Too many libertarians and/or foodies in my Twitter-feed means reading too many opinions uninformed by facts or experience about how and why things are regulated, the latest outrage being
the an alleged FDA crack-down on cheese aged on wooden boards.
About the crack-down I’ll say this:
If wooden-board-age cheese makers want the regulations changed to allow the aging of cheese on wooden boards, the way to go about is to form the Traditional Cheese Makers Association with guidelines for safety standards and best practices, which in turn should be supported by science and experience in other countries. Simply saying “but people have always done it this way and no one ever got hurt” is no more effective an argument than saying “but people have been lashing catamarans together forever, and no one ever got hurt.”
As a way to help people understand why and how things are regulated, I’ll tell you a story, and then pose a question. First the story.
Mon Tiki has a Certificate of Inspection (COI) for 49 passengers. This means her structure and stability characteristics have been calculated by our own naval architect, and his calculations have reviewed and confirmed by a US Coast Guard engineer.
It also means that a US Coast Guard inspector has witnessed the construction of the boat, and reviewed the safety and deck arrangements of the boat to see that they meet a set of criteria for safe operation. Amongst these criteria is that Mon Tiki carry one adult Type I PFD for each person on the COI, plus an additional 10% child’s size PFDs. That means Mon Tiki is require to carry no fewer than 51 adult PFDs (49 passengers + 2 crew) and 6 child PFDs (partial PFDs are rounded up.)
On the day of our initial inspection we found ourselves deficient in the area of PFDs. We had 51 adult jackets and 16 child jackets, but we had neglected to label them with the name of the vessel, as stipulated by the CFRs.
So then. on a brisk late April day my wife and I found ourselves each with a sharpie in our hands, writing “Mon Tiki” on the breast of each of our 57 PFDs while chatting with our inspector.
“Well I suppose this makes sense,” I offered, “if you had a debris field in the water after a collision it would be good for whatever floats to be labeled with the vessel name…” in my mind’s eye I was seeing the life-ring of a torpedoed freighter from WWII film.
“We yes, I suppose,” our inspector responded, “but the reason for the regulation is that during inspection season we noticed the same lifejackets showing up on different boats. They were just getting passed around to meet the count requirements.”
For a moment or two I was surprised, and then I thought about the most recent Harvard cheating scandal and everything else I know about the world and my surprise was replaced with resignation.
There, that’s my story. Now my question, which I hope you will answer in the comment section below:
Would you feed a food product labeled “Artisanal Wood-board Aged Cheese” to your children if said food product was also label “Imported from China”? Please explain your answer.