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Food Safety News

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Letter From The Editor: Reform Anyone?

I use to tell people I was translator because I earned a living taking the intricacies of regulatory systems and explaining how to meet those requirements to normal business people.  

I first developed the skill in construction and land use, and later transferred it to big communications facilities.

There are some common structures to regulation. I see the common architecture in food safety, too. I see similarities from projects I’ve taken through construction and communications approvals.  


One lesson I learned was to avoid trying to “take out” regulations that are obsolete, duplicative, or just no longer sensible. This includes those situations where the decision-making regulatory official would prefer to have the regulation removed.

The reason: It usually just takes too much time. 

My role was to make things happen, and that sometimes meant doing stupid and duplicative things just for the government because it saves time and money. 

I was reminded of this after hearing former federal Transportation Security Agency (TSA) Administrator Kip Hawley being interviewed about his new book “Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security.”

Hawley was talking about those little disposable cigarette lighters that were banned from commercial airplanes for years, long after they were proven not to be threat.  (The bad guys have gone to small electric igniters that work 100 percent of the time, so the next underwear bomber is not going to be like the last one nervously trying to light his own pants on fire.)

But it took running the whole TSA regulatory system in reverse and an Act of Congress to repeal the law prohibiting disposable lighters. 

Hawley seems to be making the case that American security requires TSA to be nimble and flexible because the daily threat to two million air passengers is not static.

The case Hawley makes for air safety, I think can also be made for food safety. I’d sooner the food safety regulatory system be aware of what’s changing out there, and be nimble and quick. For that, I’d be more than willing to cut things out that are duplicative or antiquated.

So, I thought I would make this offer. If you have suggestions for food safety regulatory reform, I’d be more than happy to run them up the flagpole. If you want to remain anonymous, that’s fine.

If you recently have been through a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection, and there was something that you found really stupid, let us help get it off your chest. Or if USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates your business and there is some part of that daily regulation that bothers you, let us know.

Likewise, we’d be happy to look into any suggestions involving state and local regulation.

What I promise is that Food Safety News will thoroughly look into the regulation, including its purpose and effectiveness.  We’ll also look at why it is kept in place and whether it might be possible to remove it entirely.

This is an experiment. We’ll be your ombudsmen for regulations that you think are unnecessary. Let’s stay out of issues already in the news, like poultry inspections and lean finely textured beef.

Write me at: dflynn@foodsafetynews.com with the details and put the word “Regulation” in the subject line. While you can remain anonymous, I will need your contact information for questions and clarifications. 

I will do the translating.

© Food Safety News