While it is often claimed that America has the safest food in the world, a look back at various food contamination problems shows that there were serious problems in the system.
To address some of these problems, the Food Safety Modernization Act was recently passed. The final vote in the house was 215-144.
While I am reasonably well informed, I was somewhat surprised to learn that until this act passed the FDA had no power to issue recalls of foods. Instead, the companies had to voluntarily issue recalls.
While this is a step in the right direction, health issues regarding food are still are serious problem. In addition to the matter of contamination, there are also concerns about chemicals getting into foods-perhaps leaching in from the containers or otherwise getting into food.
It might be argued, as some have, that increasing the regulation of food and food safety will be bad for business and cut into profits. After all, if food companies have to ensure that their food is clean and uncontaminated by chemicals, then their operation costs will increase and this will lead to all manner of evils. There is also the worry about the state getting into the business of business.
There are two obvious replies. First, the costs that are created by contaminated food in terms of illness and so on would seem to be higher. Also, these costs are pushed onto the consumer-they have to pay when they get sick (unless they can win damages). Second, it is the job of the state to protect us from such harms. If Al Qaeda or some other terrorist groups were intentionally causing the illness and deaths caused currently by the relevant food problems, we’d be spending billions on defense, probably start another war, and Republicans would be screaming for action and demanding that liberties be set aside in the name of safety. Now, if we can do this for a minor and irregular threat like terrorism, we surely can step up our defenses against this sort of major, ongoing threat to the health and well-being of Americans.