The Food-Safety Fallacy: More Regulation Doesn't Necessarily Make Food Safer
Northeastern University Law Journal Vol. 4, No. 1, 2012
21 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2013 Last revised: 13 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2012
The Food Safety Modernization Act ("FSMA"), signed into law in 2011 by President Barack Obama, has been touted by its supporters as the most thorough update of FDA food safety authority in more than seventy-five years. But will the FSMA make our food safer? This article argues that we can and should look to the past to predict whether costly government efforts to make our food safer will succeed. In hindsight, the FDA’s own record — and those of other federal agencies — shows that food-safety regulations often rest on factually erroneous premises and, consequently, can sometimes be so counterproductive that they may tend to actually make our food less safe. The article describes key differences between "old" and "new" conceptions of public health, the evolving relationship of these terms as pertains to food safety, and describes the importance of "old" public health. It then provides several examples of food-safety regulations throughout history that have actually made food and consumers less safe. The article concludes with a call to return to "old" conceptions of public health as a meaningful alternative to increased federal oversight and spending under the FSMA.
Keywords: food safety, FDA
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