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  • Egg Recall: Scrambling the Facts about Regulation

    It’s rather ironic that the activists who routinely lament government’s failure to protect public health are among the most vociferous proponents of expanding government powers. This month’s massive egg recall, involving more than 500 million eggs from two Iowa farms, is but the latest example.

    The recall, initiated August 13, was prompted by a dramatic spike in cases of salmonella enteritidis documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From the time the news broke, blame for the salmonella outbreak has been widely attributed to “deregulation,” with a variety of consumer groups demanding stricter government oversight of the food industry in general and shell eggs in particular.

    In fact, there’s been no repeal of regulation or revocation of government authority related in any way to shell eggs in recent years. Regulation has actually increased. Under the Egg Products Inspection Act, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) regulates egg processing, egg grading, and on-farm reduction of salmonella. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, also has jurisdiction over the safety of shell eggs—including regulatory powers to limit the spread of communicable disease such as salmonella.

    Nor is it true that regulatory agencies have been hobbled by budget cuts, as is often claimed by advocates of regulatory escalation. According to researchers Susan Dudley and Melinda Warren, in their recent report A Decade of Growth in the Regulators’ Budget, outlays for the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service increased 196 percent (in real terms) between 1980 and 2011 and a whopping 1,026 percent for the FDA. Federal regulatory budgets in general have grown 75.5 percent (in real terms) between 2000 and 2010.

    That’s not to say existing food safety regulations are rational or prudently administered. There’s plenty of evidence that the regulatory authority is clumsily divided among some 15 agencies. But that’s hardly a result of deregulation. And judging by the recent actions of some food regulators, there’s a case to be made that those responsible for egg safety have too much on their regulatory plate.

    The FDA, for example, has been inspecting dog food production facilities; supervising the posting of calorie counts on vending machines, cracking down on the nutrition claims on Cheerios boxes, preparing to mandate the precise size of a “serving” (so to better fight obesity), busting Amish farmers for trafficking in raw milk, and policing massage devices.

    For its part, the DOA has been advocating a soda pop tax, promoting roadside vegetable stands, developing school gardens, paying low-income households to eat fruits and vegetables, overseeing subsidized broadband deployment, and restoring wetlands in Florida.

    The illness wrought by the salmonella outbreak is unfortunate indeed. But public health won’t be better protected by misdiagnosing the problem. Deregulation isn’t to blame for this or any of the other recent crises for which it’s been faulted—e.g., the Gulf oil spill and the financial meltdown. The fact is that misguided regulations are factors in each, and granting government ever more powers would cause worse problems, not prevent them.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to Egg Recall: Scrambling the Facts about Regulation

    1. David Brunjes, Lake says:

      Whatever happened ti just imposing costly fines on manufacturers who refuse to implement adequate process quality control in their manufacturing operations? Forget the regulations, standards, on-site inspections, and etc… by the federal government. You would be amazed at the increase in safety if a manufacturer were faced with the loss of millions of dollars for allowing an unsafe product leave their plant. And the federal government could reduce it's workforce at the same time!!

    2. Ruth Katz, West Bloo says:

      Thank you for filling in some of the blanks for me. I so want to make judgements based on accurate info and from sources with integrity.

    3. Billie says:

      Another illustration of government failure to pass off as crisis for another delusional need of more government control for increase government failures for more crisis…

    4. Vaibhav says:

      It would have been a disaster if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not documented the dramatic spike in cases of salmonella enteritidis and initiated the massive egg recall.

      The regulatory government bodies like FDA and DOA should revise the food safety regulations from time to time so as to limit the spread of communicable disease such as salmonella. And there should be transparency in the processes followed by FDA & DOA for food regulation & egg safety, etc. This will ensure and further control the outbreak of diseases like salmonella.

      Here I would like to suggest you a great place that I have recently visited, where we can address such issues, raise petitions, create groups and communities, etc. http://www.elpis.com. Elpis is an online community focused on responsible living and sustainable growth. You can measure, reduce and offset your carbon footprint; set up petitions, volunteering and fundraising projects for your favourite causes; help create action plans for sustainable communities; buy a range of eco friendly products and services; and network with other people who share a common interest in a low carbon, responsible lifestyle.

    5. George Colgrove says:

      As a bridge engineer, I have used a design code developed by a private organization that has been in place practically since the advent of the highway in America. This organization is funded by a membership of private and public sector professionals as well as the sale of its design codes. The organization is called AASHTO – American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. Our highways, bridges and other highway safety concerns are regulated by a private organization and has been for nearing a 100 years successfully. It is not the US Dept of Transportation, though they do have regulatory powers. They do not provide the design code for which our highways are designed to.

      My point is we do not need a federal DOA for this task. The DOA can be several times more effective with far fewer employees if it were run like AASHTO. The same can be said for all departments dealing with domestic. AASHTO needs to comply with laws put in place by congress it even goes so far as to comply with needs of the military. The DOA – or let's say – The American Association of State Agriculture Professionals (or whatever) as a private organization will have membership of farmers, state agriculture department employees, agriculture distributors, etc; as well as average citizens who have interest in agriculture. There will be a mixture of private and public interest in how the new laws are implemented. They will amend their own procedures with not only compliance in mind, but also how implementing new laws would have on the bottom line (also very important.)

      This is self regulation and before one starts to bash the idea as a means of the rich agriculture businesses corrupting the organization, think about what special interest is doing to each and every department in the District of Columbia. The difference with these private organizations self regulating their businesses is they are democratically run out in the open with full transparency. A federal department or agency acts in secret with very little transparency, and there is no democracy in how the regulations are developed.

      Private organizations, such as I am recommending operate under market principals. These organizations have to market themselves to pick up membership. They have to run efficiently to maintain a bottom line. Their funding comes partly from taxpayer sources, but will mostly come from the industry. These organizations are "rightly" staffed for the survivability of the organization. These organizations provide proper regulatory authority granted to it by its membership without the heavy costs that government carries.

      I do not care if we are talking about Agriculture, Education, Energy, National Parks, Minerals, or so on. All the domestic Agencies, Departments, or programs can be converted over to the private sector organizations to gain greater transparency without needing additional governmental layers to "ensure" the freedom of information is granted. These organizations will provide access of the regulatory process to the average concerned citizenry if they choose to participate.

      As for dealing with issues such as the tainted eggs; this private organization would have created the "right" regulations that would have been cost effective and desirable to follow. You essentially have people who "have skin in the game" making sure what congress wants can be done at the least cost to the industry.

      And if you have any discomfort with this idea, just remember every time you cross a bridge, it was designed by a guide developed and maintained by a private organization – not a federal agency.

    6. Andruw, Chicago says:

      Why not rewrite your first sentence until it makes sense? (No irony intended)

    7. A. Scott says:

      Beside the fact that the current regulators failed in their jobs, I wonder sometime if part of the problem is the actual size of these egg producer corporations. Looking at the pictures of these huge farms I can see how/why some of the neglect occurred. Perhaps allowing the incorporation of these huge farms [excluding the small farmer/egg producer based on competition] is such a good idea.

    8. Kevin Habib says:

      Pretty easy to see that most businesses are soley devoted to the bottom line. The bottom line is what pays their bills, pays their employees, provides dividends to stock holders, etc… But i'd be scared to leave things up to businesses to govern themselves.

      Eventually, unscrupulous practices will catch up to any business, but my fear is it will take too long and we'll discover the issue far too long after the fact.

      Look at what some of the businesses were trying to get away with last year – with ecoli in peanut butter and spinach, lead in toys and toothpaste, chemicals in pet food, cars with sticky accelerators, and on and on.

      I, for one, am happy to have someone looking over the businesses and making sure they are following standard practices.

      Just as I don't have full trust in government, I don't have full trust in the corporate world – and ideally, the two would work together to comply with best practice standards.

      I think we need that – because the who point of running a business is to make money – and to cut corners usually means more money coming in, but inferior products. I just want to make sure the products are not too inferior.

    9. George Colgrove says:

      A. Scott ,

      It is not the size of the farms; it is the fact the ag dept is using the pre 1940's methodology of regulating. Add governmental secrecy, political corruption and special interest and you have a nightmare. Moving to a new regulatory concept – like privatizing the function to open professional organizations, where regulations are developed by the industry community in the open, based on new technology represented equally by large farms and small farms, we can have relevant regulation to meet new laws passed by congress. Regulations that are relevant to making money AND providing safety. I am not scared of large farms, I AM scared of a large government. This egg failure is a failure on government, not the industry. It is a false impression that a government inspector will catch everything. AND it wrongly gives comfort to the industry that they have a last check on their operations.

      I strongly believe in an Open, transparent, democratic means of self regulation by the industry.

    10. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Seems to me the Progressives have a list, and three times a year they "Go After" another Industry in America. This month it was Eggs, and it baffles me how they justify destroying half a billion eggs for 1500 cases, that is an overreaction against the irreducible micro mimimum of bacteria. Divide 1500 by 500,000,000 as a percentage. The eggs are probably 99.993 Percent clean. No doubt the margin of error in their tests is far less than that! Salmonilla is a common bacteria. I think the problem is with the Junk Science that our Government uses which is bereft of common sense.

      Now just watch: The price of eggs will never, ever come down. And why? To make eggs idiot proof. Uh, cook them?

    11. George Colgrove says:

      Kevin Habib,

      I feel the exact same as you, except I feel it towards the feds. However, the feds can never be accused of being devoted to the bottom line. I don't care if we are talking about oil spills, rotting eggs, disaster response, spending in general, policing criminal behavior within the feds, letting terrorist through security at airports or whatever, there is never a week where we do not hear about at least one more failure either caused by or perpetuated by feds. Often feds are easily bought out by special interest. Corruption is running rampant in the District of Columbia.

      I actually think if regulations were written to preserve the bottom line of corporations they would be followed more often. The only people who can have that voice is members of the industry. You mentioned all the stuff businesses were trying "to get away with". However, for everything they tried to do, there was an inept fed or a group of inept feds allowing it to happen. The same is true with the rotting eggs. We all have accepted this unearned comfort shared by the federal community. Nevertheless, they are not doing their jobs with their inspections. Government does not work wherever it is tried. It is time for new solutions.

      I propose using private organizations made up by state government officials and the industry as well as interested citizenry to work in partnership on all aspects of the industry in question. This has worked well for nearly a 100 years with bridge and highway design, as well as building design and so on. Engineers have been utilizing self-regulation for centuries for which we all take for granted. When something fails like the Minnesota bridge, that community comes together and immediately hammers out a solution long before congress gets their first hearing together. These kinds of partnerships can quickly address issues like tainted eggs in a matter of days where the feds end up spending weeks, months and even years. Because they know how the market works, they have better access to information to trace the problem to its source quicker. Feds need to spend weeks getting caught up on the procedures before they can start getting to work.

      These bodies will be what look over the industry. These organizations come with a seal of quality, which they grant if plants meet the standards of that organization. Membership is not the only means of getting a seal. Look into how prestress concrete certifications are granted from PCI (Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute). I feel far more secure in how a plant is certified by PCI (a private organization made up of public and private members) then any federal agency. All it takes is one huge donation to a campaign, and you got a certification. I wonder if this has anything to do with the past food contaminations.

      I do trust the corporate world. I trust small business. They have "skin in the game." They know what it takes to make money, and I say they ought to make as much as they can. I do not trust government – none of it. Take a long hard look at the news covering ALL the agencies, departments, and programs. You will see waste, overlap, and redundancy running amok within the walls of every federal building. Feds serve themselves. I believe in the regulatory bodies of profit, competition and a highly educated population. This worked for 150 years before FDR.

      Sure, there are bad guys, but as of late it is hard to find them in the private sector. We currently have an administration with a large number of tax cheats. We have SEC employees spending their entire days downloading porn while the economic crisis was getting started in 2007. Madoff was simply a goon for wealthy democrats and celebrities. If you read about the Oil Spill here in Heritage, you will see the spill was a direct cause of feds not doing their jobs or allowing for BP (et al) to cut corners by providing wavers. It was the feds who gave the oil platform an award just prior to the explosion. It was also BP who gave Obama nearly a million dollars in political contributions.

      Companies who cut corners usually are the ones who go out of business – unless they are propped up by the feds. I say get the feds out of the way, provide means of self regulation with a partnership of the local public sector, and let businesses compete once again on an even playing field.

    12. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      I trust the private sector far more than the public sector to ensure the quality of services and products. If one business fails to ensure it, the consumer will quickly dispose of it by choosing another. If the public sector fails to ensure it, the consumer must live with it until they dispose of it through the ballot box which is a long and difficult process. Furthermore, as the public sector grows, the private sector feels less compelled to regulate itself. The answer is more competition in the private sector not more government.

    13. Billie says:

      It's frightening to see people crawl to the most corrupt entity there is (government) before using their own brains. Government makes exceptions not corrections. Government causes crisis and uses as excuse. Government can taint the water, poison the food, deplete energy sources by choice, as they distinctly hold themselves unaccountable.

      There can't be honest business when there is no honest governing, when government is focused on making everything a crisis only and nothing productive.

    14. Bobbie says:

      It seems a cover when visiting my elderly relatives, being served EGGS everyday? Never missed a day since the recall????? Is there really a problem to the extent of government intervention and overreach? This is just more government neglect for crisis…

    15. Pingback: Calorie Count Me Out : Smart Girl Nation

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