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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Some Food Producers Urge Congress NOT To Fund Safe Food

foodtax-featured.jpgI was able to access a letter to Congress from the following PR hacks of some in the food industry:

American Bakers Association, American Frozen Food Institute, American Meat Institute, Frozen Potato Products Institute, Independent Bakers Association, International Bottled Water Association, National Chicken Council, National Confectioners Association, National Fisheries Institute, National Frozen Pizza Institute, National Grain and Feed Association, National Meat Association, Pet Food Institute, Produce Marketers Association, Snack Food Association, United Egg Producers, United Fresh Produce Association

Their argument is simple – “While ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply is the number one priority of our organizations and the food producers we represent, we urge you to reject any efforts to create a new food tax on consumers and food companies.”

I say BULLSHIT. First, you are interested in your bottom line; if you could pass on the cost to consumers you would do it in a heartbeat. Also, with a budget deficit and a pledge of no new taxes, this cabal knows full well that without some form of user fees, that the FDA will continue to lack the resources to inspect both foreign and domestic food producers, which is what this group really wants.

Pathetic! However, I’ll remember the names when the next outbreak happens.

  • Doc Mudd

    Laissez-faire Tester-exempt vendors are rolling in the cabbage these days. Perhaps they should bankroll enforcement of FSMA against their larger competitors. Some sort of organized voluntary checkoff program, or something. Hell, they have donors with deep pockets and rich trust funds.
    Otherwise, why not laissez-faire for everyone? And caveat emptor for all consumers.
    I’m passionately in support of food safety but that train seems to have been run off the rails with the recent spate of ‘exemptions’ for every Tom, Dick and Shirley.
    Maybe scrap the whole thing and begin over.

  • Ann Quinn, consumer

    And not a word from the Pet Food Institute about this being the fourth anniversary of the Pet Food Recalls of 2007 and exactly how many pet food recalls have occurred since March 16, 2007.
    As a consumer who has lived with that tragic food producer mistake, I guess I’d like to ask
    these “oh so safety conscious” food producers why it is that their food safety testing results aren’t posted on every pouch, box, can, bag or shrink wrapped package of food they sell? Could it be because, as I deeply suspect, food safety testing isn’t actually done except on
    the consumer most times?

  • Jeff Almer

    My disdain for these two faced organizations clearly has ever expanding boundaries. Should we be shocked–no. Should we tell them to kiss our derriere’s–absolutely.
    I know that human nature is to resist change but these companies only care about the bottom line, botom line, bottom line. While I don’t wish ill will on anyone, perhaps it will take some of these mucky mucks in charge to have a foodborne illness hit home directly.
    Surely the United Egg producers learned nothing last fall from the A-1 supreme jerk Jack Decoster in Iowa and his shoddy production facilities.

  • Carl Custer

    Reading their letter, it doesn’t seem so bad.
    It’s the perennial “No User Fees” letter.
    And I’m sympathetic to not charging user fees for inspection.
    But the Catch 22 is, If no user fees, then FDA’s wimpy inspection will continue unless the Cut-The-Budget Congress ponies up the needed funds.
    Inspection assures everyone that there is a level playing field for:
    “wholesome, not adulterated, and properly labeled and packaged . . . products.”
    “The unwholesome, adulterated, mislabeled, or deceptively packaged articles can be sold at lower prices and compete unfairly with the wholesome, not adulterated, and properly labeled and packaged articles, to the detriment of consumers and the public generally.”
    21 USC 602 – Sec. 602. Congressional statement of findings (It’s Meat but there is one for FDA somewhere)
    Maybe they think Bill Marler is cheaper than FDA inspection

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    The “user”/registration fees are not exhorbitant. All professions pay an annual fee, why wouldn’t a food producer? I bet that the new registrations fees would have very very little impact on the price seen on the grocery store shelves. My guess would be less than a penny per product sold. Let them tell us how much this user fee would actually impact each price of food product — but only the fee and not made up nonsense. The rest of the modernization law they should be doing anyway.

  • Bill Anderson

    IF we are going to “start over”, Doc, we have to give all the land back to the native americans, and letting it return to its natural state. I’m all for that… its called PERMACULTURE.
    A question — What kind of tax is this? A sales tax? I am a progressive, but I am opposed to sales taxes because they are regressive taxes — they disproportionately affect the income of the poor. Progressive corporate & income taxes are the best way to fund things.
    Things like full funding for promotion of sustainable agriculture and farmers markets.

  • dangermaus

    I agree its bad policy to effectively kill regulation that has been put into law by refusing to fund it because it leads to capricious enforcement of the rules. However, you’re drawing a false equivalence between “safe food” and “food safety inspection”, and the distinction is important. A food grower/processor/distributor with integrity is far more trustworthy than someone who’s trying to get away with something, no matter how many laws you pass. I trust people… I think you trust government.
    Mudd, if you want safe food, the most important thing you can do is cook it and wash it, rather than relying on there being some government official out there who will make the world safe for you.

  • Minkpuppy

    As a USDA inspector, I’m not a big fan of user fees if that means the industry is basically paying my entire paycheck. Some unscrupulous operators already put a ton of pressure on inspectors to “let things slide” and if we were to switch to a system where they had to pay for all inspections, it would only get worse. They would hold it over our heads that our livelihood depends on whether or not we release that contaminated product and some inspectors would cave in and do it. Then watch the scandals and recalls hit the fan. I, for one, do not want to be in that position.

    Currently, USDA only charges industry for overtime services and voluntary inspection services for imports/exports, non-amenable species inspection etc but only because these duties are outside of our normal inspection activities or normal work hours. That’s a reasonable solution for FDA as well. Bad idea to charge for all inspection services. Registration fees I can understand but not as an excuse to deny inspection if they don’t pay it.

    Mudd- dangermouse is correct. You can’t rely on inspectors to catch 100% of everything. 1) We’re human and we make mistakes. 2) Even in USDA plants where inspection is in that plant on a daily basis, we have unethical operators that do everything in their power to get around us. There’s even plants out there that start up knowing they have to have USDA inspection due to production volume etc but they totally ignore the regulations. We know they’re doing it but we are limited in our abilities to catch them at it. Everything we do has to abide by 9 CFR 500 Rules of Conduct and it has to stay within the scope of our duties. Basically, someone outside of USDA has to report what’s going on so the compliance division can launch an investigation.

    For example, let’s say I inspect a plant that I suspect is operating outside the scheduled tour of duty. Maybe they are not requesting overtime services at the end of the day or they’re telling the inspector “We’re not working tomorrow” then do meat products anyway because they know the inspector won’t be there to catch them doing the dirty deeds. Because they don’t request OT inspection or inspection on alleged “off” days, I would be out of the scope of my duties to stop by for a surprise visit to “catch” them after my shift is over or on down days unless I work closely with compliance officers, my frontline supervisor and District office and have their blessing. However, if I have to drive by a plant that is supposedly closed on the way to another assignment and see cars in the parking lot, I would then be authorized to stop in after reporting it to our supervisor. In other words, I can’t go out of my way to catch them.

    It’s incredibly difficult to catch plants operating without inspection on purpose. It usually happens when an inspector working OT on Saturday drives by the plant on the way to one that did request OT for that day and sees a parking lot full of cars and he/she knows they don’t do any non-USDA product there and knows they didn’t request to work on Saturday. In some cases, it’s a whistle blower inside the company that tips off the District office. Either way, you can’t count on it.