business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Yakima Herald-Republic has a piece about how “Washington fresh fruit growers have some new things to worry about: the type of seat that packing-line sorters sit on, how to protect plants and wetlands, and what to do when their pet dog poops in the orchard.” Such things have to be attended to, the paper notes, if farmers and producers are to have access to many markets.

“European and U.S. retailers increasingly are making these types of demands as part of the growing consumer drive for improved food safety and labor conditions,” he paper writes. “Everyone in the industrial chain, from producers to retailers, agrees that these issues are becoming critical” in an era when consumer confidence in the food supply is on the decline.

The Herald-Republic writes: “The fresh fruit industry is pushing for a commodity-specific, scientifically based program that has some uniformity. For one thing, growers and shippers want a program that takes into account the fact that fruit is grown on trees, not on the ground, and thus requires different standards from ground grown lettuce, spinach and the other vegetable crops where problems have occurred.

“Nevertheless, fresh produce industry leaders anticipate regulatory pressures to increase. They expect a drive in the next presidential administration to create a superagency on food safety. Such a move is expected to pull together elements from several existing federal agencies to better coordinate protecting the food supply. This year, a move to boost funding for the beleaguered Food and Drug Administration is expected.”

KC's View:
I’m not entirely sure that the next administration – whether Democratic or Republican – is going to make food safety the kind of priority that some would like. After all, it doesn’t exactly seem to be a big discussion point in any of the campaigns; I haven't seen all the debates, but I don't recall it even being discussed in those that I have seen.

Still, I would like to see a so-called “superagency” … but only if it doesn’t just cobble together the mistakes and inefficiencies of the past.

I want to believe. Really, I do. But I don't have a lot of confidence.