On his radio show today Beck repeatedly urged his listeners to "get on the phone and call your senator" to tell them to vote against the Food Safety Modernization Act, a bill that would boost the FDA's authority in an effort to prevent incidents of food-related illness. Beck's remarks echo his sponsor, FreedomWorks, which currently has a letter writing campaign against the bill.
First, Beck suggested that the U.S. doesn't have a food safety issue requiring stronger regulation, stating, "Our food is the safest in the world." He added, "What is it about our food supply that is so very, very dangerous that we need to move on this right away?"
But According to the Centers for Disease Control, foodborne illnesses kill 5,000 people every year. A CDC report last year also indicated that "After decades of steady progress, the safety of the nation's food supply has not improved over the past three years," as reported by the New York Times. The GAO has also been warning about problems with insufficient food safety oversight for years.
Beck went on to claim that the bill will "at best increase the cost of food dramatically" and suggested that the legislation is related to efforts to "nudge us out of meat":
BECK: What is that going to do to the cost of food? Corn is already way up. Corn price is going up. That doesn't just mean your popcorn prices is going to be more expensive at the movie theater. We feed our beef, chickens, everything but fish corn. So what does that do to the beef price? Oh you know what that does? That probably nudges you out of meat. Which is weird that I would use the word nudge because doesn't Cass Sunstein, he doesn't want us to eat meat? He says that is bad for us.
PAT: Bad for us and the planet.
BECK: He'd like to see us nudged out of meat.
BECK: This is going to at best increase the cost of food dramatically, at best. At worst, it gives the government complete control over farmlands. No thank you.
But Craig Harris of the Food Safety Policy Center at Michigan State University reportedly said that the bill is unlikely to raise consumers' food costs:
Although costs of food production may rise as a result of the bill, the amount isn't likely to make a huge dent in most large food companies' profits, Harris said, so the added costs shouldn't trickle down to the consumers. For small companies and local farmers, the bill includes exemptions and special accommodations, recognizing that some companies may not be able to keep up with the costs of adopting new safety practices.
And contrary to Beck's suggestion that this bill is somehow related to efforts to reduce consumption of meat, the Food Safety Modernization Act reportedly does not affect the Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat and poultry. The Christian Science Monitor has reported:
The USDA's costly carcass-by-carcass inspection soaks up about 60 percent of US food-safety funding, even though it covers only about 20 percent of the food Americans eat (mostly meat). That leaves the FDA with only around 40 percent of the funding, even though it's responsible for ensuring the safety of 80 percent of the food supply. With less funding, it's difficult for the FDA to inspect food facilities on a regular basis.
Beck claimed that the bill could "[give] the government complete control over farmlands." Someone should really tell the numerous Republican co-sponsors and the Chamber of Commerce, which says the bill "will reduce the risk of contamination and thereby better protect public health and safety, raise the bar for the food industry, and deter bad actors."