10.31.2010 0

Nanny State Returns in Lame-Duck Session

  • On: 11/19/2010 09:14:10
  • In: First Amendment
  • By Rebekah Rast

    When government authorities raided Rawesome Foods in Venice, Calif., in June, they weren’t there to tackle an illegal substance or behavior; instead, with guns drawn, they were after the milk and cheese.

    Rawesome Foods is a specialty market, selling raw and organic foods, including unpasteurized milks and cheeses.

    Government officials say the reason for the raid was for the protection of consumers, that eating and drinking raw products can lead to a host of food-borne diseases. Those who consume the products sold at Rawesome Foods know full well what they are eating and drinking and think the raid was about government control, not their health.

    * * *

    Currently being debated in the Senate is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Passed more than a year ago in the House, this legislation broadens the authority of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and pushes more responsibility on farmers and food processors to prevent food-borne illnesses.

    If passed, this legislation would require more FDA personnel to do all the necessary inspections of not only big corporate farms, but of “all food ‘facilities’ — including those home-based businesses that make jam, bread and cheese for local markets — would be required to undertake periodic hazard analyses and produce ‘risk-based preventive controls’,” according to The Foundry, The Heritage Foundation’s blog.

    The Foundry went on to state that the, “Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would require 50,000 domestic and foreign inspections in 2015, compared to just 7,400 in 2009.”

    Also to consider is the cost of this legislation. Orit Sklar, spokeswoman for the grassroots coalition My Food. My Choice!, states, “We are concerned with the unchecked power this will give to the FDA and at the overwhelming cost to the taxpayers and consumers. According to the CBO, the legislation, which also includes non-FDA program funding in the hundreds of millions, will cost more than $1.4 billion over five years. All new fees placed on our nation’s producers, if this passes, will reach into the hundreds of millions. The consumers will foot the bill for this, too — at the check-out counter.”

    Because of the regulations and cost this bill carries with it, some worry that it could push local, small farmers out of business.

    According to a Washington Post article, “Sen. John Tester (D-MT), himself a farmer, negotiated language into the bill to exempt small farmers who have annual sales of less than $500,000 and sell the majority of their product directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers in their state or nearby.”

    The article quoted Sen. Tester as saying, “The risk that they pose is small. They have the ability to meet their consumers eyeball to eyeball. They’re not raising a commodity; they’re raising food. There’s a pride of ownership.”

    If, however the FDA feels that the small farm is not taking the proper precautions against food-borne illnesses then its exemption can be revoked.

    This legislation makes you wonder what has happened in America that it would need the FDA to step into crisis-management mode to protect consumers from food-borne illnesses.

    Are incidences of food-borne illnesses on the rise? Not according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Then why the rush to give the FDA more power?

    “This is clearly another push by Harry Reid and the Democrats in Congress to expand government powers,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “Americans have the right to choose where they shop for groceries and what they eat.”

    In a vote of 74 to 25, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) won the right to debate this legislation. “It seems clear to me that Congress didn’t get the message sent to them on Nov. 2,” Wilson explains. “Americans don’t want more government involvement, especially in our diets.”

    Sklar agrees, and adds, “We know that securing the safety of food in the marketplace will not occur through bigger, more costly, more burdensome government. Solutions will not come through the empowerment and funding of unaccountable, faceless, executive branch bureaucrats. If we promote an environment of innovation, we will reach food safety solutions more quickly, and without spending taxpayer dollars.”

    As the Senate debates and possibly grants the FDA more power, the customers of Rawesome Foods know their fight with the government is just beginning.

    A Los Angeles Times article that highlighted the raid quoted Aajonus Vonderplanitz, co-founder of Rawesome Foods, as saying, “This is about control and profit, not our health. How can we not have the freedom to choose what we eat?”

    If this legislation is passed, many more Americans might be echoing that very same question.

    Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to the Americans for Limited Government News Bureau.


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