It may come as little surprise that an unknown number of Americans could die as a result of White House weakening of food safety rules mandated by Congress. The White House Office of Management and Budget has been weakening environmental health and safety at industry request — secretly — for many years.
The surprise is that we found out — because of little-known and little-used provisions in an executive order dating back to 1993 (EO 12866). It appears that that part of the order is not often followed, but it requires agencies to post the rules they submit to OMB for comparison with the rules OMB sends back as approved. Over time, a system has evolved by which agencies and OMB communicate informally and privately to circumvent the requirement — so OMB has already shaped many rules by the time they are formally submitted.
Still, the requirement offers a useful point of leverage for journalists — not to mention lawyers. It's always wise to look through the docket at Regulations.gov.
- "Documents Show OMB Weakened FDA’s Food Safety Rules," Food Safety News, March 25, 2013, by Helena Bottemiller.
- "Food Safety Rules the Latest To Be Weakened During Regulatory Review," Center for Effective Government, April 8, 2013.
- Previous Stories: SEJ WatchDogs of June 29, 2011; May 2, 2012; and January 30, 2013.
- Executive Order 12866 (Sections 6 and 7), Federal Register, October 4, 1993.
This is one of the stories in the April 10, 2013 issue of SEJ's biweekly WatchDog. Find the rest of the stories and past issues here.