Food Safety Act: More Government Without Accountability

Jonathan Emord

You learn a lot about members of Congress from the bills they introduce. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) tells us a lot about Illinois Senator Richard Durbin. Durbin loves big government. Quick to condemn entire sectors of the American economy based on a few rotten apples, he rarely criticizes big government for doing too much regulating because he believes to his core that government is doing too little of it. You will not hear Durbin complaining that government power must be carefully checked to prevent abuse and to stem violations of civil or economic liberties. Indeed, if he believes in economic liberty at all, it is a well kept secret.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act adds power to FDA precisely at a time when the agency is discredited by Inspector General reports, by private assessments of its performance, and by judicial decisions against the agency. Its abuses are legion, including approval of unsafe drugs against its own medical reviewers’ objections; failure to remove unsafe drugs from the market for decades, if at all; failure to abide by federal court orders; censorship of nutrient-disease information that could save lives, and on and on. Before you would ever want to give a government agency so abusive of the public trust more power, you would want to be sure that you gutted it of the power it so abusively wields and put in place safeguards against future abuses of power.

Although Durbin knows of these abuses, he does nothing to end them. Instead, he just keeps on giving FDA more and more power—a bit like the best friend of a drunken sailor.

Although the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act calls for the Food and Drug Administration to perform many more food inspections, it includes no provision to protect against abuses arising from inspections. It includes no provision to require that inspectors possess requisite education, training, or skill necessary to discern the existence of adulteration. It does not even limit food safety inspections to inspections for adulteration. Rather, it is an open invitation for FDA to inspect without any limitation on the scope of that inspection power.

Imagine that a policeman was permanently stationed in front of your house. Imagine further that he could inspect your house whenever he chose to do so without any advance notice. Imagine also that during the inspection, he could ask you to produce anything in the house he desired to examine and could ask you any question he cared to, whether germane to a specific law violation or not. At last, imagine that he could stay for as long as he wanted; or, that if you wanted him to leave, he could then go get a subpoena without your knowledge and compel you to turn over everything in your house (the family cat included). You might well declare that your privacy had been taken from you, that you lived under the thumb of rapacious government, and that you appeared to have no presumption of innocence or Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. You would be correct, of course, but this is precisely the kind of reign of terror members of Congress like Richard Durbin (and ally Henry Waxman) seek to create for select American businesses they detest.

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