Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another example of Howard's nanny state

Wow, this is the most ridiculous thing I have heard all week:

School concession stand workers in Howard County have been told they have to take a 16-hour training course, or stop selling hot food.

The county health department-mandated training, which begins in April and costs about $100 per school, means that county schools will have to stop offering French fries, pizza, hot dogs and other hot items at extracurricular activities, such as athletic events, until the training is complete -- perhaps until next school year.

Anyone who thinks that government regulation keeps people safe does not, in my opinion, fully grasp the incentives of business. What keeps people safe is the profit motive, not government regulators. And this is a good thing. I don't want someone to do the right thing because a law says that they should- I want people to do the right thing because it is in their best interest to do so. Brand names, repeat business, reputation, etc. mean higher profits. Part of cultivating these factors that increase profits means being careful not to harm your customer. None of the volunteers affiliated with these concession stands will knowingly serve tainted food or engage in unsanitary practices that will result in harm to their customers (who in this case are their neighbors) because this would kill the golden goose. Regulations just lead to higher prices for the customers and/or lower profits for the booster clubs.

Obviously people are fallible and mistakes will sometimes happen, like Toyota's unfortunate "gas pedal sticking" problem. You can rest assured that Toyota did not find that fiasco to be profitable, and will fix the bust in the production process that allowed it to occur. Simple regulation will not make us any safer in a cost effective way.

The Howard County Health Department is not nearly as useful as most people think they are.


Anonymous said...

Having actually worked in food service, both on a volunteer and paid basis, I disagree with the blanket statement that "none of the volunteers" will serve tainted food. They will. Just as those that work at chains or locally owned establishments will. The point being that the presence of regulations don't stop the poor behavior. Good workers and good managers stop the behavior. You can't regulate that. Good managers don't stop a kid from picking up a french fry off the floor and serving it just because page 35 of the textbook from the 16 hour class said that "picking up food off the floor and serving it to patrons may lead to bacterial infections such as staphococcus B." The manager tells the kid to throw it away cause it's gross and they want the person buying it to come back. You don't teach that in a health dept class.

Poor managers exist in regulated and non-regulated environments.

But yes, stupid regulation that won't accomplish anything except to discourage fundraising and increase schools' reliance on govt funding.

jessiex said...

ditto, fm. it's not that good food mgmt skills aren't important, it's just that this whole shebang is ridiculous over-regulation.

i "get it" from a generational perspective that parents -- many of whom are not taking care of their own health by overworking, overeating, overcouchpotato-ing -- go bonkers at the idea that their special child might actually get bad food; hence, the regulation.

this, too, shall pass ... as do all trends, but what an annoying one for now.

rock on.

Robert Wasilewski said...

And people wonder why governments -federal, state, and local are going broke.

Anonymous said...

This isn't "stupid regulation" but common sense. This plan will increase our kids' safety for a minimal cost. The so-called Howard "nanny state" did a cost-benefit analysis and came to the conclusion that the benefit of this program outweighed $100 per school.

Freemarket said...

If the cost benefit is there, why do we need to mandate it? Think about it. Besides, it's parents working at these stands who feed their families everyday. They are not strangers to food preparation.