Free market better protection than USDA

Freedom New Mexico

Uncle Sam protects us. The United States Department of Agriculture, for example, inspects our food. So we’re safe, right?

Of course we’re not.

Absent the hard work of the Humane Society of the United States, a private entity, the USDA would remain clueless about the outrageous practices of Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Corp.
The Humane Society videotaped the company abusing “downer” cows — animals in such bad condition they can’t walk — while preparing them for slaughter.

The video led to a recall of 143 million pounds of beef last month. Downer cows pose a risk of spreading diseases.

Federal regulation of the food industry is a culprit each time we see a massive outbreak of E. coli or some other widespread food-borne health scare. The government, free from competition and civil liability, does a sloppy job inspecting food.

If the USDA were a private firm, the E. coli outbreak of 2006 would have put it out of business — as would the video of sickly cows.

Jerry Taylor, director of Natural Resources Studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, explained after a mass contamination in 1997 that private food quality assurance programs far outperform the USDA.

The kosher food industry, for example, relies on a network of 130 private companies. They compete to inspect food for more than 8,000 producers that provide more than 36 million kosher products each year.

“The competition between certification firms is fierce and has resulted in a ‘ratcheting up’ of preparation practices,” Taylor wrote of the kosher industry.

Federal food inspections, by contrast, have given consumers nothing but false security.
If we free the food industry from this federal sham, companies would have to convince consumers that the food is safe — just as kosher companies guarantee a standard their consumers demand.

In a market free from federal deception, some companies would sell irradiated foods in which a quick burst of radiation kills bacteria. For consumers willing to pay more, companies would pay for exemplary private inspection regimens — demanding ever-greater performance from inspection firms that compete.

The USDA won’t keep us safe. Consumer demands for excellence, on the part of producers and retailers, most certainly would.