Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eat Your Spinach

It might be safe now, because your food may be inspected a little more closely in the future:

The Senate on Tuesday passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation's food-safety system, after recalls of tainted eggs, peanut butter and spinach that sickened thousands and led major food makers to join consumer advocates in demanding stronger government oversight.

The legislation, which passed by a vote of 73 to 25, would greatly strengthen the Food and Drug Administration, an agency that in recent decades focused more on policing medical products than ensuring the safety of foods. The bill is intended to get the government to crack down on unsafe foods before they harm people rather than after outbreaks occur.
Of course Tom Coburn opposed this overhaul, arguing that we need less regulation, not more. But saner people won, though the final bill may end up being one of the usual patchwork types.

But I will find my good news in these times wherever I can, and this qualifies. The article also hints at the impact of the last Bush reign on the problems which now beset us. Reminding us of that is also good.

The impact of globalization is also mentioned. Up to three fourths of all seafood consumed in this country comes from abroad, yet very little of that is inspected. But the most interesting part of the article may just be this:

Industry organizations backed the legislative push because of the high costs for many companies of the food scares of recent years. Egg sales fell nationwide after the massive egg recall this summer, even though only two producers were implicated. Several years ago, contaminated spinach from one small producer led the entire industry's crop to be destroyed.
This phenomenon is well-known in economics. Consumers cannot tell "good" eggs apart from "bad" eggs, so they react by not eating eggs at all whenever some of them contain salmonella, and that means the egg markets may collapse. It is in the interest of such industries to be regulated, despite Coburn's arguments to the contrary.