The Senate is scheduled to vote this evening on the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization bill, and thus sustainable food evangelists Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) took to the Times Op-Ed pages today to shout a tandem “Hell yes!” in Congress’s general direction. The bill would, for the first time, provide a federal system for pathogen testing, and as the duo writes, “[the F.D.A.] would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill.”
Republican opponents like Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, sounding the cry of Tea Partyers who don’t want another dime of taxpayer money spent on anything except the investigation into President Obama’s citizenship, says that the federal government doesn’t need the power to institute a national, mandatory food recall because “not once in our history have we had to force anyone to do a recall.” Pollan and Schlosser quickly debunk that argument, pointing to a peanut butter company who just last year refused to recall products despite requests from the F.D.A. and a nationwide salmonella outbreak that was linked to tainted peanut butter.
We’re actually starting to think that these anti-food-safety-bill Tea Partyers might be secret Alice Waters acolytes at heart, given that many of their arguments stem from wanting to protect small farms. Wouldn’t the argument against national food safety regulation necessitate a more locavore stance? National food distribution requires national food safety oversight, but if we just kept everything at the farmers’ market level there’d be no need! A lot of the opposition is pinned to saving small business and farms from the added expense of complying with new food safety rules, but if these places never sold anything outside of farmers’ markets in their own counties, they would probably be quicker to self-police and issue recalls themselves.
In any event, Senators don’t want to be on the wrong side of this issue, given the thousands of people who die every year from food-borne illness. Any argument against stronger national oversight sounds pretty archaic in the post-egg-recall, post-mad-cow-disease era. And JFYI, you can watch the debate right now on CSPAN, but like everything on CSPAN, it’s painfully boring.
A Stale Food Fight [NYT]
Earlier: Michael Pollan Thinks $8 For a Dozen Eggs Is a Bargain [Grub Street]
Easy Solution to the Egg Recall: Don’t Buy Cheap Eggs [Grub Street]
Another Documentary Tries to Turn Food Inc. Frown Upside Down [Grub Street]