Election 2016

Donald Trump Was Right to 'Float Rolling Back Food Safety Regs'

If you think the FDA and food inspectors rather than vendors' desire not to kill their customers is what keeps you safe, you're an idiot.

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Reason, Todd Krainin

So here's something on which I agree with Donald Trump: his momentary policy on "rolling back food regulations" (in the get-a-load-of-this phraseology of The Hill).

In a fact sheet posted online Thursday, the campaign highlighted a number of "specific regulations to be eliminated" under the GOP nominee's economic plan, including what they called the "FDA Food Police."

"The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food," it read.

"The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when," the statement continued. "It also greatly increased inspections of food 'facilities,' and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill."

More here.

Sadly, Trump's plan had barely been noticed (and criticized) before he mostly pulled it down.

Does anyone really think that FDA inspections or those by city regulators are the only thing protecting the nation's stomachs from mass poisoning by Big Food and mom-and-pop grease trucks alike?

As Reason's Ronald Bailey noted in the past, food-borne illnesses have been declining even as reports about salmonella and other contamination outbreaks have been increasing (it bleeds it leads, and if you vomit, the press is on it). Now more than ever, thanks to social media, no business can hide from poisoning its customers.

You get rid of "official" food inspectors and you know what will happen? To the extent that customers demand any sort of certification beyond public reputation, private-sector and nonprofit groups will be created to provide this or that level of inspection. We see that already with kosher and halal food prep, of course, not to mention other sorts of watchdog groups (think Fair Trade coffee and the like). Yelp or some other rating system would likely add some sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval-style process as well.

Whatever else you can say about a lot of regulatory burdens and inspections processes that were put into operation 100 years or more ago, a lot of them were never necessary, could be provided more efficiently by non-governmental outfits, or have been superseded by technological and social innovations. Public-sector food inspections could be as safely tossed into the garbage heap as, say, state-run taxi commissions. Uber, Lyft, and related outfits aren't perfect (no system is) but they do a far better job of coordinating service and doing right by customers than any municipal hack bureau ever has.

As with most things, Chris Elliott's path-breaking early '90s Fox sitcom, Get A Life! got there decades ago, in an episode in which becomes a food inspector and quickly goes on the take:

Hat tip: Ron Siliko.

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  1. “The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food,” it read.

    Like a dog!

  2. Does anyone really think that FDA inspections or those by city regulators are the only thing protecting the nation’s stomachs from mass poisoning by Big Food and mom-and-pop grease trucks alike?

    Yes, millions of people think that.

    1. I made the mistake of listening to Thom Hartmann today, he was doing a Libertarians are evil show, everything was “if you don’t want he government baking bread, you don’t want people to eat” and all the standard “Roadz!!” bullshit. Austin Peterson was on defending libertarianism, but I only caught the very end of his part so I don’t know how well he did but kudos for him for even going into that pit of derpituitiousness.

      1. Kudos to you for imbibing it…

      2. Hartmann’s attitude towards horrible libertarian freedom is especially odd because he spent years selling holistic, fake new-age medicine to stupid hippies. And that’s apparently not self-interested evil capitalism.

        I mean, if I were a Marxist I’d have him lined up on the wall and shot for fraudulent exploitation of the workers once the revolution came.

        1. There’s no i in Teamocil, at least not where you’d think.

  3. Trump can afford to hire food tasters, or send out Bannon to ‘recruit volunteers’. But what are the rest of us supposed to do?

  4. I work in a deli (if you couldn’t tell) for a grocery chain and when the corporate food safety inspectors roll through, you’re much more likely to get a critical violation than when the local city inspector comes in.

    1. Huh, its almost like the company doesn’t want to be embroiled in a lawsuit for killing someone with their bad meat. I thought that a money motivation only made companies do evil things…

      1. Not to mention, any ex-employee with an internet connection can put them out of busuness if they’re cutting safety corners. I was searching restaurants today in a city for a future visit. The consumer reviews we can access today makes it pretty easy. You can easily tell who is running a well managed operation. Also, if it’s dirty out front, it’s dirty in back. Don’t need the government for that.

  5. Cabin Boy!!!!!

  6. Trump had a good quip today: “It used to be that they made cars in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now they make the cars in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”

    It got a sensible chuckle out of me.

  7. As with most things, Chris Elliott’s path-breaking early ’90s Fox sitcom, Get A Life! got there decades ago, in an episode in which becomes a food inspector and quickly goes on the take

    Will Gillespie ever use a pop culture reference from the current decade? Find out in next week’s column (spoilers: it doesn’t happen).

    1. He’s the Dennis Miller of his time.

    2. Groundbreaking, path blazing, it’s all the same.

  8. this couldnt be further from the truth,from fake honey fake lobster kobe beef,mysterious fish claiming to be something else,if there is a obscene profit to be made it will be done,,why would you wish to make it easier to sell fake fish and cheese?

    1. If you can’t tell the difference, why would you care.

    2. Fake lobster is still safe to eat.

    3. Yes, look how well the government inspectors have prevented this from happening. Oh, yeah, they didn’t. And it wasn’t government inspectors who found these things, either, it was independent consumer organizations.

  9. What amazes me is that there was even a single Network Exec who thought the laugh track did anything except assassinate that show. You know how much better that is without the insipid canned laughter?

    1. Most sitcoms should be one-camera on location like Arrested Development. The new Joel McHale offering looks a-w-f-u-l and is a traditional two-camera studio audience/laugh track CBS shitshow.

      1. I’ve tried to get into various recent sitcoms, and they all suck. Either the moral preening outshines the comedy, or it’s that brand of awkward humor that makes it hard to suspend your disbelief. I attempted Parks & Rec, and forced myself to sit through a whole season before giving up. That one has both moral preening and annoying awkward humor. I kept waiting for the punchline, and it never came. I started Cheers on Netflix and have been much happier. Much less moral preening, much less unbelievably awkward characters.

        1. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

          What is the opposite of moral preening? That show is it.

  10. Best Gillespie article ever. I loved ‘Get A Life’.

  11. Every time I hear that REM song (‘Stand’), I think of the opening credits to this show. It was the perfect sort of humor for 15-year-old me…as well as 41-year-old me.

  12. Trump was right. But as usual ran away from it. He does that a lot. Asshat

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