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NM Group Says Deregulation Bill Puts Food Safety in Peril

Critics of the Regulatory Accountability Act say it would remove health protections for food and other everyday consumables, putting people at greater risk of illness. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Critics of the Regulatory Accountability Act say it would remove health protections for food and other everyday consumables, putting people at greater risk of illness. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
May 19, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – As the Regulatory Accountability Act makes its way to the U.S. Senate, it's being opposed by consumer groups and criticized by family health advocates in New Mexico.

Food safety is one concern. According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the bill would replace an already industry-friendly rule-making process with a system even worse, that currently only applies to the Federal Trade Commission - an agency that hasn't attempted to enact a major rule in decades.

Barbara Webber, executive director of Health Action New Mexico, isn't convinced people will be safe in the rush to deregulate industries.

"Less regulation of the food industry - that's something that affects the health of everyone," she says. "You know, there have just been several products that have been out there, where people have been sickened."

Environmental and consumer groups say the measure would essentially ban agencies from requiring companies to keep pesticides out of food, or to ensure they aren't contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

Proponents say passing the Regulatory Accountability Act means cutting bureaucratic red tape and helping businesses create jobs.

In recent years, New Mexico has been part of several multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks, with products from ice cream to cucumbers, to caramel apples. Webber says weakening protections makes families even more susceptible to these types of health threats.

"We've already had issues this year with hummus having sickened people," she adds. "We've had problems with different food products that have had Salmonella; then there's Listeria that gets caught in things."

The Regulatory Accountability Act cleared the Senate's Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Wednesday and now moves on to the full Senate for a debate. A companion bill already passed the House last November.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service - NM