Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Overhaul of U.S. food safety system is overdue

Los Angeles Times article "Overhaul of U.S. food safety system is overdue" (December 14th, 2009) offers a chimerical argument for an expansion of the U.S. FDA's authority for oversight of food products.

Support for overhauling the nation's food safety system is nearly unanimous. Even the agriculture industry agrees, by and large, that current levels of inspection and tracking by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are inadequate to safeguard the nation's health.

One should not be surprised that support is "unanimous" among major players in the industry. There are four players that are to be considered in food oversight. The FDA, the existing food industry, potential entrants to the food industry, and consumers. Of the four parties with a stake in food oversight, the FDA and food industry both have organized industry groups, while consumers and pre-existent firms do not. What would be better for FDA technocrats than an increase in power of oversight? And what might be better for erecting barriers to entry for an industry than a government agency they have established connections with?

In the meantime, consumers and marginal entrants do not have established connections with the FDA, and further do not have a large enough reason per person to organize as a special interest group, unlike the food industry. The food industry should use the FDA to artificially restrict output (by denying marginal entrants), and increase prices.

Why not privatize the FDA? What administration is more efficient? The FDA, or the many Kosher oversight companies, like Triangle K, KOF-K, and Orthodox Union competing with one another? It is important to note that companies like Nachalt Yitzchak and Keter HaKashrut, kosher companies that are less universally respected, may simply fall by the wayside, concurrently providing a cautionary tale. A monolithic FDA has misaligned incentives--private firms competing provide a vastly less malignant, and a fortiori more competent solution than government intervention.

No comments:

Post a Comment