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.


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.