Liability & Regulation
Food handling is serious business, and oddly regulated.
In most jurisdictions, agriculture and health are jointly regulated by federal and provincial/state governments. This means multiple layers of compliance, within hit-and-miss regulatory oversight.
There may be some areas where right-sizing the regulations could reduce food costs, and increase the supply of better purchasing options in local markets. Having come into force during the time when big food and agriculture systems were being built, the current framework of food handling regulations are suited to large-scale systems.
Small-scale farms and food chains get stuck in complicated regimes for monitoring food safety where the liability for a customer getting sick falls jointly to the seller, and to the inspector or department managers employed by governments. The bureaucrats holding risk creates incentives for over-regulation, unnecessary restrictions, and inappropriate barriers to entry for new food businesses that might otherwise be able to serve a growing market.
Removing these barriers could increase the supply of local food, reduce costs on processors, and create regional economic growth. Food webs are powerful alternatives to industrial agriculture and ultra-processed food, offering society and consumers advantages like:
Drastically reduced shipping distances;
Improved wildlife habitats and regional water quality; and
Nutrient-density and food safety.
Food Safety Defined
Today, governments see ‘food safety’ through the lens of large-scale processors, and preventing/recalling the widespread entry of pathogens and bacteria into packaged foods. Meanwhile, toxic residues that make their way into food (stemming from bad agricultural practices) aren’t monitored nor are required to be tested throughout supply chains.
Pesticide regulations are jointly overseen by health and/or environmental agencies and are national rather than regional. Agencies that regulate the quality of exports are also national, leaving little to no oversight over farming practices at the field level.
Arguably the biggest problem in agriculture right now is misuse and overapplication of agrochemicals leading to pollution and sickness in rural communities. Oddly, municipalities are silent, leaving nobody forcing compliance to the legal application of these dangerous products.