Food Companies Threaten Higher Prices If FDA Increases Safety Oversight

Last week, the Grocery Manufacturers Association told lawmakers that if the FDA doubled its safety oversight budget by increasing fees from food companies, they’d have to raise prices to make up the cost. That’s right: affordable food or safe food. Choose one!

“Inevitably there would be an increase in the cost of the products that is passed on to the consumer,” Cal Dooley, the group’s president and a former Democratic lawmaker, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. “You are further compounding the rapid increase in food prices, the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent years.”

The chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John D. Dingell (D., Mich.), responded that better oversight would translate into lower legal fees because it would reduce lawsuits, but we have a feeling the food companies would pass the cost directly to the supermarket shelves and take a wait-and-see (and then profit from) approach to future legal bills.

With the legislative changes, “you would get safe food from places like China, where they sell all manner of crap,” Dingell told Dooley.
 
Under the proposal, food producers would have to pay annual registration fees of $2,000 per facility, generating $600 million for FDA food-safety activities, more than doubling the current budget. The FDA would be required to conduct inspections every two years of both domestic and foreign makers of drugs and medical devices.

“Food firms testify fee would hurt” [Philly.com]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. leprofie says:

    And why wouldn’t the food companies pass on the costs? That’s business! I’m not too impressed with Dingell either.

  2. Why not just go directly to Soylent Green and get it over with?

  3. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    Safe food please.

  4. I’d rather be safer with the things I injest, I doubt any Americans will suffer from malnutrition because of this move. Alas, bigger government doesn’t usually help the problems long term.

  5. azntg says:

    Way to go Grocery Mfg. Assoc.! Way to look like complete asshats!

    While I personally think that a food price increase to consumers are inevitable if the manufacturers incur a raise in expenses, the organization wins 1st Prize for using that as a sharp threat for a vital items. There’s a right way to use PR and a wrong way too… Jerks!

  6. EWGF says:

    @Steaming Pile:

    We’re still busy razing the land for biofuels.

  7. Tux the Penguin says:

    Why is this a story? Honestly, its just a company saying “our expenses are having to go up so we’re going to pass it on to the consumer.”

    If you want more safety, it’ll cost more. You want it faster, it’ll cost more. You want it better, it’ll cost more. That’s just common sense.

    Add onto that the old saving: fast, cheap and good. You can only have two of the three. But with the government, you’d be lucking if you get one.

  8. timmus says:

    Well, to me it’s a tacit admission that the food supply is unsafe, no matter how they want to spin it.

  9. jaydez says:

    I think im gunna buy a farm and grow my own food.

  10. ThomFabian says:

    @timmus:
    No, its an admission that the new fees paid to the FDA would have to be passed on to the customer. Which, really, is just common sense.

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    @timmus: Strikes me that way too.

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    @ThomFabian: new fees to ensure that, the FDA, y’know, does it’s freaken job.

  13. ThomFabian says:

    @Trai_Dep:
    Yeah, I misinterpreted his earlier post. I somehow read it as an admission by the food producers that the food was unsafe.

    No doubt, it does sound like the FDA (or whoever proposed this) thinks the food is unsafe.

  14. m1k3g says:

    Food companies to public: “Eat the poison food and shutup or we’ll charge you more for it”

  15. Tux the Penguin says:

    @m1k3g: Over the total amount of food consumed in the US, what percentage of it is “bad”? Look at the last few years and I bet you that its well under 1%, probably closer to 0.01%.

    If you want to pay $50 for a head lettuce, I can probably make sure that only a one in a billion heads are unsafe.

    Come on people, its not like we have people getting sick and dying in mass numbers due to bad food.

  16. tz says:

    I’m missing something. If food companies are forced to give a chunk of money to the government, where will that money come from? Apparently the Consumerist doesn’t think this represents a cost. But they complain about many other fees that take money out of consumer’s pockets – they shouldn’t just be absorbed, but there is no one to pass them on to.

    Worse, Government is generally incompetent when it is not outright corrupt. There will still be accidents and lawsuits, even if you inspect once every two years (and assuming you do something more than before the e-coli problem, the USDA’s sniff test on beef).

    And what about the vegetables I get at the local farmer’s market (or the pickup on the corner with just picked corn in summer)? Can’t have that!

    There can also be certifications from private organizations (that would be liable), or the food companies liability insurance – it is not in their interest to pay big damages.

    SUVs are safer than subcompacts. But they are more expensive initially and to run. Congress cannot change physics, mathematics, or biology. Or economics.

    And techniques like irradiation which will kill everything which could harm you are either banned or require dire warnings (I approve of truth in labeling, but only that).

    You might want perfection even if things are eaten unwashed and raw, or years past their expiration date – and would be willing to pay triple what you do today, but I prefer to use my money more sensibly.

    Every dollar you force me to pay for ultrasafe deluxe organic food because you want it is a dollar I can’t use for shelter or medicine.

    Why not create a Consumerist certification service so you would inspect everything and give your stamp of approval for whatever fee, and suffer any liability?

  17. bwide says:

    Maybe it’s time to start capping corporate profits and executive pay. Every time we talk about doing something in the name of the general public, be it taxing corporations or requesting safety, the corporate response is, “The cost will be passed on to the consumer.” For the love of Pete, we let them rape and pillage in the name of the free market. What the hell is wrong with us?

    It isn’t that we want more safety; it’s that we want all the safety that has disappeared these recent years in our ongoing lust to let corporations make as much money as possible and to outsource our lives to slave-labor countries.

  18. bohemian says:

    I guess it really depends on what foods were talking about? Only those made overseas or largely with overseas ingredients from places like China?

    Or are we talking everything including US produced basic ingredients like flour, sugar, milk etc?

    They can make slave labor shrimp from Thailand and junk like snackwells packs go through the roof and I could care less. It is the basic food ingredients I care about. If it becomes more expensive to have pickles made in China or India vs. having pickles made here I’m all for it. I would rather see stateside goods have an edge.

  19. Snarkysnake says:

    We’re about to find out what human lives and health are really worth to food companies , congress and consumers.I personally would pay a reasonable amount for VERIFIABLE safety.

    You folks that decry “Big Government” must enjoy being fucked hard by “Big Business”. (Two sides of the same coin in my book). The fact is, business will do whatever is in their (short term) interests at all times. And please don’t give me the argument that “the free marketplace will sort it all out” Bullshit. If that were true, there wouldn’t be over 50,000 lobbyists in Washington trying to rig the game for one company over another (and its customers).

    More food safety. Good.
    Less food safety. Bad.
    Contaminated,unsafe,adulterated Chinese food in your supermarket now. Bad.

  20. Starsmore says:

    “These are just costs that will be passed to the consumer…”

    …because, y’know, those CEOs really need multi-billion dollar payouts…. how else could they afford another solid-gold humvee?

  21. Moosehawk says:

    My immune system is great …
    and I suppose I am a cheap ass …

    I’m gonna have to take the gamble on this one and go with cheap food

    Besides, I can’t remember the last time ramen was contaminated with e-coli or something

  22. Techguy1138 says:

    @Tux the Penguin:
    Nah. This is just a scare tactic by the supermarket association.

    The total impact of this spread over all food items sold in the US will amount to less than pennies per item.

    We are not getting sick or dying because of the FDA and the inspections that it runs.

    For the most part companies follow the rules, however some times places want to be more competitive and cut corners . When this happens it drives a trend for everyone to cut corners because now everyone has to compete.

    It actually hard to die of a food problem. You can get pretty darn sick maybe for month mostly for a days.

    Food in many parts of China is full of toxic chemicals and other poisons and people don’t die. That is the attitude that the Chinese government has on the issues, funny enough it’s also your view.

    So go forth and eat cadmium enriched carrots from China. I’ll pay the 2 cents a pound for safe food.

  23. crichton007 says:

    Affordable or saf-er food. I don’t trust that increased oversight would make it safe. More than likely this is extra cost that would be passed along to line the pockets of someone that doesn’t need any more lining.

  24. ChuckECheese says:

    @Tux the Penguin: Actually, if you read The Consumerist, it seems the incidence of contaminated food is about one in two packages. Between the mouse jaw cereal and the jellyfish floating in Snapple bottles anyway.
    $2000 per facility is nothing, miniscule fractions of a penny per unit of production on a yearly (even on a daily) basis for many producers. I don’t know what the deal would be for smaller producers though.

  25. johnva says:

    Americans pay very little for food as a percentage of our per capita income. We could easily absorb even a major price increase.

  26. Islandkiwi says:

    Is there even a debate here? Safe food, please!

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    I propose a Free Market Certified! label so the blowhards can save a penny per 100lbs, die whimpering deaths alone and friendless – their children and pets being killed off years ago – and leave us alone.

  28. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Why isn’t the FDA satisfied with the safety of our food?

    If it’s because the food companies are slacking off, then they can damn well eat the cost of increased federal oversight, because it’s their own fault. Had they done their jobs in the first place, this wouldn’t be necessary.

  29. wfpearson says:

    Since when has the FDA guaranteed the safety of any food product? Food will be more expensive, there will be problems keeping it on the shelves, the public won’t be any safer.

  30. johnva says:

    @Trai_Dep: Actually that’s a great idea. We could allow unsafe food to be sold cheaply, but require a big fat warning label on it.

  31. teqjack says:

    I used to work (70s-80s) for a large company which had a meat packer as a subsidiary. The FDA inspectors/inspections were at least partly paid for directly (ie, it was billed for time) by the company, which nonetheless actually complained that there were not enough inspectors or inspections.

    And yes, if you increase the cost of doing business you had bloomin` well better expect the increased cost not only to be passed along to you but with an added percentage to keep profit level (percentage) constant.

  32. BigNutty says:

    So what can we do?

    Beef? Mad cow disease and sick cows.

    Chicken? Injected with to much stuff.

    Fish? Too much mercury,

    Vegitables, Too much pesticide,

    Organic? Too many bugs and contaiminated water.

    I think I’ll go along with steaming pile and eat Soylent Green food.

  33. LUV2CattleCall says:

    $600 Million / 300 million people = $2 per person/year. So…the only reason this would have a significant impact on food prices is if the company had to make “real” changes, which, of course, means that there are huge issues needing to be fixed currently.

  34. Candyman says:

    @bohemian:

    WTF? Slave labor from Thailand?

  35. mmstk101 says:

    “you would get safe food from places like China, where they sell all manner of crap,”

    um . . . this doesn’t seem very PC to me.

    funny, yes. true, quite possibly. politically correct? not so much.

  36. ConRoo says:

    People, just use common sense when handling and preparing food. I really don’t see the need for more incompetent FDA regulation.

    Choose wisely
    Wash throughly
    Cook to the proper temperature

    Big brother will never be able to catch everything!

  37. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Americans pay very little for food as a percentage of our per capita income.
    @johnva: Doesn’t mean most people have a lot of wriggle room in their budgets. Hopefully this will be a moot point, but I don’t think it would be easy to absorb a significant increase in food prices.

    That said, I’d rather have safer food (assuming this does lead to problems being caught before most of the contaminated food has been eaten).

  38. Techguy1138 says:

    @ConRoo: You can never wash the cadmium out of your food.

    The FDA regulations are there to make sure that proper food handling is all you need to keep your food safe.