Another ‘Free Market’ Problem

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For those of you following the story about the salmonella outbreak resulting from tainted peanut products that were produced at a Georgia plant (an outbreak which is now responsible for at least eight deaths and 575 illnesses in 43 states), I noticed something quite revealing in this latest report on the incident:

“Problems at the plant are not new. FDA inspectors found in 2001 that products potentially were exposed to insecticides, one of several violations uncovered during the last visit federal officials made before the current food-poisoning scare, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press.”

Further on, the article says:

“Some of the problems FDA discovered at the plant in 2001 are similar to those found last month, when federal inspectors returned to the plant after nearly eight years [emphasis mine].”

Let’s reflect on those two quotes. In 2001, the FDA sent its health inspectors out to inspect a food plant. The inspectors uncovered what is considered an unacceptable/possibly dangerous situation at the plant. Why did the FDA then wait EIGHT YEARS to send its health inspectors back for a follow-up visit to the same plant to see if the situation had been rectified, and to see if any other unacceptable situations may have cropped up since their first inspection?

Pretend for a moment that we are living in a country where an FDA-type agency is not forced upon us by the government (You know—like the first 130 years of this country, before the 1906 establishment of the FDA, when the growing population of the U.S. managed to survive without government food inspections). Now let’s pretend that some food retailer—let’s say Kroger—decides that it either wants to have its own food inspection division or else hire an independent food inspection firm to make periodic inspections of the companies that are supplying the food products which will eventually wind up in the final processed foods that appear on Kroger’s store shelves. Kroger sends its inspectors to the same Georgia plant that the FDA sent its own inspectors. Kroger’s inspectors uncover the same problems that the FDA’s inspectors did. Does anyone reading this post truly believe that upon hearing this less-than-stellar (though not catastrophic) report on the Georgia plant from Kroger’s own food inspectors, Kroger would respond, “Thanks for a thorough report. I presume you won’t be doing a follow-up inspection on the plant for another EIGHT YEARS?”

This Georgia plant catastrophe is a no-win situation for the people (both Liberals and Conservatives) who believe that only government can protect us from problems in the private sector. Here’s why:

If these people think that the EIGHT YEAR gap was due to underfunding, well since the FDA has still been around since 2001, the FDA obviously had enough time and money to send out notices (how about cheap, fast, efficient paperless emails?) alerting all food retailers of the initial situation at the Georgia plant—but warning the retailers that the FDA is so underfunded that it won’t be able to do a follow-up visit for EIGHT YEARS. (You would think that, at the very least, it is the FDA’s responsibility and professional duty to do this.)

If underfunding of the FDA was not the issue, then if an EIGHT YEAR gap for a follow-up visit to a plant that had some problems (regardless of how serious or benign the problems were) on a previous inspection is the standard operating procedure at the FDA, then I hope this shows to these same Liberals and Conservatives that this is what happens when you have only one entity—which you are FORCED to pay for and CANNOT compete with—impose its standards on what are, in actuality, your responsibilities to your customers.

EIGHT YEARS??!! If a private inspection firm operated as irresponsibly and unprofessionally like this, do you think that the Federal Government, the sick victims, and the families of the dead victims would blame only the Georgia plant for this tragedy?

7:04 am on February 8, 2009