An editorial by the Los Angeles Times, published over the weekend, called the new proposed food safety rules “overdue but worthy,” and argued for a mix of industry fees and Congressional funding to actually enforce the rules coming down the pipeline. “The regulations aren’t complete — a third set on imported food is still due — but it’s already clear that the associated expense, even though it’s a blip on the chart compared with the cost of contaminated food, faces adamant opposition,” read the paper. That opposition is the food industry’s stern belief that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should not levy fees against the industry to pay for the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The board points out that the cost to consumers for implementing the new rules, once passed on by the food industry, would be “almost unnoticeable” at less than $2 per year per consumer. “Companies are balking, however, at taking on any of the government’s costs for the initial implementation of the regulations, and those are considerable — up to $1.5 billion over the five years it would take to get the new system up and running. The FDA was supposed to receive extra funding to pay for it, and it has, but so far the amount hasn’t come close to what’s needed,” the editorial continued. “Beyond that is the continuing expense of enforcing the rules. So far, the FDA hasn’t put a dollar figure on this except to say that it would range from $220 million to $500 million a year. That’s a big spread, and the agency needs to develop more specific figures before there can be serious talk about how much the nation would pay and how.” “Even so, this is the time for Congress and the public to accept the fact that we cannot markedly improve the safety of our food by cutting corners. Until now, the FDA has been expected to inspect food plants at least once every 10 years, an utterly inadequate schedule that it has not always met. Under the new law, food-processing plants are supposed to be inspected at least once every three years, with more frequent inspections for foods that are at higher risk of contamination, such as peanut butter. The inspection requirement is just as important as the food companies’ safety protocols.” “Even the best plan is worthless if it isn’t followed, and this nation’s recent history of food-borne illness shows that without frequent inspections, too many companies get sloppy.” The editorial board proposes an “expense-sharing” plan of some sort, using a combination of tax dollars and industry fees. The article calls this the “most reasonable and practical solution.” “Adding up all the elements needed to put the new system in place — company changes, federal implementation and strong annual enforcement — the total would be a fraction of that, perhaps $20 a year, for that family to eat more wholesome food,” adds the paper. “No one likes to pay more at the checkout stand, but the nation already is paying heavily, in sickness, death and dollars, for failing to properly police the food industry.”