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Mandatory versus voluntary approaches to food safety

  • Kathleen Segerson

    (Department of Economics, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-1063)

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    Food safety policy is currently based on a combination of voluntary measures undertaken by producers and regulatory measures imposed, for example, by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (e.g., mandatory HACCP systems). This article addresses the question of whether reliance on voluntary approaches is likely to lead to adequate consumer protection. Drawing on recent literature on the choice between voluntary and mandatory approach to environmental protection and standard models of product liability, the article develops an analytical framework to determine the conditions under which firms are likely to invest in food safety voluntarily. The results suggest that for goods for which consumers can readily detect safety characteristics, market forces can create incentives for voluntary provision of safety. However, for goods for which consumers cannot readily detect food risks, market forces are not likely to be sufficient to afford adequate protection. Even in such a context, however, direct government regulation is not always necessary. The threat of the imposition of mandatory controls (possibly coupled with financial inducements for undertaking voluntary approaches) may provide firms with sufficient incentives to invest in food safety in an effort to avoid those controls. However, if firms do not respond, regulators must be prepared to follow through on their threats and impose a regulatory system of protection. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Agribusiness.

    Volume (Year): 15 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 53-70

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:agribz:v:15:y:1999:i:1:p:53-70
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