations.
      I can’t see bacteria. Can you?
      The scientific testing? Performed by people hired by Tyson. And not required by law.

      1. Jobs created. That’s all that matters.

      2. Tyson is on my shit list for discontinuing their whole roasted chicken.

      3. I once worked for Oscar Mayer and asked why Oscar had its own inspectors if USDA inspectors were crawling all over the place? It seemed that Oscar’s guys were even more vigilant as, I was told, if Oscar pulled its inspectors and relied on the USDA it was no protection from recalls, lawsuits, loss of reputation. As I recall, Oscar’s guys found far more defective product than USDA’s did.

      4. The problem is that they are just enforcing a list of rules, not actually inspecting the food to see if it is safe. If they can tick off all the boxes on the form, all is well.

        I think that if there are going to be food safety laws, there should just be a standard which food must meet in terms of actual safety and let the companies figure out for themselves how to meet the standard.

      5. Does the USDA “control” (limit) access to testing materials for chicken the way they do mad cow?

    3. I think that insurance companies could and should play a role in this. If I ensured a client against claims of harm from products my client sold, I might want to ensure that the client takes reasonable care to sell a safe product. After all, if there’s a claim, I’ll be on the hook. This is not a precedent-setting idea.

      One of my favorite anecdotes is about the houses on Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia, where there are homes that date back as far as 1728. High up on many of these buildings are fastened cast iron medallions that used to designate which fire insurance company insured the house. In those days, the insurance companies had their own fire-fighting services. And why not?
      See http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fDmH….._15_29.jpg

      1. I’m pretty sure that insurance companies invented fire fighting services.

        1. Actually, it was building owners in ancient Rome. Crassus had one of the biggest firefighting operations of his time, and would often buy up a burning building if the current owner couldn’t control the blaze so taht he could build something else on the spot (by the point they agreed to sell, the building was usually a loss anyway).

  7. Most people don’t have the resources to measure the amount of bacteria in their hamburgers

    But what’s needed to do so is neither expensive nor difficult to use. IOW if it was that important, we could do it.

    1. You don’t have the resources to use a meat thermometer? And you don’t have the resources to not go back to a restaurant that made you sick?

      This is one thing that Tony Bourdaine got right; if you don’t eat your hamburger medium rare, the terrorists have won.

      1. Noses! how the fuck do they work?

      2. You don’t have the resources to use a meat thermometer?

        Because I love to make BBQ in my Weber kettle, I have 2 Taylor digital programmable probe thermometers.

        Internal temperature stops bacterial growth, which is a good thing to do. Still, it’s a good thing not to have too much already there, which can cause poisoning that cooking doesn’t affect. (Think salmonella.)

        1. For example, Salmonella is killed by heating it to 131 degrees for one hour, 140 degrees for 1/2 hour, or heating it to 167 degrees for 10 minutes. You can see from this, then, that when it comes to killing microorganisms both heat level and time affect the equation.

          http://cookingfortwo.about.com…..-temps.htm

          Any bacteria will die if you subject it to enough heat.

          1. So do babies.

            Just throwin’ that out there to maybe start a fight or offende someone.

            1. Holy crap, is that true!? WHEN WILL WE COME TO OUR CENTSES AND CREATE A FEDERAL BUREAU TO REGULATE ACCEPTABLE BABY TEMPERATURES!!!1

          2. Food poisoning usually involves infection, true, but it can also come from residual poisons from the bacteria killed off by cooking.

            1. Really? I didn’t know that.

              1. Not to mention that most bacteria is actually useful, and irradiating everything you eat probably isn’t the best idea.

            2. Yes, it can. But it takes a fairly high amount of bacteria, enough to very obviously affect the look, smell, and texture of the meat.

              1. Usually. Which is why I don’t bother with the microscope and stains. I’ve lived in enough odd places in the world to be in the habit of regularly sniffing my food.

                1. Back in the day when I worked for the ‘Bucks, we had to take what amounted to a watered-down Safe Serv certification course. While they’re a little paranoid about bacteria, some funky things can definitely stick around despite hitting well-done temps. A good rule of thumb is, basically, if you didn’t just kill it, it should be cold when you buy it, and should stay that way until you cook it. And, again, rule of thumb, don’t store meat warmer; when you refreeze thawed raw meat, you can actually preserve some bacteria that you don’t want.

            3. Food poisoning usually involves infection, true, but it can also come from residual poisons from the bacteria killed off by cooking.

              Correct. A few common “food poisonings” are technically “intoxications”, as the organism produces toxins that don’t break down under normal cooking temperatures. Bacteria like Staph. aureus and Bacillus cereus are the common offenders. The fortunate side to this scenario is that the duration is limited, unlike actual infections where the pathogen can reside for extended periods.

      3. Tony Bourdain also said “You don’t stay in business by poisoning your neighbors”, which is kind of what we’re all talking about here.

        1. And food sanitation and safety is restaurant 101. You make sure your refrigeration units and warmers all go to the proper temperature and all the food you keep is properly sealed and dated and stuff like that. I guess proggies think restaurants do that shit out of fear of the health inspector rather than out of the need to serve their customers decent food.

    2. Irradiating meat would do wonders for killing off bacteria and parasites, but the foodies don’t like irradiated meat.

      1. They have the idea it glows green in the dark.

        1. Someone should tell them how they sterilize medical supplies.

          1. Eek!
            It’s funny to watch people who live too far from their food. Not just people who find out they fed the roast they just ate for dinner, but vegetarians who think the bread they’re eating didn’t kill anything. What’s the first thing you do to plant a field? Kill everything on it. And ever see all the frogs and lizards and gophers that get caught in a combine?

          2. One medical office I go to has an autoclave (noisy little beast too) so it’s heat there. My dentist buys disposable steel implements. The second set might be irradiated, but I get higher exposure rates from the x-rays than the picks.

      2. but the foodies scientifically illiterate hipster douche nozzles don’t like irradiated meat anything that isn’t organic, cruelty free, fair trade, carbon neutral blah blah blah.

        FTFY. Nevermind that without modern farming and production methods the food they buy is probably less safe than the mass produced stuff produced by KOCHPORATIONS!!!11!!!! That doesn’t matter, all that matters is that they get to feel smugly superior.

      3. SO does cooking it. I’m not at all opposed to food irradiation. But in foodie mode, I’d prefer my meat to have been killed in the last few days and have had nothing done to it besides butchering and cooking.

        1. Why do you hate dry-aged beef?

          1. That’s not dry-aged beef, that’s Nancy Pelosi.

            1. Stop. You’re both right!

          2. I don’t think I’ve had dry aged beef and didn’t think of that. I also love some good cured ham.

        2. Some, but not all unless you like eating charred food.

          Besides, I like eating beef and fish cooked just right and not overcooked (med well to well done is overcooked)

          1. I agree. There is no point to eating overcooked beef or fish unless you are starving. I’m not too worried about getting sick from eating barely cooked solid pieces of beef, irradiation or no.

            1. Someone should seriously develop a safe consumer level food irradiator. This could make it easier for consumers to make their food safer without fear of tainted food slipping past inspectors.

              1. This is effectively impossible unless you can find some way of producing high energy radiation without a radioactive source.

  8. it is beyond sad that people like the authors of the Daily Beast piece can be taken seriously, but that’s what happens when a generation is steeped in the idiocy of “govt knows all.”

  9. At the Beast, Guilhamon and Dickey actually agree with Reason’s take on the issue,

    Well, no they don’t.

  10. The FDA actually banned private companies from testing for mad cow disease a few years ago.

    1. I can’t find a good link to the story but from what I remember what the FDA banned was a private company which wanted to test all its beef instead of just sampling some cows like the FDA wanted. The FDA thought that it would be unfair competition since the higher standard would sell better

      1. The FDA thought that it would be unfair competition since the higher standard would sell better

        Sounds more like fair competition to me!

      2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C…..ef#Lawsuit

        The USDA’s stated position was that allowing any meatpacking company to test every cow would undermine the agency’s official position that random testing was scientifically adequate to assure safety.

        1. At a cost of about half a million dollars, Creekstone built a testing lab, the first inside a U. S. meat packing plant, and hired the necessary personnel. In 2004, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which controls the sale of testing kits, refused to sell Creekstone enough to test all of its cows.

          Creekstone did it to export to Japan. Their customers demanded the testing.

        2. So anything that isn’t required is banned?

        3. So…testing every cow might make people think that the USDA is wrong, which is illegal? But, but, Upton Sinclair!!

  11. I have to admit, I just don’t know how I’d survive if the gov’t examiner didn’t show up every day to throw out the stuff in the fridge that’s gone bad.
    I mean, how would I know not to eat that stuff? It’s just too difficult for an individual to do so.

    1. If it wasn’t for those damned government inspectors, I would have made my millions years ago selling tainted meats and cheeses. Nothing says profit like rotten meat.

      1. That’s right, everyone knows a dead customer is a repeat customer!

        1. Naah, you just package the customer as “steak” and sell it. No one said BEEF steak, did they?

      2. It’s never too late, just go find that meat and cheese.

        “Aged at least 15 years”

        You’ll make millions.

  12. Walmart is some scary stuff man, For real!

    http://www.Anon-Dot.tk

    1. Yea tho I gimp through the Valley of Death, I will fear no WalMart!

  13. You would think that liability would make the private food testing even MORE stringent if they (a)are aware that food borne pathogens are possible (b)are aware of a test for them and (c)can’t blame the government for NOT testing things. A single expose on shoddy food testing would bankrupt just about every organization.

    1. While on the other hand the government has a long history of not punishing employees when they have failed in their job. In fact they are probably just as likely to get promoted.

  14. If the government doesn’t fuck you, who will?

    1. Hopefully the little redhead down the street…

      1. Good luck courting your midget ranga

        1. Maybe I should have called her slender

  15. I think these are two separate problems. One the one hand, there is a government agency which in fairly typical government fashion creates piles of red tape instead of actually checking food products for safety in a reasonably efficient way. Possibly a government agency which is bribed one way or another by some large market actors.

    OTOH, the cynic in me does not believe that private market actors will step in if the government does not check food products for safety. Rather, some companies will actually check, some companies will fake that they check, some companies will simply sue anybody who claims their food products are not safe, or run marketing campaigns claiming their food products are safe (see, e.g., under cigarettes and lung cancer), and some companies typically at the cheaper end of the market will not care much, and just try to be as cheap as possible.

    1. Sure they will. But food, unlike cigarettes is not addictive. If a company gets in the habit of poisoning people, grocery stores will stop carrying their products and people will stop buying them. If the market can correct for taste, why wouldn’t it correct for it making you sick?

      We don’t have “taste” inspectors do we? If not why not? By your logic what is stopping private companies from squeezing out a few extra dollars of profit by producing tasteless or bad tasting food? Because people won’t buy bad tasting food or a brand that is known to taste bad? But they will somehow buy food that will make them sick or a brand that is known not to be safe? Really?

      1. But food, unlike cigarettes is not addictive.

        Try quitting…

      2. Market forces will usually resolve such problems when the potential buyers have sufficient information about the products they consider buying, and about competing products.

        Taste is rather obvious, and thus is something consumers can easily figure out for themselves.

        As a more complex example, consider BSE, which is believed to be the cause vCJD in humans. This is clearly not something a consumer can verify when buying beef. Consumers thus reacted to the insecurity surrounding BSE outbreaks by not buying beef.

        1. They have enough information to know the food they ate made them sick. Sure, a company could get away with making one person sick one time. But they couldn’t get away with making people sick consistently. People would stop buying their product once it was known to make people sick.

        2. As a more complex example, consider BSE, which is believed to be the cause vCJD in humans. This is clearly not something a consumer can verify when buying beef. Consumers thus reacted to the insecurity surrounding BSE outbreaks by not buying beef.

          Rrabbit, the government was in the same boat as the market regarding BSE. Until there is testing methods that can detect such pathogens, there is no way to determine the safety of the product.

    2. some companies will fake that they check

      Which is why food should be certified by a trusted 3rd party. Consumers could look for their preferred certification when purchasing food. And these companies would have a damn strong incentive not to take shortcuts, since their reputation would be the only thing keeping them afloat.

      Meanwhile, the FDA and USDA have strong incentives to screw it up, because they will get a bigger budget and more power, and nobody will be fired.

      1. Exactly.

        The kosher cert people go after people who misuse their labels.

        They sometimes have to force recalls, but they rarely have to go to court. But they do when necessary.

      2. I am of course fine with food certification by a trusted non-government 3rd party.

        In stores and restaurants over here, I can see such certificates issued by hundreds of 3rd parties. Apart from a very small number of organic food brands which have been around for decades, which of them are trustworthy, and which are not? Which of these certificates is a complete fake?

        1. Research.

          You cant slack off.

          Your argument seems to be, “Im too lazy let the government take care of it for me and do a shitty job of it.”

          Here, the government has determined the regulations for “organic” labeling. And it lets thru (by definition) lots of things that piss off pro-organic people. If organic was certified by private orgs, this wouldnt happen, as they could have as loose or strict of standards as they want.

          Once again, exactly the same as with kosher certs.

          1. You’re right about Kosher certs. I would hate for the government to be in control of determining what is/is not kosher. Let’s take Hebrew National. It is certified kosher by Triangle K, but it is not Glatt kosher, which is what most very strict kosher keeping Jews go by. Since it is not certified Glatt, then Hebrew National is not kosher. You think that would matter to the government? You think it would matter if meat and dairy were mixed? Or cows and pigs slaughtered with same equipment? No.

            And kosher-keeping Jews tend to do a lot of research on food.

        2. In stores and restaurants over here, I can see such certificates issued by hundreds of 3rd parties. Apart from a very small number of organic food brands which have been around for decades, which of them are trustworthy, and which are not? Which of these certificates is a complete fake?

          Again, your food is not analyzed BY the FDA. The FDA simply regulates the processes by which manufacturers must adhere. They regulate guidelines; they don’t specify WHOM must test the product. Your food is tested by dozens, if not hundreds, of contract laboratories around the country.

    3. See my kosher point above.

      How is it any different?

    4. “OTOH, the cynic in me does not believe that private market actors will step in if the government does not check food products for safety.”

      Did you ever pick up something at the grocery and realize it was bad? Aren’t you glad the government guy was there telling you so?

      1. I have this argument with a socialist friend of mine who, ironically, lives in Chicago. The FDA is his ideal example of how the federal government saves us from the nefarious clutches of the private sector, and he cites Upton Sinclair as the plucky muckraker who made it possible.

        But the funny thing is that Sinclair wrote The Jungle to argue for labor laws. His point was that the jobs in meatpacking plants were unsafe, unsanitary (for the workers) and didn’t pay enough. The government’s reaction, typically, was to pass an unrelated law in response to misinformed public outcry about how gross a slaughterhouse is: namely, the Pure Food and Drug Act.

        Sinclair himself opposed the act, because he felt like the requirements would force small producers out of business and would essentially favor the large meat packing corporations that he thought exploited workers, and against which he’d been fighting in the first place.

    5. OTOH, the cynic in me does not believe that private market actors will step in if the government does not check food products for safety. Rather, some companies will actually check, some companies will fake that they check, some companies will simply sue anybody who claims their food products are not safe, or run marketing campaigns claiming their food products are safe (see, e.g., under cigarettes and lung cancer), and some companies typically at the cheaper end of the market will not care much, and just try to be as cheap as possible.

      Rrabbit, that IS our current system. Every food manufacturer does not have an FDA or USDA inspector on the grounds to monitor the process. As for testing, the companies send samples to contract laboratories and maintain the records on site. If they fail specs, they can and have hid the results from the agencies. So your cynical situation is what actually occurs under the regulated system.

    6. Except

      1. The government doesn’t actually *check*. They check a checklist.

      2. “. . .some companies will actually check, some companies will fake that they check, some companies will simply sue anybody who claims their food products are not safe”. . .

      In other words, exactly like what we have right now.

  16. Also, highly suggest just a bit of proof reading. I swear this post was translated to Russian and back via google translate.

  17. Also, next up: You won’t be allowed to cook your own food cause the government won’t know if you’re preparing it “properly.”

  18. What’s French for WTF?

    According to google translate, “what the fuck” = “c’est quoi ce bordel.” Not sure if that’s actually correct though.

    1. “Bordel” is apparently “whorehouse”, which makes sense if you add an “lo” on the end. Maybe “c’est quoi ce baise?”

      1. perhaps they just say “what zee fuck” with their cute Pepe le Pew accent. They do like sneaking in English words and hiding them from the Academie Francaise

  19. LOL. I watched that episode yesterday.

    It’s amazing how bowdlerized network TV has become since that show aired.

  20. If government isn’t making sure you don’t steal its gold coins, who will?

    Anonymous user 22.07.2013 13:21
    “ALL 1933 Gold Double Eagles were ordered melted down. Any that escaped the mint were stolen.”

    1. “This is a case that raises many novel legal questions,

      Yeah, there’s nothing “novel” about the question of seizing my property.

  21. This is one of those responses that always pisses me off. I can let the stupid Somalia!! and ROADZ ‘arguments’ slide, but I can’t stand morons who respond, “So I’m supposed to check the safety of food and drugs by myself!?”

    No, you moron. Do you inspect every battery you buy to ensure it won’t explode when you use it? Do you evaluate every nut and bolt and panel of an IKEA piece for structural integrity?

    1. Progs honestly think everyone is dumber than they are. Part of being a prog is smugly believing you are smarter than everyone else. So, yes, they honestly believe people would continuing buying batteries that blew up or food that was known to make you sick. Sure, a prog wouldn’t do that. But progs are special and smarter than everyone else. You can’t expect the average person to be that smart.

      This is what they actually believe.

      1. Progs honestly think everyone is dumber than they are

        I think that applies to most people. And not the least to libertarians.

        The problem with progs is that they take the extra step of thinking that their being so smart means that they will be able to successfully engineer society in their preferred image. Libertarians, on the other hand (and rightly in my opinion), think they are so smart because they have realized that you can’t engineer society like that.

        1. Both want to engineer society. The only difference is libertarians think it will be very easy.

          1. If by “engineer society” you mean “stop engineering society” what you say makes perfect sense.

            1. So just go with all the laws currently in place? Or do you mean apply a massive blunt restructuring to the entire system?

              1. We need some data points for our massive blunt restructuring. Try it on your head first for us and let us know how it works out. Thanks!

              2. I mean get rid of the engineering. A change from the status quo isn’t necessarily engineering any more than letting an animal out of a trap is trapping.

                1. But if you close the trap after letting the animal out, then the animal is trapped everywhere else except the trap.

                  1. “But if you close the trap after letting the animal out, then the animal is trapped everywhere else except the trap.”

                    Woah….Zen.

              3. Tony| 7.22.13 @ 12:50PM |#
                “So just go with all the laws currently in place? Or do you mean apply a massive blunt restructuring to the entire system?”

                See, to shithead, no laws are just laws of a different sort.
                He had a head injury at some time in the past, and the effect have never gone away.

          2. No, Tony. Engineering society means that you have a particular outcome in mind and try to bring it about. What libertarians want is something different: for people to decide on their own what is valuable and what they want life to be. Argue about the merits of that if you want, but stop with this false equivalence bullshit.

          3. Both want to engineer society. The only difference is libertarians think it will be very easy.

            And this is why you can’t be taken seriously.

        2. I think Libertarians have the opposite problem. They think everyone is as smart and reasonable as they are. If Libertarians fail, it is generally because they assume that people are always reasonable and rational. Progs fail because they assume people are never reasonable and rational.

          1. Some do, maybe. I think that emergent order can and will happen, even if people are idiots.

        3. Libertarians, on the other hand (and rightly in my opinion), think they are so smart because they have realized that you can’t engineer society like that.

          From wikipedia:
          Socrates realized the Oracle was correct; while so-called wise men thought themselves wise and yet were not, he himself knew he was not wise at all, which, paradoxically, made him the wiser one since he was the only person aware of his own ignorance.

      2. Well, sure. Before the FDA, people constantly ate rotting meat all the time for preference. That’s why all humans were vegetarians until the 20th century unless they acidentally killed the cow right next to the grill.

        1. people constantly ate rotting meat
          all humans were vegetarians

          Make up your mind.

    2. Re: MJGreen,

      “So I’m supposed to check the safety of food and drugs by myself!?”

      You mean you possess tasters?

      I still smell my food and nuke it well, thank you very much. It is not that I don’t trust government – I trust no one. The fact that you would want to trust government ‘oversight’ is something I find quaint and tender, the kind of thinking one would ascribe to little girls.

      Do you inspect every battery you buy to ensure it won’t explode when you use it?

      No, I simply use the battery as the manufacturer recommends I use it. I don’t expect a battery manufacturer to want to kill its customers. Do you?

      Do you evaluate every nut and bolt and panel of an IKEA piece for structural integrity?

      Does the government in that case?

      Don’t be silly. You’re making things up just to win an argument.

      1. You’re making things up just to win an argument.

        And failing miserably at it.

      2. Wait, what?

  22. The swiftest way to end libertarianism would be to enact it. What’s a few thousand people needlessly poisoned if it means ridding the world of this stupidity forever?

    It’s about setting a floor. With standardized health and safety rules for food, we can live our lives relatively unconcerned with the issue (which would seem to add to human productivity). Libertarian deregulatory fantasies rest on the already-tested premise that the market mechanism alone will keep things up to a civilized standard. But we wouldn’t have needed an FDA in the first place if this were true. Food companies did sell poisoned, tainted, infested food prior to the implementation of standards.

    Without question, removing the floor government regulation provides, the standards would drop. Why would industries give a shit about getting rid of regulations if they plan to meet or exceed the standards anyway?

    1. Why would industries give a shit about getting rid of regulations if they plan to meet or exceed the standards anyway?

      Because they can overcome the cost of regulatory compliance while smaller competitors might not be able to, even if smaller competitors are selling safe food.

      1. Always looking out for the little guy.

        1. I don’t especially care about the little or big guy, I care about the one who provides what I want at the best price. I care about the government’s not tilting the playing field.

    2. Re: Tony,

      What’s a few thousand people needlessly poisoned if it means ridding the world of this stupidity forever?

      You mean government oversight guarantees people will not die of food poisoning?

      Because, if you don’t mind, I’ll keep cooking my food, thank you very much.

      It’s about setting a floor.

      It’s actually about setting complacency. History is full of stories about complacent people trusting the sweet words of government-guaranteed safety, ending up with their heads in a pyramid of skulls.

      With standardized health and safety rules for food, we can live our lives relatively unconcerned with the issue

      Meaning: Oblivious.

      Without question, removing the floor government regulation provides, the standards would drop.

      The “without question” added because you speak ex cathedra. Am I correct?

      1. You mean government oversight guarantees people will not die of food poisoning?

        Nope. Did I say that?

        It’s actually about setting complacency.

        What’s wrong with a little complacency? I’ve got other things to worry about than whether every single food item I buy might be tainted, and I like being able to shop where I want as a function of convenience rather than because a particular shop doesn’t poison me quite as often as another.

        The “without question” added because you speak ex cathedra. Am I correct?

        I say that only because at no point in history has removing government-imposed standards resulted in increased standards.

        1. Re: Tony,

          Nope. Did I say that?

          Yes, you did: “What’s a few thousand people needlessly poisoned…” The insinuation is right there for all to see.

          What’s wrong with a little complacency?

          I guess you find nothing wrong with being complacent. What makes it wrong is to INSTITUTIONALIZE it, just so your foolish complacency looks less foolish if everybody becomes just as ridiculous as you.

          I’ve got other things to worry about than whether every single food item I buy might be tainted

          Are you bragging or lamenting?

          I also have many things to do, yet I still smell my food before I buy it and nuke it well before I eat it.

          I say that only because at no point in history has removing government-imposed standards resulted in increased standards.

          Show me. Put your money where your mouth is.

          I’m pacient.

        2. I say that only because at no point in history has removing government-imposed standards resulted in increased standards.

          Show your work.

    3. “Without question, removing the floor government regulation provides, the standards would drop.”

      I cannot disagree more. What examples can you give of industries where full deregulation (note, FULL dereg) has resulted in an overall decrease in quality?

      But to your main point, there’s nothing about setting government-blessed safety rules that inherently makes food, for instance, more safe. You’re assuming that the threat of random cursory inspections is all that motivates any given business to provide a product or service that people are willing to consume.

      The FDA can’t prevent periodic outbreaks of salmonella, for instance, but the result isn’t that people immediately seek out salmonella-contaminated food. They react to reported illnesses allegedly caused by a given food generally by avoiding it like the plague, sometimes long after the USDA or FDA has given the all-clear. I think you’re drastically underestimating the average person’s ability to judge the quality or safety of a thing for themselves, as well as the motivation of businesses to react to and anticipate consumer attitudes.

      1. But there can still be a market mechanism with regulations in place. People are still free to choose where to shop, just as much as if there were no regulations. They are simply free to choose in a less risky overall environment. To me that counts as more freedom rather than less.

        Just read about the history of industrial food production prior to safety regs. It might give you nightmares. And industries are still managing to poison people, as you said.

        1. That which is not seen is just a foreign concept to you, isn’t it?

        2. Re: Tony,

          But there can still be a market mechanism with regulations in place

          Indeed. One less competitive and less accessible to the poorest of us, but it can still exist.

          Just read about the history of industrial food production prior to safety regs

          If you mean Upton Sinclair, you’re asking for trouble. The first food production regulations were lobbied by the meat packer themselves as a way to stymie their competitors, if you care to look, way before The Jungle was published.

        3. How can a person be free to choose where to shop if the place they choose to shop is shut down by regulators?

          “Free to choose in a less risky overall environment” is basically ‘free to choose from the (fewer than before) options we give you right now’

        4. Actually, Tony, by any reasonable measure the food practices that gave Upton Sinclair nightmares were no worse than the food practices on subsistence farms.

          That’s what the public school textbooks leave out – that prior to the industrialization of food production, the average person’s “food safety” was even lower.

          We’re talking about people with their own abattoirs in sheds…who never cleaned them. Ever. We’re talking about people who stored loose grains in open areas and whose idea of rodent control was to own a couple of cats.

          The muckrakers existed because the urban middle class created by capitalism forgot the conditions of existence on subsistence farms and developed what were for the time extremely exaggerated notions of food purity.

        5. Tony| 7.22.13 @ 1:02PM |#
          “But there can still be a market mechanism with regulations in place.”

          Sure shithead. Let’s do the job worse and charge more for it!

    4. The thing about the argument that in the past when there was no FDA there was a lot more unsafe food is that it ignores the fact that a lot of other things have changed since food safety laws were invented. We now have much better refrigeration and faster transport for fresh foods, we have irradiation, antibiotics, plastic containers and all kinds of other new technology that make it much easier to keep food from being contaminated. And a population that is a lot more aware (and scared of) the potential dangers in food. That is not all suddenly going to disappear if the FDA stops inspecting food. To suggest that if government food inspection stopped we would go back to 1900 is just absurd.

    5. Tony| 7.22.13 @ 12:18PM |#
      “The swiftest way to end libertarianism would be to enact it.”

      Shithead, ignorant assertions are about all you’ve got.
      Go back to editing the Dogwalkers’ Daily and leave the discussion to the adults.

    6. Tony| 7.22.13 @ 12:18PM |#
      “Without question, removing the floor government regulation provides, the standards would drop.”

      Yep, without government blundering, the computer industry would put out slower and more expensive hardware and fewer options in software.
      I for one want to thank ignoramuses like shithead for making sure my computer is as good as it is!

  23. mimolette, an imported French “mite-rind” cheese that is covering with microscopic critters that are introduced by the cheesemakers to create a particular effect.

    I’ve read claims that these cheeses help to mitigate dust mite allergies. Anyone know if there’s anything to this? I’m sick of my throat closing shut when I try to sleep in a dusty house.

    1. What doesn’t kill you, Warty, makes you stronger. For instance, if you began shooting, say, Episiarch with a BB-gun and slowly increased the mass and force of the projectile, he would eventually become immune to bullets. Go ahead, give it a try.

      I think there’s something to being exposed to some things young and developing resistances. It’s the obvious explanation for all of the allergies and other immune system problems. Certainly more plausible than blaming food additives, vaccines, GMOs, or AGW.

      1. Tapeworms. Tapeworms make man strong like bull.

        1. Apparently hook worms can cure asthma. True story.

  24. Q: “If government isn’t checking your food for safety, who will?”
    A: Lawyers looking for a good class action suit.

  25. “If government isn’t checking your food for safety, who will? Most people don’t have the resources to measure the amount of bacteria in their hamburgers, or, for that matter, the time to count the mites on their mimolette.”

    I just love these question-begging assertions. Reminds me of the saying that if government made all the shoes, people would question the notion that anybody else but government could make shoes.

    One does not have to count the bacteria in your hamburger to know that a hamburger has gone bad. The idea that without government we would all be at the mercy of profit-seeking businessman hellbent on killing us is nothing more than a grotesquely distorted image of reality. Businesses do not thrive by killing their customers. Profit-seeking makes it incumbent on the business to keep the customer satisfied and, most important, not dead.

    1. -Profit-seeking makes it incumbent on the business to keep the customer satisfied and, most important, not dead.

      As a general matter I would think so. I also think that as Adam Smith most people have inborn moral sentiment towards doing what is right.

      Having said that I can imagine scenarios where one could profit off scenarios where people are sold risky products that may drive away or even kill some consumers. Think if the character in Fight Club whose job is to calculate if the cost of a recall is greater than the costs of settled lawsuits from not recalling.

  26. I think government food regulation and inspection can sort of be defended on the ground of combatting frauds and enforcing contract rules. To the extent sold food has a kind of implied warranty of merchantability regular government inspections can be defended on the grounds of seeing if the food is being sold in violation of this. Additionally, we could say that food that is not labeled as defective could be inspected to see if it is fraudulently so.

    Such a regime would of course allow a seller to make it known to potential buyers that caveat emptor is the rule in their store or for certain products and they could escape any inspections thereby.

  27. Food safety is an area where the difference between liberalism – with its emphasis on prior restraint and regulation – and libertarianism – with its emphasis on criminal and civil after the fact punishment – are really starkly differentiated.

    The fact of the matter is that food safety regulations don’t punish companies for selling tainted food. At all. They punish companies for failing to obtain the required licenses and inspections. That’s it. If you comply with the regulatory regime, and then sell food that poisons and sickens your customers, you’re in the clear. Similarly, if you sell food that is perfectly good and sickens no one, but do it without having the required permits and inspections, you’re guilty.

    So, sell poison food with permits = OK; sell healthy, un-poison food without permits = criminal. That’s the current liberal system.

    A libertarian system would punish sellers criminally if they negligently sold food that sickened people, and hold them civilly liable. That would mean that if you sold safe food that didn’t sicken anyone, you would be in the clear, and if you sold unsafe food that made people sick, you would be in legal jeopardy.

    By what possible standard is that not better than a system where tainted food is A-OK as long as its paperwork is in order, and selling safe food can be a criminal act?

    And that’s the part you just can’t sneak by me – the criminalization of selling food that doesn’t sicken anyone.

  28. “True to bureaucratic form, the FDA won’t give a clear answer as how many mites are too many. . . ”

    Heh, many years ago I was the ‘safety rep’ for my little group of shops and the command safety department people did a walkthrough of my spaces. We had 1 light burned out, in a 30 foot ceiling with 25 lights in it, in a building with one wall nothing but floor to ceiling windows.

    I was told to replace it because we weren’t getting the legally required number of lumen on the floor. Amazing thing,\ the human eye, with no instrumentation whatsoever this guy could see the difference this one light made in broad daylight.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.