Healthy living trend has been on a rise for years now. Being used to abundance and general affordability of food, people are now turning to considering its quality, origin, and effects on environment. These social trends and concerns have helped creating a demand for foods which are locally grown and manufactured on a small scale instead of being mass produced. Multiple small or even homemade productions have emerged to satisfy this demand. Yet, the issue of quality regulations and safety control are still up for discussion and market self-regulation with feedback contributions from individual consumers seems to be the most efficient way of addressing safety concerns.
When it comes to ethical responsibility for the safety of food the most intuitive thought is that producers should be held totally responsible for the quality of their products. However, we do not live in ideal world, and have to take into account numerous incentives producers might have to take shortcuts and sacrifice quality in order to yield higher profit. With this in mind, it is commonly accepted that it is the responsibility of government to set the game rules and make sure everyone plays fair, meaning that ethical responsibility for the safety of foods at the market is placed on government. On one hand, such an approach appears acceptable as government (1) has tools for setting ground rules, influencing, and controlling businesses, and (2) is responsible for ensuring safety of the population it serves. On the other hand, however, strict governmental regulations may not be efficient for small-scale production.
When it comes to small businesses, governmental agencies cannot predict neither all the possible conditions and peculiarities of their operations nor all the goods that they may possibly produce. Introducing precise regulations or setting narrow standards may impose unbearable burden and limitations on small scale producers, even if driven by noble concern about consumer safety. Such actions may lead to small-scale producers ceasing to exist altogether instead of ensuring the quality of their produce. For instance, imagine you have come up with an amazing muffin recipe and would like to sell them at local market. However, doing your research you realize that according environmentally imposed standards, your kitchen is 3 square feet too small to allow you to sell goods baked in this kitchen. Thus, you will have to give up this opportunity and people from your community will be shorter of one alternative to buying mass-produced muffins at the grocery store.
The other way is assuming personal responsibility of each consumer for looking out for safety and quality matters when it comes to buying foods as the local market. This responsibility presupposes (1) carefully examining the foods before purchasing them, (2) asking the merchant about the origin of ingredients, cooking or preparation conditions, and (3) sharing feedback about products with merchants and community. While this approach may not seem as guaranteed method for insuring safety of every item sold at the market, in the long run it does help eliminate producers who are not trustworthy and build positive reputations for merchants with high-quality foods.
All things considered, I tend to accept personal responsibility for upholding safety and quality bar for the foods I buy. While it would be convenient to lie back and rely on government in ensuring all groceries are safe, it would also mean limiting the possible number of alternatives available, especially small-scale ones. This consequence is not desired, thus, accepting personal responsibility for safety of foods consumed appears as a better option. Choosing the produce carefully and asking questions comes a long way. The bigger impact, however, is going to be made with economic votes and sharing feedback. Leaving positive comments about high-quality products and choosing them over others in the future contributes to producer’s reputation and profit, thus, encourages the production of high-quality foods. At the same time, refusing to purchase goods of unsatisfactory quality and sharing concerns about such products publicly will eventually lead to this producer going out of business or reconsidering their quality standards. In the ends, it is always the consumer who sets the quality bar producers have to meed in order to make profit.