In 1729 Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical pamphlet titled "A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public."
From Wikipedia: "This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when he states, "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragoust. "The satirical core of this pamphlet becomes even more clear when Jonathan Swift comments on the attitudes of landlords : "I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children." Swift really zeroes in on those who "regard people as commodities".
Well, this is about food too, especially food safety, and in particular the legislative attempts by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the California Restaurant Association (CRA) to introduce, control, and reap every dollar from the newly required food handler training. First you craft a strategy that appears altruistic and appears to be competitive. It is introduced under the mighty lobbying power and backing of the CRA (but wait, wasn't it really crafted by Dawn Sweeney and her Board in Washington DC... after all, her multi-million dollar bonus depends on her ability to monetize every aspect of the NRA just like she did at the AARP... there is sure to be a trickle down to the CEO of the CRA). The Executive VP of the CRA .....................is a highly paid registered lobbyist, and for her big bucks to continue and to grow it depends on getting this payday (legislation) through the legislature and into law.
Enter Senator Padilla, the legislator sponsoring SB 602. Either he was complicit or duped. SB 602 is passed and signed into law. The legislation is well intended, the most populous state needs and deserves a state food safety training standard for hourly employees. The rub comes in implementation. Hey, let's craft a bill that in truth, is anti-competitive and monopolistic. Let us obfuscate (a perfect word for this kind of chicanery) what is really happening by deeming the approved training providers to be the NRA (surprise, surprise!), Prometric, and National Registry of Food Safety Professionals (NRFSP). This sounds good because these three organizations administer the Food Manager tests approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Oh, guess what, the NRA is really the only provider for food handler training because neither Prometric, nor the NRFSP are set up to offer California food handler training. Gee, good position to fall into.
The next phase. It becomes apparent that the law is flawed. The lobbyists and representatives are screaming (literally) that everything is fine (no kidding.) At least a few of the other food safety training organizations that could provide quality Food Handler training in California wake up and are incensed. They offer, in some cases, better and more affordable training, in more languages, what gives? Well, because of the hue and cry the CRA appears to want to cooperate with a second bill, SB 303, to address some problems in SB 602. One big problem for the CRA is that in their zeal toward a corner on the market they used ANSI's name in vain. A big no no. ANSI has not approved training or assessment for the food handler training in California and does not want their good name misrepresented. So the new legislation would remedy that by requiring training to be approved under a program that is appropriate: ANSI's 2659 accreditation for certificate programs process whereby the training and testing may be approved through an established and somewhat arduous accreditation process.
A number of food handler and food manager training organizations apply for this ANSI certificate training approval process. What is a monopolistic CRA to do? If SB 303 passes quickly, competition will enter the marketplace before CRA/NRA is ready with their programs. How about, we delay passage of the corrective bill so we are the only provider for as long as possible? We established a nice fat $15 per course for ourselves, let's keep that going as long as we can. Other trainers, whose training will be fully compliant with SB 303 are beginning to provide this training. Let's contact all restaurants and label them as, "... shady operators pushing products that are not recognized under the law. Health inspectors are finding that some of our industry's employees are holding cards that are invalid. Beware of that. We suggest that you look for the name or logo of one of the above providers on your employees' food handler card." (This is part of an email with the name of the CEO of the CRA, Jot Condie, to close the communication.) Not to be surpassed, Dawn Sweeney has jumped on the bandwagon with her own communication about the approved "three" providers from the flawed bill they sponsored (although the word "shady" is missing from her important facebook notice... diplomacy you know.)
Interesting approach, the irony continues. Everyone except the party that has corrupted the process and engaged in severe anti-competitive behavior is shady. The CRA has been told by ANSI in very direct terms that they are not in compliance. The NRA (just what is this octopus the NRA/CRA, and who is calling the shots?) has now applied for the ANSI 2659 approval. Health departments are concerned about effective implementation, but were little consulted with this legislation, and now certainly do not endorse what the NRA has tried to foist on them.
So why don't the food safety training companies or operators just file an injunction? If this is all true it should be easy to get. Well, who wants to be the party that held up implementation of important protection for the people of California? The CRA tries to paint a rosy picture of their intentions, but dollars are dollars and monopoly is monopoly. The $15 fee has turned into $10 in many cases only because the "shady" companies forced their hand in the marketplace. That's a strange word to introduce into the equation, but only the little tip of the marketplace is keeping the CRA from near monopoly. They now point to a minor glitch in SB 303 ( which they had the responsibility to prevent) as the hold up in the second bill. Curious and more curious.
The irony continues. After already receiving dues the CRA/NRA again harvesting revenue from their customers and the food handlers of California. From Jot Condie, "The burden of obtaining the card is on the employee." Not all restaurant owners and operators are so dismissive. The devourers of this revenue continue their ironic posture: let us gouge you because we mean well (and because we have to pay our lobbyist.) The only way the NRA has even remotely been held in check in other parts of the country is by the marketplace.... and they've gotten pretty good at getting around that inconvenience.
Be careful if the CRA/NRA is crafting your next productivity or safety solution. Irony is lost on the arrogant. Swift would have appreciated this special approach to food safety.