One of the interesting things I have learned in my short time with Food Engineering is just how much of a role regulations play in the commercial food manufacturing market.
You’re probably thinking something like “wow, what a brilliant observation,” but there’s a larger point to me saying that. If you’re looking at any industry from the outside, you can’t really realize just how important regulations are to the industry and how much of a concern they are.
In some cases, of course, this means that they may be an unnecessary or overbearing headache. But I bet that if I asked you to name half a dozen regulations that you hope never go away, you could do so within about 30 seconds — just like people who work in coal, or finance, or education could.
Which is where our current climate comes in. Recently, a list of regulations and other government guidance to eliminate was issued by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who is chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations. While some of the regulations would be entirely reasonable things to get rid of, or at least modify, some of them immediately struck me as bad ideas to remove.
My concern about this is tied into my recognition of how regulations in the food manufacturing industry are even more of a big deal than I realized as a layperson, so to speak. It’s easy to say “let’s get rid of all regulations” in a general sense, but people who know their industries best know that doing so would be a recipe — pun fully intended — for disaster.
Now, you may disagree with me on which ones would be OK or not OK to get rid of. We might even disagree on whether some of them should be done away with entirely or simply loosened. But I would hope that we can all agree that regulations do serve an important role, even if complying with them can sometimes be a headache.
I would also hope that we can all agree that the solution isn’t simply just putting out a list of recommendations and saying “we’re going to get rid of these things,” because there’s a cascading effect to regulations. Eliminating one may end up affecting several others and leading to unintended consequences.
In an ideal world, we would have a process where changes to regulations would involve feedback from industry and independent experts, with the focus being on whether the regulation is doing what it is intended to do in the most efficient manner possible. If so, leave it alone; if not, fix it, or even remove it if it’s something that is no longer serving a useful purpose. If a Congressional committee offered a list of regulations to fix or modify based on extensive feedback from people who are dealing with the regulations in their day-to-day lives, it would be hard to argue that they weren’t given due consideration.
Unfortunately, we don’t have an ideal world, and things are sometimes messy, even with the comment process and other ways of providing feedback to governing bodies. But I hope we decide that the importance of regulations is such that we need to do them the right way instead of not doing them at all.