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Food Policy Editors Want Single Food Safety Agency

Conventional political wisdom holds that the months and even years after Congress enacts major reform may not be the best time to propose more reform.  

But there are almost three thousand miles between K Street and the fertile Palouse where Washington State University is located, and three authors in the WSU School of Economics clearly did not get that memo from the political professionals.

Taking over the editorial pages of the journal Food Policy, WSU’s Trenton G. Smith, Hayley H. Chouinard, and Philip R. Wandschneider  say they want more —much more reform than was included in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law just 51 days ago.

And that new law was the biggest thing to happen to food safety in Washington D.C. in the past 73 years.

But it is not enough for the three WSU professors, who take the large view in an 11-page editorial that begins with the simple statement that: “Americans do not eat well.”

Their review looks at what they call “the modern spread of diet-related chronic disease” and “more than a century of innovation in food processing technology, discovery of nutrition science, and corrective policy measures aimed at improving public health.”

The WSU authors say the food industry has a long history of “success at regulatory capture,” which is why they call for the creation of a single new independent food standards agency devoted to protecting the interests of the American consumer.

In calling for a new Food Quality Standards Agency, the WSU team said the current setup involving both USDA and FDA translates into  “dual missions” of both protecting consumers and promoting the industry.

The authors say the new agency could withstand being “captured” by industry interests if implemented with four attributes, including:

  • A leader appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

  • Independent budget authority. 

  • Independent rule-making authority.

  • Independent enforcement powers.

“These measures will collectively ensure that the new ‘food watchdog’ agency we propose will be protected from the whims of Congress or future administrations, or will have the power to enact reforms that will facilitate both innovation and price competition in markets for higher-quality food products,” they wrote. 

“It is not often that enactment of a single public policy has the potential to both improve market efficiency and prevent millions of premature deaths, but after a century of neglect, the modern American market for food presents just such an opportunity.”

© Food Safety News
  • njohnson

    Thank you, FSN, for providing a link to access this paper.
    I have to remark that it provides an interesting account of the public relations campaign run by vested interests against un-pasteurized milk, a subject that should be reviewed by those who are so fanatical about eliminating people’s right to drink it.
    Some issues raised by the paper don’t make sense to this reader. For example, the authors cast the impact of subsidies on food quality as being overblown, without any acknowledgment that vast subsidies have allowed vegetable oils to replace healthy animal fats. This position is particularly odd given that the authors spend considerable space addressing the health problems associated with trans-fats, which of course are produced from hydrogenated oils made abundant courtesy of tax-payer funded subsidies.
    In addition, that the authors’ cite the national organic standards as a “resounding success” boggles the mind. USDA NOP’s rules, relate only to process standards and not outcome. While the public believes they are buying GE/GMO-free product if it has the USDA organic seal, NOP standards only guarantee that the item is produced without GE/GMOs. USDA’s NOP is fundamentally flawed in that it guarantees, over the long-term, GMO contamination of organic crops and products, a sleight of hand it achieved by failing to define a threshold for GE/GMO contamination and any GE/GMO testing requirement of organic crops and products, because vested interests wanted to avoid such requirements. USDA policy is “Don’s ask, don’t tell, don’t test, don’t know.” Furthermore, the advent of NOP standards ushered in the consolidation of the organic market in which formerly independent organic companies were purchased by big industrial players, who have every incentive to try to water down the standards. Now, the very companies consumers are trying to avoid buying products from are the ones they are unknowingly patronizing, as parent company ownership isn’t transparent on product labels!
    Finally, while I’m sure the authors have nothing but the best intentions, I find their suggested solution to regulatory capture to be outrageous naive: They recommend avoiding regulatory agency capture by… establishing yet another regulatory agency! They do not appear to understand the fundamental reason why reason capture is possible in the first place. We should remind ourselves that the US Constitution does not provide for Congress to transfer or delegate its law-making responsibility to unaccountable, unelected regulatory agencies to which the executive branch makes political appointments. These agencies are — at essence — unconstitutional because they violate the constitution’s separation of powers and system of checks and balances, providing powerful vested interests the means to usurp governing control from public oversight. Why should we repeat the process by delegating law-making, executive and judicial powers to yet another unaccountable and unelected presidential political appointee! Isn’t that the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting another result?

  • Nicole Johnson

    Thank you, FSN, for providing a link to access this paper.
    I have to remark that it provides an interesting account of the public relations campaign run by vested interests against un-pasteurized milk, a subject that should be reviewed by those who are so fanatical about eliminating people’s right to drink it.
    Some issues raised by the paper don’t make sense to this reader. For example, the authors cast the impact of subsidies on food quality as being overblown, without any acknowledgment that vast subsidies have allowed vegetable oils to replace healthy animal fats. This position is particularly odd given that the authors spend considerable space addressing the health problems associated with trans-fats, which of course are produced from hydrogenated oils made abundant courtesy of tax-payer funded subsidies.
    In addition, that the authors’ cite the national organic standards as a “resounding success” boggles the mind. USDA NOP’s rules, relate only to process standards and not outcome. While the public believes they are buying GE/GMO-free product if it has the USDA organic seal, NOP standards only guarantee that the item is produced without GE/GMOs. USDA’s NOP is fundamentally flawed in that it guarantees, over the long-term, GMO contamination of organic crops and products, a sleight of hand it achieved by failing to define a threshold for GE/GMO contamination and any GE/GMO testing requirement of organic crops and products, because vested interests wanted to avoid such requirements. USDA policy is “Don’s ask, don’t tell, don’t test, don’t know.” Furthermore, the advent of NOP standards ushered in the consolidation of the organic market in which formerly independent organic companies were purchased by big industrial players, who have every incentive to try to water down the standards. Now, the very companies consumers are trying to avoid buying products from are the ones they are unknowingly patronizing, as parent company ownership isn’t transparent on product labels!
    Finally, while I’m sure the authors have nothing but the best intentions, I find their suggested solution to regulatory capture to be outrageous naive: They recommend avoiding regulatory agency capture by… establishing yet another regulatory agency! They do not appear to understand the fundamental reason why reason capture is possible in the first place. We should remind ourselves that the US Constitution does not provide for Congress to transfer or delegate its law-making responsibility to unaccountable, unelected regulatory agencies to which the executive branch makes political appointments. These agencies are — at essence — unconstitutional because they violate the constitution’s separation of powers and system of checks and balances, providing powerful vested interests the means to usurp governing control from public oversight. Why should we repeat the process by delegating law-making, executive and judicial powers to yet another unaccountable and unelected presidential political appointee! Isn’t that the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting another result?

  • “Taking over the editorial pages of the journal Food Policy, WSU’s Trenton G. Smith, Hayley H. Chouinard, and Philip R. Wandschneider say they want more…”
    One would hope that Smith, Chouinard and Wandschneider have not, in fact, unseated the editorial board of Food Policy and installed themselves as editors.
    If they have, we shall all be drinking deep of the anti-agriculture whackadoodle Kool-Aid, washing down a steady diet of naive impractical solutions for which we lack corresponding nutritional problems.

  • njohnson

    @Mudd
    The authors of this article have addressed one of the most important questions of our time: How do we extricate ourselves from the grip of regulatory agencies that act as a concierge service for the pharmaceutical, biotech, “food” and agriculture cartels and instead implement food policies that actually enhance our collective health rather than ensure a predictable range of degenerative diseases. They should be commended for their effort.
    Corporate-captive regulatory agencies have failed miserably to provide any meaningful protection for consumers, permitting a long list of harmful additives, colorings, flavorings, preservatives and GE/GMOs, purposely ignoring all science demonstrating the harm they cause. A recent example of this is USDA Secretary Vilsack’s deregulation of Round Up Ready alfalfa. The approval was made despite the fact that Vilsack had received an urgent letter from Dr. Don Huber warning that senior plant and animal scientists have recently discovered a new pathogen associated Roundup Ready soybeans and corn that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings, which they believe is responsible for triggering miscarriages and infertility.
    I may not agree with the authors’ solution and some of the points they make, but we are fools to ignore the need to free ourselves from the grasp of corporatism. In light of the evidence of harm caused by our food supply, a reasonable person can’t be blamed for wondering, Are they trying to make us ill and infertile?

  • Nicole Johnson

    @Mudd
    The authors of this article have addressed one of the most important questions of our time: How do we extricate ourselves from the grip of regulatory agencies that act as a concierge service for the pharmaceutical, biotech, “food” and agriculture cartels and instead implement food policies that actually enhance our collective health rather than ensure a predictable range of degenerative diseases. They should be commended for their effort.
    Corporate-captive regulatory agencies have failed miserably to provide any meaningful protection for consumers, permitting a long list of harmful additives, colorings, flavorings, preservatives and GE/GMOs, purposely ignoring all science demonstrating the harm they cause. A recent example of this is USDA Secretary Vilsack’s deregulation of Round Up Ready alfalfa. The approval was made despite the fact that Vilsack had received an urgent letter from Dr. Don Huber warning that senior plant and animal scientists have recently discovered a new pathogen associated Roundup Ready soybeans and corn that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings, which they believe is responsible for triggering miscarriages and infertility.
    I may not agree with the authors’ solution and some of the points they make, but we are fools to ignore the need to free ourselves from the grasp of corporatism. In light of the evidence of harm caused by our food supply, a reasonable person can’t be blamed for wondering, Are they trying to make us ill and infertile?