The Safety Council Risk
ppointment of a new Food Safety Council [SN, Aug. 31, Page 6] is a positive step toward developing a more manageable and effective system for food-safety regulation, but there is also the danger of overkill.
There is no doubt that food-safety regulation must be based on science, and that improvements toward this end must be made. It is also clear that the government, with substantial assistance from the food industry, has made significant progress toward this end through the development of a new Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system for meat and poultry and seafood regulation.
I can also state, based on my experience as Secretary of Agriculture under President Reagan, that much greater coordination of food-safety regulation is needed -- both to improve effectiveness and to avoid duplication and waste.
That's why Food Distributors International supports creation of the council to the extent that it will improve coordination and make our food-safety policy more effective. But FDI opposes any move that would place virtually unfettered power in the hands of a single individual, someone whose decisions could literally threaten the existence of successful and responsible companies should a food-safety issue arise.
The National Academy of Science study that preceded the president's executive order establishing the council calls for the creation of a centralized authority, either a single individual or a new agency, to oversee food safety in the United States.
Such a step would establish a new bureaucracy within our government, bringing with it untold numbers of new federal employees, untold amounts of added costs, and untold new regulatory pressures on businesses within the food industry.
It is clear that in Washington it is virtually impossible to eliminate a bureaucracy once it has been established; once it has been funded, staffed, built a constituency. We do not need [a new bureaucracy] for food safety. This government needs to do a better job of coordination, of avoiding duplication, and of using today's tools of science and technology to improve safety. Industry-government cooperation needs to be maintained, indeed, improved. Consumers need to be educated on the importance of safe food handling in the home, where most of the food-borne illnesses have their beginnings. But a food czar? A new food-safety bureaucracy? That would be like sending in Tomahawk missiles to attack a swarm of mosquitoes.