FDA Okays Safer Spinach but Not Tomatoes
September 25, 2008
Washington, DC--Eight years after grocers asked the Food and Drug Administration for permission to kill salmonella and E. coli by irradiation, the agency is preparing to approve that treatment for spinach and iceberg lettuce.
Romaine lettuce and tomatoes, however, must wait until the FDA gets around to considering those particular vegetables.
“If a private company stood by while customers died, instead of implementing known safety measures, it would be criminally prosecuted and driven out of business in a storm of public outrage,” said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “But when the FDA plods along nonchalantly for eight years, churning paperwork while people drop dead from food-borne diseases, no one calls for the agency’s abolition.
“The FDA’s existence is based on the false belief that profit-seeking grocers will poison their customers if not required to seek prior government clearance for each product they sell. But in fact, the profit motive is what keeps businesses vigilant about product safety. A grocery store that paid no attention to food-borne pathogens would soon go out of business, in favor of stores that did. Customers’ best guarantee of food quality and safety will always be the need of growers and purveyors to guard their reputations.
“If consumers are leery of irradiation, they are free to avoid buying foods prepared that way. But grocers should be free to offer such produce to those who welcome the increased safety that irradiation brings. Government should not have the power to interfere with free trade in food.”
Mr. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on legal issues. A former lawyer and law school instructor, who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland, his op-eds have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, and many other newspapers. Mr. Bowden has given dozens of radio interviews and has appeared on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes.
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