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Exemptions from the Nanny State

Based on the tone of this article, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to feel sorry for those engaged in “Chicago’s rich and beloved artisanal ice cream scene.” Instead, I’m rolling my eyes and telling them to cry my a freakin’ river. Sympathy is the last thing these folks get from me in this case.

Apparently, the darling of this “artisanal ice cream scene” is in trouble with authorities for operating without the correct licenses and distributing her products to supermarkets without following basic food safety guidelines set by the state. Instead of thanking her lucky stars they don’t appear to be going after her with massive fines for said operations, she’s crying to the media that she shouldn’t have to follow these food safety regulations that also apply to “massive creameries,” aka her competition.

She laments that she is being asked to test for bacteria, use a pasteurizer, meet state mandates for labeling of what’s in her food products, and get the licenses that all businesses in her field are required to have. The article leans toward demanding an exemption for small makers who are selling the same way those evil “massive creameries” sell. Except what happens when people end up sick from this artisanal ice cream? Will the people who demand more regulations when it happens be willing to turn a blind eye because it’s a small producer who willing ignored the law?

The story does raise some reasonable issues that most people can sympathize with, like the fact that you can’t possibly wash a strawberry enough to bring it in line with bacteria tests without seriously degrading it. But the maker only wants the exemption for herself so she can use “fresh organic cream blended with local and often organic produce like basil and strawberries she picks herself.” She doesn’t raise the fact that maybe it’s a problem when no ice cream maker can use strawberries that any sane person would consider “clean” enough to eat.

In an ideal world that embraces the compromise of real world politics, she would be free to continue to sell her products however she sees fit to make them as long as there is some kind of label that clearly states she isn’t honoring state food safety guidelines. Until that ideal world happens, I say good for the regulators for making a damn fine point: “Indeed, IDPH confirmed that these small operations are governed by the very same rules that apply to billion dollar ice cream companies.”

If changes to the regulations apply to one, they should apply to all. (via Ian Argent)

19 Responses to “Exemptions from the Nanny State”

  1. Mobo says:

    You have it exactly backwards. In the absence of these big corporation protection laws, the industry would come up with its own standards, and consumers could then choose for themselves. Fraud laws would still apply to those companies that make false claims about meeting these standards, of course. And of course anybody can still be sued for causing injury as well…..

    • Bitter says:

      Mobo, I don’t have it backwards. That system simply does not exist, and it never will. People have accepted, and for the most part, support food safety regulations. They aren’t going away. They can be modified, but they aren’t going away to a completely corporate-created system of safeties.

      This post was written with that reality in mind. Just like the expensive requirements are often supported by bigger corporate interests in order to keep out competition, this woman wants exemptions to give her a boost over the competition. I have no sympathy for either side in this case, so I think equal application of the law is the best solution.

  2. Thirdpower says:

    And I’m sure she’s one of the ‘progressive’ individuals who has been voting in the people that have been demanding all this Gov’t regulation and control. Now it’s come to bite her in the @ss when it’s one of her pet issues.

  3. Jeffrey H says:

    The regulations are there to keep out new competition not to really make things that much safer. It is to make it too expensive for someone new to enter the space.

  4. emdfl says:

    It’s Chcago. She and her friends/customers probably voted for the nitwh(whether they actually voted or not). She/they should all fall into one of her mixing vats and drown.

  5. mobo says:

    Bitter,

    A lot of regulations are written with the affordability of compliance in mind. Philadelphia requires chain restaurants to list calories/fat content/sodium right on the menus, but not small vendors, for example.

    When no exceptions are made for those who can’t afford to comply, you can bet your ass that big corporations had a hand in writing the regulation.

  6. richard says:

    Hi Bitter,
    While this “artisan” might not be a particularly sympathetic character, the reality is that large corporations and their brigades of lobbyists have customized the food safety laws to drive out small competitors. The purpose of many of these laws is no longer food safety, it is to ensure that compliance is so expensive that only a few large companies can afford to do it. The irony is that as scale of processing increases, food often becomes less safe.

    There is also not a lot different in the abuse of authority by USDA, FDA and that of BATF. I just got a naughty letter from USDA regarding improper ear tagging!

    http://midlandagrarian.blogspot.com/2011/08/turning-up-heat-governments-war-on.html

  7. Bitter says:

    Look, I agree with the problem that these regulations pose. I’m not arguing that they should exist in the first place. What I’m conceding is that they do exist, and there’s not a major political movement to get rid of them.

    What this woman wants is an exemption so that she has a government-sponsored competitive edge, just like the big guys. When someone starts selling more than she does, but not as much as Ben & Jerry, I’m sure you’ll hear the nannies come out screaming that those people deserve to be regulated, but still not her – the little ice cream maker who has space on the shelves of major retailers like Whole Foods.

    If this article included a call to revisit the regulations as a whole, then I would be the first to line up and cheer them on. She wants the right to use basil she picks herself, well what if Häagen-Dazs can grow better basil, why shouldn’t the exemptions apply to them, too?

    I don’t like the system in place, but it’s the system we have and that we must work around in order to make improvements. That’s why I don’t like regulations that carve out special categories of exemptions and exceptions to every rule. It makes the system too complex. That’s why I added in a compromise solution in the post that can apply to every maker large and small. If the high-end organic small-batch maker can ignore the state regulations and continue to sell with a label that says hers don’t meed the state guidelines, the same could apply to Häagen-Dazs and their possibly superior basil.

  8. Kevin says:

    The other thing is that we have the technology to fully cold sterilize things like strawberries and ice cream. Gama irradiation works just fine and for most foods has very effect on taste or any other properties.

    But I suspect that Ms. Swanberg is one of the crazies who can’t possibly eat anything like that, which is largely why we still have people dying from salmonella in this country.

  9. countertop says:

    Richard,

    I think you have it backwards.

    Large corporations don’t promote new laws and regulations to keep their competitors at bay. Your typical artisinal producer is simply not in the same market with them. Rather lawrge corporations are the inevitable result of the middlin nanny staters who have bogged down businesses with such a plethora of rules and regulations (which in the environmental context are designed to drive value/profit from the producer of goods to government and activist groups) that the inevitable result is you have to grow bigger in order to afford to stay in business.

    Now of course, the same hippy nincompoops who caused the problems this country faces are complaining when corporations (which, as Mitt Romney got right, are organizations of people) have to undergo tremendous growth to afford to exist in this regulatory world.

  10. irish red says:

    @mobo, “A lot of regulations are written with the affordability of compliance in mind. Philadelphia requires chain restaurants to list calories/fat content/sodium right on the menus, but not small vendors, for example.”

    What that does is help keep small chains small, by greatly increasing the cost of adding that 20th location (I think it’s 20) that would make them subject to the law. It could be worse though, I’ll give you that.

  11. Jujube says:

    “And of course anybody can still be sued for causing injury as well…..”

    Yeah. Like these people http://articles.latimes.com/1989-07-15/local/me-3053_1_listeriosis-cases. Too bad the company went bankrupt.

    Ya know, there’s a reason why we have food safety laws in the first place…

    She can buy a used pasturizer and I’m sure it will be a lot cheaper than $40K.

  12. richard says:

    Hey Countertop,
    No, large ag processors lobby for regulations. I have seen it. In my part of the World, We have lost dozens of decent local slaughterhouses and creameries in my lifetime. Good article below if you care to read it. Note the role of major processors from APA.

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_2_regulation.html

    Help me get rid of some of the stupid food and farming regs, and you can come hunt my farm- on a Sunday!

    Best Regards

    Richard

  13. countertop says:

    I know they lobby for regulations…but I think you are misunderstanding their intent.

    It isn’t further regulations, but the best regulations they can live under when faced with the threat of catastrophic regulations.

    What the APA did wasn’t to one day wake up and randomly seek to require pasteurization – but rather to respond to the threats from the Clinton FDA and the potential loss of their market and threat of greatly increased production costs.

    They were put in a position where the Clinton Administration forced their hand. And so, in order to live another day – and coming on the heels of the devastating Alar fraud (that launched NRDC as a major enviro group and radically re-changed the thinking and funding models of enviro activists) the Apple Processors were forced to play Clinton’s game.

    This isn’t very different from what your seeing poultry go through. First it was an overbroad attack on eggs over the threat of salmonella (the headlines talk about millions of eggs recalled – which is a small percentage of total egg production – but the stories never mention that not only was it just a miniscule few individual eggs that had been found with salmonella but that there is no decreased risk from eating eggs from a small producer. It doesn’t matter, the risk is there and has always been there.)

    Now the Turkey industry is facing the same manufactured outcry. What’s going to happen – well, if FDA wants to regulate to a precautionary principle zero risk standard – they have to apply the same standard to all eggs, or all turkey, etc.

    And two things happen.

    One, a small individual farmer simply cannot meet that standard. Its too expensive and requires tremendous volumes of production.

    And two, if your the consumer brand, you cant take the PR risk that there may be problems in your production line and so you have a tremendous incentive to integrate as fully as possible to maximize control.

    Another example, that’s going to hit you hard, is the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. In the rest of the country massive integration has occurred because of the tremendous costs of environmental compliance. PA is going to get wallopped as a result of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. And the pain is going to be felt most strongly not on large farms – which have not only the marginal profits and the capital, but also the access to additional capital, to afford compliance – but on small producers who will never be able to afford to comply.

    Of course, the irony in all of this, is that the groups pushing for new regulations are often times groups that seemingly would be supportive of small farmers. But we know from experience, they are just snakes and don’t care one way or the other for anything but power and money.

    Schoenfeld tries to claim – as an NRDC lawyer – its a consequence that he never intended in his overzealous quest to destroy the free market. But then, he was warned about it and chose to reject the free market principles.

    What stupid food and farming regs in particular most annoy you? I’ve got an arms length list, myself. :)

  14. emdfl says:

    Yeah, anyone care to explain how fresh(not long shelf-life) milk that used to have a shelf life of three to five days(when the local farm delivered it) now has a shelf life of three weeks(coming from the out of state mega-bottlers)? A friend of mine who deals in nutrition keeps mumbling about formaldahyde…

  15. richard says:

    Countertop,
    While what you say is sometimes true, I don’t trust large corporations any more than large government. By their nature, large bureaucratic organizations eschew personal responsibility and attempt to use law to consolidate power. That is the antithesis of a free market. The evidence for my point is how hard the food industry inserted itself in to creating favorable definitions of “organic”. This was nothing more than an effort to use contrived legal definitions for a favorable outcome. The industry also fought one of the less onerous restrictions—Country of Origin Labellings. I assume this was done to hide the fact that America’s canned mushrooms are now being grown in a Chinese village’s turds.

    I tend to side with the hippies on this issue.

    RE Chesapeake Bay—I thank God that I am in the Ohio River Watershed.

    My biggest personal annoyance is the threat of NAIS.
    http://www.nonais.org

    Among other things, I think it will lead to greater market manipulation, and I don’t like the idea of the Federal government knowing how many sheep and cows I have than how many guns I own.

  16. A Critic says:

    “Until that ideal world happens, I say good for the regulators for making a damn fine point: “Indeed, IDPH confirmed that these small operations are governed by the very same rules that apply to billion dollar ice cream companies.””

    That’s how our country has destroyed countless small farms and businesses. The powerful create regulations that demolish their competition and provide a false sense of security to gullible consumers.

    The real purpose of food safety regulations is not food safety. It is to create monopolies and to prevent liability.

    “Just like the expensive requirements are often supported by bigger corporate interests in order to keep out competition, this woman wants exemptions to give her a boost over the competition. I have no sympathy for either side in this case, so I think equal application of the law is the best solution.”

    There’s a difference though – the bigger corporate interests want to mandate garbage and prohibit quality. This woman only wants to be able to sell quality. And for some inexplicable reason I can’t grasp you support the bigger corporate interests by supporting the “law” that will crush anyone who steps forward with a product that demonstrates how vastly inferior and substandard their garbage is.

    You should study the quality of the milk used by this woman and her competitors. I’m quite sure that the latter use milk of a quality unfit for animals let alone human consumption.

  17. Ian Argent says:

    I RT’d the link because I did feel a little sorry for her; in that the food regulations are a little insane in this country, and that they should be adjusted for all, not just her.

    I think gamma irradiation was mentioned in passing as something that was not permitted as a compliance method for cleaning.

    I for one would like to see more safety regulators along the lines of Underwriters Laboratories, myself.

  18. Alpheus says:

    “If this article included a call to revisit the regulations as a whole, then I would be the first to line up and cheer them on. She wants the right to use basil she picks herself, well what if Häagen-Dazs can grow better basil, why shouldn’t the exemptions apply to them, too?”

    In a later post (I tend to read blog posts in a sort-of opposite of chronological order), I explained why I disagreed with Sebastian on regulating things…however, I also completely agree with this, too: if we’re going to carve out an exemption one person, we should make that exemption available to all people.

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