Food Control


January 8, 2013 by Anders Ingemarson

After the Newtown tragedy the gun control battle has predictably taken center stage. 2nd Amendment defenders are right in pointing out that preventive gun control laws are punishing the vast majority of law-abiding citizens who want to own and carry a gun for legitimate reasons—protection, target shooting, hunting, etc. A few rotten eggs committing despicable crimes is not reason to violate the rights of the rest of us.

Yet in other areas subject to government control, these individuals are not as quick to stand up for their rights.

In a January 4 news release that has received little coverage, probably because America was still dozing off after two weeks of holiday feasting, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced “two new food safety rules that will help prevent foodborne illness. The proposed rules implement the landmark, bipartisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)…”. Said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a common sense law that shifts the food safety focus from reactive to preventive.” (italics mine)

Preventive food control laws punish the vast majority of law-abiding food producers, wholesalers and vendors who want to research, develop, produce, market, and sell what they think the consumer will pay for. It doesn’t matter if it’s your local sustainable, organic, grass fed beef producer or Big Food Inc. It makes no difference if it’s your favorite farmer’s market vendor or Chain Store Corp. They all have the right to follow their vision, to pursue their goals, to trade freely up and down the food chain without government interference.

Yes, we will experience the occasional salmonella infested egg, E. Coli burger and Listeria Cantaloupe. And it’s regrettable, even tragic, when it happens. But a few rotten eggs committing despicable crimes, or more likely, making fateful mistakes, is not reason to violate the rights of the rest of us. And we have plenty of objective laws on the books to deal with possible criminal and civil offenses.

In a truly free market place, as a producer or vendor, your most valuable asset is your reputation. Without government interference—with total separation of state and food—there are no preventive laws to hide behind; you better have your act together or the competition will crush you. In a truly free market place, as a consumer, there are no preventive laws tempting you to abdicate your responsibility for what you eat; staying educated becomes second nature.

Preventive gun control, preventive food control—different areas, same principle: preventive law violates individual rights.

Some may argue that we need a new amendment:

“A well regulated militiastomach being necessary to the securityhealth of a free statecitizen, the right of the peopleindividual to keep and bear armseat whatever he pleases shall not be infringed.”

I think we just need to apply the same fervor to food as we do to guns. By all means get up in arms about your right to own a rifle. But use some of your ammo to champion your right to eat what you please; and the right of your food suppliers to produce and sell it to you without government interference. In the end, if you’re like me, good food will probably do more for your happiness than a good gun.

10 thoughts on “Food Control

  1. Agreed! Sadly, the FDA is responsible for shutting down a Il Mondo Vecchio, a local artisan salumeria. Where can I vote for your recommended new amendment?


  2. Martin L Buchanan says:

    Anders, I share your principles and premises. That said, this post is not persuasive to someone who does not already agree with you. A constructive recommendation: In a free market, there is a market for voluntary regulation and safety certification as well, where the providers of those services can be consumer organizations, for profit companies, or any other kind of entity. For example, Fair Trade USA is a voluntary, 501c3 organization providing a different sort of certification, regarding trade practices. Also, in the Internet age, we have multiple vehicles, like Yelp and the Westword restaurant reviews, for sharing information about food suppliers.

    A final (for now) thought. While government might not impose strict requirements, government laws could outline rules that, if broken, imply civil liability in the civil courts, which are government institutions. For example, finding certain levels of E. Coli in a sold food product could be prima facie evidence of civil liability? I’m not a legal philosopher.


  3. Ilene Skeen says:

    On the matter of regulating food product regarding prima facie evidence of civil liability: In an objective court, one has to prove injury to get damages, so the example would not be sufficient in a true free market economy. However, in such an economy, certifying products to be safe would be a big business because consumers would likely pay more for products which have such certification. Pretending to test, but not actually testing would be fraud and would be a crime.

    Some of the existing government agencies might even be able to be privatized and make good business recommending and certifying food processors. I hesitate to name any, but it is conceivable that government bureaucrats who have technical jobs and believe passionately in food safety would find businesses who were responsible and wanted to prove their concern for their customers’ health by hiring them. Say a “Good Housekeeping” sort of organization, but one which would take responsibility along with the food purveyor. In other words, an advocate for food safety who would earn its living by voluntary trade and in whom you could trust.

    In a free market, they would be liable to suit if they lied, they would have to earn an honest living through mutual benefit, and the government could not set a legal limit on any suit if the business followed regulations. There would be no regulations. If they injured or killed their customers, you can rest assured, they would be out of business in a flash.


  4. iskeen says:

    Regarding drafting of different language for all the different specifics that the government should not be doing, what is really needed is to identify the principles of action to which the government is permitted. A rational, objective approach would be to enumerate the powers of government, not to enumerate the rights of the citizens.

    To this end, I have been working on language to define a theory of government which would cover all these different cases: guns, food, business, religion, medicine, property, abortion, etc.

    Here is what I would say we need to think about:

    There are two different theories of government. One says that governments are instituted to to judge and punish those who initiate the use of force or use fraud against others.

    The second theory says that governments are instituted to compel people to “right” behavior and that the majority of people when in agreement are a good barometer of what constitutes “right” behavior, and therefore it is correct for this majority to give the government power to impose their will on the whole people.

    In the second theory of government, there are no “private” actions by right, only actions which are private by appearance, meaning that the government has chosen not to get involved in certain activities, either through lack of interest or lack of resources.

    To attack the situation piecemeal is to fall into a Kantian trap. When the Constitution was adopted, Kant was just publishing his Critique of Pure Reason. The Founders had no rational, objective basis for government, so they did what they could. About 100 years later, Kant was well established in Europe and you will notice that the encroachment by the government on individual rights began in earnest and has continued unabated.


  5. tiffany267 says:

    Thanks for your great post. It’s sad that there’s not more defense of food liberty – it’s so important, and it’s definitely threatened by the FDA.

    I want to add to what you mentioned about salmonella and similar risks. You mentioned that any food producer, whether a family farm, a sustainable organic grower, or a large corporation ought to have the liberty to produce food without fear of being shut down. What you miss here is that the regulations are written in such a way that ONLY the Tysons, Smithfields, and other huge (and usually most irresponsible) food producers benefit. Only these companies are structured in such a way that they can afford to deal with these regs. Small growers are basically shut out of business – and that’s not by accident. It is precisely the SAFEST growers who are shut out of business by regs that are supposedly about FOOD SAFETY. The irony stings, doesn’t it? So we’re actually WORSENING the risk of salmonella, E. Coli, etc.

    In a free market, consumers can avoid unsafe, irresponsible products and boycott the companies that produce or sell them. If we had a completely free market, far more people would buy local, organic foods that support the immediate community where they live. There would be little to no high-fructose corn syrup in our foods (that’s basically an effect of the Farm Bill subsidizing corn and taxing foreign sugar since the 1970s.

    Liberate our food AND improve our food safety!


  6. tiffany267 says:

    Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    Please see my comment after reading this excellent article!


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