Should food safety policy be left in the hands of the federal or the state government?
In matters of critical nationwide interest, federal policy usually leads the way. Government arms like the Department of Health and Food and Drug Administration are charged with monitoring American public health.
But when the federal government has lagged in its response to pressing health-related issues—like recent widespread food contamination incidents—individual states have stepped up.
At the Washington Post
, Jane Zhang reports
on recent measures passed in state legislatures. After a recent peanut-borne salmonella outbreak, Georgia now mandates that all food processing plants report any indicator of contamination within 24 hours; California has a nearly identical measure under consideration. Oregon legislature has approved a bill to levy $10,000 fines for violations of food safety protocol. And hundreds of other bills regarding food safety have been introduced in 2009 alone.
And in the face of recent food-borne illness outbreaks, the New York Times reports
, producers have started to protect themselves: labeling their products with “food safety” instructions, strictly specifying cooking time and temperature, in order to limit their own responsibility for possible contamination.
Will state measures improve the quality of our nation’s food supply? The more of our daily diet passes through large-scale manufacture, the greater the risk of contamination—and following strict safety parameters can hardly do harm. Whether an intelligent nationwide policy will follow, however, remains to be seen.