Another week, another recall – this week the name of the game is Listeria, which has already caused several deaths from infected cantaloupe and a recall on potentially infected queso fresco cheese. The USDA has been attempting to counteract such outbreaks with efforts to ramp up food safety regulations, but some feel that those efforts go too far and could deal serious blows to businesses. One of those individuals is Minnesota Representative and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
A long time opponent to more stringent food safety bills, yesterday Bachmann announced her opinion that new regulations like the USDA’s expanded E. coli tests are putting unjust burdens on food producers. According to Bachmann, these rules force businesses to spend an inordinate amount of money on complying with federal standards when they could be spending that money on expansion. According to Huffington Post, while GOP candidates have often held this talking point for other businesses, Bachmann is the first to use it in reference to the food production industry.
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"We want to have safety, but we also want to have common sense,” Bachmann told reporters while touring Amend Packing Co., a 140-year-old family owned meatpacking plant in Des Moines, Iowa. "When they make it complicated, they make it expensive and so then you can no longer stay in business."
Amend owner Kent Wiese agreed with Bachmann, stating that regulations have hampered his small business. "We do have a clean record," said Wiese. "And it all costs money. And I just wish that they could simplify it and just test it once and be done with it."
With new outbreaks and recalls cropping up every day, is rolling the USDA’s back food safety reforms truly the answer? Should small businesses be held to different standards than larger corporations? Should regulators be more lax on businesses with clean records, or is uniform stringency necessary once a few E. coli-tainted apples spoil the barrel? We expect to hear a lot more about these and related topics as 2012 presidential elections draw near.