Another example of regulatory failure - this time in your grocery store.
One of the standard arguments in the "reformer" arsenal is that if a product is approved by a federal regulatory agency, it's unfair for injured consumers to sue if they're injured by that product. This argument assumes that our federal regulatory agencies are competent and unbiased. The Vioxx debacle (56,000+ killed by Vioxx) is but one reason not to trust federal regulatory schemes. Here's another:
Agribusiness powers are playing a shell game with the “fresh” meat sold in stores. One clear sign of freshness that consumers can rely on is the meat’s red color, right? No more. The industry has come up with a deception that keeps the meat red not just for a few days, but for months. The meat can go bad, but a little spritz of carbon monoxide and other gases inside the plastic package prevents the tell-tale browning that signals spoilage. (Justinian: A symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is turning bright red.)
In 2004, federal food regulators expressed alarm that the gassing trick could mask dangerous meat. Industry lobbyists moved in, and within a month the regulators reversed themselves, approving perpetually red meat for sale. Our so-called watchdogs did not conduct any studies, instead relying on industry data. Nor did they bother notifying consumers that the redness of meat should no longer be trusted.
The Democratic Congress is moving to require that this color-altered meat be labeled as such. Once again, industry lobbyists are on the prowl, claiming that such labels would be “alarmist” and “unfair.”
Without the aid of color, an innocent consumer will have only one thing to rely upon in judging whether meat is too old to buy: The tiny date label. And if a careless stockboy were to put a "manager's special" label over the date, one would have no way of knowing if the meat is past its prime.
This is almost enough to make me rethink having prime rib for Thanksgiving. Almost.