I’ve been challenged to find some policy planks for the Tea Party that would reduce the cost of federal food safety enforcement without putting the public at (greater) risk.
Here are a few thoughts, drawn from more than three decades of working in food safety.
Consolidate the food safety enforcement arms of FDA and USDA (Food Safety and Inspection Service). This would eliminate duplication of overlapping lab facilities and inspection programs. As a bonus, food companies now dealing with two separate federal agencies would only need to deal with one.
Require every shipment of imported ingredient, raw food or processed food to be accompanied by a Certificate of Analysis from an accredited laboratory. The cost would be paid for in toto by the off-shore producer and/or the importer – NOT by the US government. Domestic food processors must pay for their own lab tests. So should importers.
Eliminate the 100% inspection of federal meat plants. These resources can be spread more evenly throughout the newly consolidated agency, and increase overall food safety enforcement without increasing costs.
Eliminate HACCP mandates for the food industry. Motorists are told what speed limit they must observe – NOT how to observe it. Likewise, food producers and processors should be told what food safety standards they are expected to achieve. How they achieve these standards should be left to each individual company. As long as the standards are met, the way in which they are achieved should be irrelevant.
Privatize non-safety activities, such as USDA’s egg grading service. Last year’s shell egg-related outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis demonstrated all too clearly that this is not looked upon by USDA as a safety function. Producers should be responsible for arranging – and paying for – activities such as shell egg grading.
I’m sure that there are more good ideas floating around in the blogosphere. I welcome your comments and rebuttals, and will be happy to post alternative suggestions.