How safe is my dinner?

Following up from my previous post, another topic of conversation that came up at dinner last night was the merits (or lack thereof) of regulation. Interestingly, the importance of regulation was cited in response to my suggestion that Social Security was largely a scam. Ignoring the incongruities of the two topics, we had an interesting discussion largely revolving around food safety. My father currently works for the US Department of Agriculture as an inspector at a meat-packing plant, so the topic is somewhat close to home. I was not ready to argue (yet) that we do not need government food safety inspectors, but my father’s own observations working at the plant suggest that the corporations running the plants have a very keen interest in maintaining food safety and if the government inspectors were not present, it is highly unlikely that there would be no safety inspections occurring at all, just that they would be performed by employees working for the company that runs the plant instead of the government. One of the friends suggested that perhaps the plants would still have an interest in maintaining food safety, but only “good enough” safety, i.e. people might not die from the food but would be more likely to get sick. I think this is an interesting topic worth researching further, namely the question of whether or not our food is safer than it would be without government safety inspectors.

An excellent interview with Milton Friedman by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution discusses the merits of deregulation and libertarian ideals for how the government ought to be run. It doesn’t deal with food safety, but talks a bit about how the FDA’s regulation of prescription drugs has possibly led to more deaths than it has actually saved lives.

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