Should the government do more to ensure food safety? Every year, food-borne illnesses kill hundreds of people. In 2011, a deadly crop of cantaloupes that carried the bacteria listeriosis killed 30...

Should the government do more to ensure food safety?

Every year, food-borne illnesses kill hundreds of people. In 2011, a deadly crop of cantaloupes that carried the bacteria listeriosis killed 30 people. The turkey producer, Jenny-O, was forced to recall 50,000 pounds of turkey due to salmonella fears. Dole had to recall 30,000 cases of spinach. The list goes on and on, and every year people die or are sickened from food they consume. Should the government do more to ensure food safety? 

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The economy has definitely made a huge dent in overall quality assurance, which leads to this question, as well as many similar inquiries regarding quality vs. quantity in production.

This being said, I have to agree with the previous posters. Imposing more FDA regulations may result in more spending (from the consumers and producers) when trying to meet higher production standards. As a result, food may become more expensive and that is not a smart move, particularly with the different controversies that have arisen concerning government spending, in general.

However, in comparison to earlier times, as the previous posts noted, we could argue that the salmonella breakouts and the recalls that have come up in the food industry are not the norm, but the exception. Either way, regulations must be put in place; an "exception" can still prove to be quite fatal and dangerous. Therefore, all that the government needs to do is work harder at this without charging the consumers, since we are already trusting the government to do its job WELL, and we are also paying a good penny to feed our families.

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not normally for increased government power, but in the case of food, a baseline of health standards is vital to prevent epidemics. However, that does not mean that the government should be overreaching its authority -- if food is safe to consume but can have health consequences, it should be honestly labeled and provided for sale. The recent example of the FDA restricting a dairy farm for selling fresh, unpasteurized milk is a perfect example; while health concerns over raw milk are certainly valid, the government position should be availability of information. The FDA should take steps to ensure that food is safe to eat; they should not take steps to limit consumer purchasing power. If I want to buy unpasteurized milk, I should have the option; making sure food doesn't have botulism doesn't compare to restricting food that is safe for most but not for some.

Basically, I think the FDA should be overhauled to spend more of their time on spot-checking and labeling food, and less time on prosecuting insignificant issues.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Food preparation and government regulation is, of course, much better than it used to be.  A person only has to take one quick skim through The Jungle by Upton Sinclair know that the government and the FDA have made incredible strides in safe-guarding the preparation of food for consumers.  If a similar exposé were written today about factories where our food was prepared, I would hope that it would not be quite so horrifying as The Jungle was to consumers in the early 1900s, but post #1's information about salmonella and recalls suggests that more stringent policies may need to be enforced.  From my own personal experience working in a restaurant, I know for a fact that what goes on behind the scenes is not always as rosy as customers would like to believe, so I wonder what must be going on behind the scenes at Jennie-O and Dole, in our meat-packing plants and vegetable fields.

Our government should make regulating food production on of its top priorities to protect its citizens from possible sickness or contamination from  unsafe practices in our fields and factories.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is obvious something has to be done. These sorts of food catastrophes didn't formerly occur. They are a fairly new intrusion into our peace and health. At least in part, I'm thinking of the spinach and lettuce (and baby carrots?) disasters, the problem lay with the packaging. Vegetables and fruits were at one time never cut up into bits and stored in plastic bags and containers (dangerous in their own right) for the convenience of time-pressed consumers. This packaging causes an increase of a more fertile field for contamination (not to mention the plasticizers and toxins related to plastics packaging). A viable and wise and good first step would be to enact strict regulation about proper safe packaging for perishables. Of course, this may mean not having access to pre-cut lettuce or pre-peeled baby carrots, but it would lead to a reduction in at least some food disasters, for private consumers and restaurants.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would argue that we have no choice when it comes to increasing government regulation and oversight with regards to food safety.  The only other option is voluntary industry compliance with safety standards, and inevitably, businesses will take the action that least impacts their bottom line.

Americans' sources of food are more centralized, industrialized and processed than ever before, which means consumers have fewer options when sourcing their food, particularly in "food deserts" like Detroit or Harlem, which have very few grocery store options and virtually no local produce, or where food is generally unaffordable.

Given these realities, I would say government has to take a greater share of the burden of protecting the public from contaminated or dangerous food.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maybe it should, but it is not at all practical for it to try to do so in our current political and economic climate.  While there is a danger from food-borne disease, it is small and most people do not tend to feel that it is a real danger to them.  What they would worry about much more is the added expense that would be passed on to them if the FDA, for example, were to put much more stringent requirements on food producers.  It is unlikely that people would accept higher prices caused by greater regulation in return for a relatively low perceived benefit.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's easy to say that the government should do anything and everything to protect us from anything and everything, but we are quickly reaching the point in this country where the government will be doing less and less of just about everything.

As long as we heading toward fiscal disaster I wouldn't expect the government to be taking on much more expense than they already have. In fact, we should expect less government help.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, the government should do more to ensure that factories and restaurant have safe food standards.  I have been watching Restaurant Impossible too much lately.  In this show, a chef goes into failing restaurants and tries to rescue them.  The conditions in some of these restaurants are deplorable.

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