19 April 2007

safety regulation

i found the following explanation in the latest newsletter from the Advocates for Self-Government. i find it a perfect example of what a market can provide that centralized regulation cannot. imagine how pleased i could be if i could find an organization to certify my food providers as being high fructose corn syrup-free, local, or grass-fed.
It's Kosher! Specific, Concrete Examples, Part 2

by Sharon Harris, Advocates President

Specific, well-known, concrete examples can make the case for liberty come alive for your listeners. One example of a working free market solution can be more persuasive than a hundred abstract theories.

Last issue I offered the example of Underwriters Laboratories as an illustration of how the market can provide reliable safety standards. Here's another.

Many people fear that, without government regulation, there would be no way to insure food and drug safety. However, in the U.S. today we already have a proven, highly effective, non-government, voluntary food certification system in place -- one that is actually more precise and trustworthy than the federal government's system.

Orthodox Jews eat only kosher food. Other Jews also prefer kosher foods. Kosher dietary laws are complex and extensive. This complexity, plus the lack of reliable kosher information on U.S. food labels, long ago led some Jewish organizations to offer food companies the opportunity to display labels certifying their food as kosher. However, these companies can only display the kosher label after rigorous and ongoing inspections.

This is an entirely voluntary offer. No company has to participate. However, huge numbers do. Indeed, 75 percent of all U.S. prepackaged foods have some kind of kosher certification. Today in the U.S. there are dozens of companies certifying hundreds of thousands of products. You have probably seen kosher labels (usually a K or U in a circle) on many products you buy. There are hundreds of kosher certifying organizations around the world.

Kosher certification is completely self-funding, as the tiny cost of kosher certification is more than paid for by the advertising benefits the kosher label provides. Certification makes products more attractive to a multi-billion-dollar U.S. market of Jewish customers and non-Jewish consumers (such as Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, and the lactose-intolerant) who value the information a kosher label provides.

Further, kosher labels are far more precise and reliable than government food labels. For example, some Orthodox Jews prefer dairy products from milk that has been under constant rabbinical supervision from milking to bottling; the label "Cholov Yisroel" guarantees that. Compare that strictness to U.S. law, where, for example, "non-dairy" food can in fact have a small amount of dairy product, and the phrase "natural flavors" can have multiple meanings.

Obviously, given the chance, similar methods would quickly emerge to replace today's expensive, coercive, and less stringent government labeling system. And consumers would be safer and better informed.

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