After a pummeling in the November elections over federal spending and the expansion of government, the lame duck House passed a budget bill that contained just that. In addition to a dozen spending bills, the House stuffed the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) into the bill, which increases the power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with over a billion dollar price tag.
S.510 has been called the ’most dangerous bill in the history of the United States.’ With over 225 pages of regulations, the FDA is not only granted the authority to issue mandatory recalls, but has the power to tell farmers how to grow food, including regulations on soil, water, temperature, even what type of animals are permitted on the premises. From 2011 to 2015, the estimated cost by the Congressional Budget Office is $1.4 billion.
The bill, however, does not allow FDA regulation of meat, poultry or processed eggs.
According to the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA), ’S.510 will not improve food safety. Instead it will bury farmers in regulations and paperwork and consolidate agricultural production into fewer, larger industrial facilities.’
Even with the Tester Amendment, which is supposed to exempt small farmers from such onerous red tape, the bill threatens small farmers and organic and local producers. ’The Tester amendment still puts additional paperwork, record keeping and scrutiny onto direct marketers,’ according to the NICFA.
The US food supply is already regulated by 15 different agencies, but the FDA, like other government agencies, does not have a stellar record of effectiveness or efficiency. According to GAO testimony before a House subcommittee in 2008:
’[The] FDA is one of 15 agencies that collectively administer at least 30 laws related to food safety. This fragmentation is the key reason GAO added the federal oversight of food safety to its High-Risk Series in January 2007 and called for a government wide reexamination of the food safety system. We have reported on problems with this system’including inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources.’
Granting an inconsistent, ineffective and inefficient government agency with widespread authority over our food supply is frightening. ’An FDA with unlimited power could be expected to order recalls on countless products that are perfectly safe, with predictable impacts on prices and consumer choice,’ wrote Gregory Conko, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in Forbes.
’Recall what happened in June 2008, when the FDA encouraged a voluntary recall of tomatoes seemingly linked to that year’s major salmonella outbreak. Countless supermarkets, restaurants and consumers threw out crates of tomatoes in a scare that cost the industry an estimated $100 million in losses before the FDA realized the problem was actually tainted jalape o peppers.’
While the FDA is already authorized to inspect the food supply, it rarely does so. According to the NICFA, the FDA inspects less than one percent of imports and fewer than 25% of processing facilities.
Couple the expansion of the FDA with Healthcare Reform and the increased power of the Department of Agriculture under the Child Nutrition Act, and we have a clear view of how the federal government has become a creeping giant.