Count the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury News as another vote in support of reform for the FDA. This editorial outlines the fight against the bill being put up by the food industry and their Republican supporters.
As I discussed here last week, food industry lobbyists and Republicans are now balking at several desperately needed portions of the bill. For example:
Increased "traceability": The bill would require significantly more detailed tracking of a food’s origin, and its subsequent distribution. The food industry claims the new regulations to be too onerus. The piece correctly argues though, that:
they can’t afford not to track their products. The 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak cost that industry $50 million; the 2008 tomato scare resulted in a $100 million loss to the tomato industry. A tracking system would not only contain problems faster but would also enable companies to say with confidence that their products are safe, reassuring consumers and maintaining profits.
Idustry Fees for Increased Inspection: New legislation would require increases in government inspection of food production facilities, requiring a higher level of inspection for high risk foods. This efficient approach should be hailed by industry, but instead they have focused on the short term increase in costs:
[Another] objection stems from the $1,000 annual fee that food facilities would pay, raising just under $400 million a year toward the cost of additional FDA inspections.
Grocery companies say the fee and the FDA’s expanded powers would give it too much control over their operations.
Actually, the regulations don’t go far enough. They provide for inspections of food facilities every four years, and every 18 months for high-risk facilities. That’s better than now, but annual inspections, and every six months for high-risk operations, should be the target.
It’s good to see the short-sighted, fail to see the forest for the trees, arguments of the food industry be exposed. The long-term health of our food production system, for consumers AND for industry, needs this long overdue overhaul and strengthening of the FDA. Let’s hope our legislators can see past industry lobbyists and do what is right.