When you sit down at a restaurant, do you ever worry that your food is contaminated?
Most Americans take for granted that a strong set of regulations and inspections is in place to ensure that the food available to end consumers is safe. However, under a Trump presidency, we are looking at the prospect that those regulations and inspections will get slashed. Americans should be very concerned about the implications of a Trump presidency for food safety.
History of food safety in the United States
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the “oldest comprehensive consumer protection agency in the U.S. federal government.” In 1906, the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act prohibited the selling of mislabeled and adulterated food and drugs. To this day, the FDA is responsible for creating a system of safeguards including inspections and testing that ensure that companies are not providing adulterated or contaminated products into our food supply.
Even with these FDA protections in place, we have still seen an increase in food-borne pathogen outbreaks in recent years. It should be noted that food safety handling by processors and consumers can also be a cause of food-borne pathogens. Common foodborne pathogens include listeria and salmonella, among others. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that “each year roughly 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.”
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law on January 4th, 2011. As the FDA states on its website: “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years… It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.”
The regulations have implications for new industry compliance standards for farmers, processors, and distributors. But under a Trump FSMA presidency, it is uncertain how FSMA will be implemented.
“FDA Food Police”
At a September 15th, 2016 speech at the New York Economic Club, Trump outlined his tax plan that includes dramatically scaling back government regulations. This includes food safety regulation activities of the FDA. Trump’s campaign fact sheet stated:
“The [FDA food safety] rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when…It also greatly increased inspections of food ‘facilities,’ and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill. My plan will embrace the truth that people flourish under a minimum government burden.”
Trump has further argued that limiting food safety and environmental protections and regulations will raise the nation’s economic growth rate to at least 3.5 percent.
Donald Trump disapproves of all regulations; he sees them as limiting business profits. During his campaign, Trump has vowed to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He has made similar claims towards the FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The irony of these pro-business arguments is that food safety regulations are saving the food industry billions of dollars that they have lost in recent decades from recalls, lost sales, and legal expenses.
With fewer preventive controls protecting our food supply, it is more likely that the United States will see an increase in food-borne illnesses. Couple that with Trump’s promise to gut the Affordable Care Act… how will consumers pay for the medical treatment for their foodborne illnesses?
*Opinions expressed in this article are of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of Healthify.