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Safe Food Coalition condemns President Trump’s ‘bean counting standard’

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By Joe Whitworth+

01-Feb-2017
Last updated on 01-Feb-2017 at 11:08 GMT2017-02-01T11:08:08Z

©iStock/scarletsails
©iStock/scarletsails

The Safe Food Coalition has condemned an executive order signed by President Trump calling it a ‘bean counting standard’.

It puts in place a policy that for every new regulation issued, at least two prior ones must be eliminated.

The coalition said regulatory actions protect honest companies against those that cut corners to increase profits.

Hamper work of regulatory agencies

“This order is likely to compromise Americans’ food safety and increase the risk of widespread outbreaks of foodborne illness by hampering the work of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at USDA and the Food and Drug Administration,” it added.

“For FDA, the executive order means that the agency will have to choose between regulations that ensure our drugs are effective against disease, medical devices aren’t quack instruments, and food is safe for our children to eat any time it wants to issue a new regulation.”

Members include the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Consumers League and STOP Foodborne Illness.

The coalition said the order does not take account of benefits the public receives from regulations and only looks at the costs borne by industry.

“For food safety, like so many other public health regulations, these benefits are literally a matter of life and death, as the victims of foodborne illness and their families can attest.

“Americans should not need to worry that an arbitrary, two-for-one, bean counting standard may increase their risk of exposure to a foodborne illness outbreak involving common foods like peanut butter, cantaloupe, pork, and cilantro.”

The order places a cap of zero dollars on new regulations for fiscal year 2017. Any new costs associated with regulations this year must be offset with elimination of existing regulatory costs.

From fiscal year 2018, each agency will be given a set budget for regulatory expenses.

Hold regulatory costs on industry to zero

Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI executive director, said President Trump is calling on agencies to hold regulatory costs on industry to zero without accounting for the public health benefits of regulation.

“It’s fair to assume that this latest edict was not run by any of the agencies that actually do the serious business of regulating. If it were, Trump might have learned that not all regulations are reflexively opposed by the businesses affected by them,” he said.

“Certainly in the food safety world, responsible business leaders supported the Food Safety Modernization Act, which required the writing of new regulations that keep produce, packaged foods, and imports safe.”

Jacobson said the executive order comes from a ‘cartoonish and unsophisticated view’ of regulations and ignores the public health benefits of those rules.

“It may make for a fine photo opportunity but this edict...is not itself serious. The consequences, though, may well be.”

The good [GIPSA] vs the bad [HIMP]

The Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) said it was put in place to ‘diminish regulatory redundancy and shrink government oversight’.

But it only serves to ‘diminish hope’ for a food system that keeps consumers and workers safe and protects animal and environmental welfare.

“To be sure, there are certain regulations and government programs that would be better off eliminated precisely because they are more beneficial to large corporations than the general public.”

FIC, part of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, cited the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) developed by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as an example of such regulation.

“On the whole, however, a good number of these regulations, including the recent passage of the USDA’s GIPSA [The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration] rules, which will provide sweeping protections for small contract farmers nationwide, are absolutely necessary,” said the group.

“It’s clear, then, that this executive order will only serve to confuse agency heads and cut critical programs unnecessarily, for the sole purpose of scaling back federal oversight.”

Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said it threatens to weaken the federal government’s role in protecting the public from health threats.

"Federal rules play a critical role in protecting the public from serious health threats, including lead poisoning, deadly air pollution, toxic chemicals, food contamination and workplace injuries,” he said.

"Forcing an agency to arbitrarily identify two rules to eliminate for every new one it seeks to issue defies reason and sound policy-making. A new rule seeking to protect the public should not come at the expense of two other rules that also keep the citizens of our nation safe and healthy."

Richard Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, said the “one in, two out” policy is a ‘deeply flawed and irrational approach’ to regulation.

“Judging a regulation based solely on its costs, without considering benefits, is illogical. It is unclear how the order applies to new rules that federal agencies are legally required to issue, or how it will treat deregulatory actions,” he said.

“Regulations help improve the quality of life for Americans: they ensure food safety, protect clean water, and make airplanes and cars safer.”

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