It’s a new year and, in less than three weeks, the safety of the US food supply will rest in the hands of a new administration and a new Congress, both of them promising to reduce the ‘heavy hand’ of government regulation.
“Deregulate, and business will thrive,” we are told.
“Climate change is a farce – a hoax,” we are told.
“Clean air laws place an undue burden on the energy sector,” we are told.
Does anyone remember acid rain, that killer of forests in the US Northeast (and elsewhere)? Does anyone remember the eye-stinging smog that once pervaded the Los Angeles basin? Clean air laws were developed to counteract those health- and environment-threatening crises.
Who remembers Rachel Carson’s masterwork, Silent Spring? Pesticide regulation was a response to the environmental threat she exposed.
And what about food and drug safety? It took Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle to prod our government into action that prevented the worst of the industry’s misdeeds. And it took the tragedy of thalidomide to stimulate FDA into tightening its laws on the testing and release of new drugs.
The Glass-Steagall Act arose in reaction to the bank failures of the Great Depression. Similarly, the Dodd-Frank Act was an attempt to prevent the excesses that contributed to our recent Great Recession.
Problems beget solutions; crises beget new regulations. Repeal – or simply fail to enforce – regulations that were developed to solve a real problem, and that problem will reappear.
By now, you must have figured out where this is leading. My gut instinct tells me that our new US administration will do its utmost to emasculate the Food Safety Modernization Act and its associated regulations. FSMA will remain the law of the land, but it will become a straw man. There will be no need to repeal the law; a simple decision to slash funding for enforcement will be enough to reverse the progress made over the past several years.
With an administration and Congress that promise to focus on deregulation, and an incoming President who rebuffs the media, it is up to those of us with the knowledge and the means at hand to keep the food safety pot simmering and the information flowing to consumers. I have set up a dedicated eFoodAlert Facebook page, where I plan to share recall notices as I learn of them. This blog will serve as my soapbox.
The FoodBugLady is back!