Paul Krugman kvetches, “Without question, America’s food safety system has degenerated over the past six years.” Alex Tabarrok smacks him down with actual data, showing the trend in food-borne disease outbreaks is clearly downward.
But what struck me about Krugman’s column was the following, offered as evidence that the FDA is falling down on the job: “What we do know is that since 2001 the F.D.A. has introduced no significant new food safety regulations except those mandated by Congress.”
What wacky theory of regulation says we must have new food safety regulations every year? It’s not as though the old ones expire. Even if you believe that government regulation of food safety is justified and important, that doesn’t mean the total regulatory burden has to increase every year.
I suppose that changing times might require changing regulations. Maybe. But unless there are substantial changes in our eating habits or food production techniques, we should then expect modest and incremental regulatory changes over time. Yet Krugman says there have been no significant new food safety regs – thereby indicating that the FDA has, in fact, created new safety regulations in the last seven years, but that’s not good enough for him. Krugman also indicates that Congress has approved significant new food safety regulations.
So to summarize: (1) it’s not enough for the FDA to maintain existing food safety regs; (2) it’s not enough for the FDA to create modest additional regs on top of existing legislation; and (3) it’s not enough for the FDA to create modest additional regs on top of significant new legislation. Nope – for the FDA to meet Krugman’s exacting standards, it must always be creating new and significant food safety regulations every year, on top of both existing regulations and new mandates passed by Congress. And that is Krugman’s beef with the FDA.