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Systemic Failure in the Provision of Safe Food

  • Hennessy, David A.
  • Roosen, Jutta
  • Jensen, Helen H.

Many deficiencies in the capacity of a food system to deliver safe products are systemic in nature. We suggest a taxonomy of four general ways in which a systemic failure might occur. One relates to the connectedness, or topology, of the system. Another arises from mistrust on the part of downstream parties concerning signals on product attributes, production processes, and the performance of regulatory mechanisms. A third arises when asymmetric information leads to low incentives for preserving food quality. Finally, inflexibilities in adapting to different states of nature may leave the system vulnerable to failures. Innovations in information technology and institutional design may ameliorate many problems, while appropriate trade, industrial organization, science, and public infrastructure policies also may fortify the system.

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File URL: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/papers/paper_2091.pdf
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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 2091.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2003
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Publication status: Published in Food Policy, February 2003, vol. 28, pp. 77-96
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:2091
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.eduEmail:


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  1. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  2. Holleran, Erin & Bredahl, Maury E. & Zaibet, Lokman, 1999. "Private incentives for adopting food safety and quality assurance," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 669-683, December.
  3. Douglas W. Diamond & Philip H. Dybvig, 2000. "Bank runs, deposit insurance, and liquidity," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 14-23.
  4. Loader, Rupert & Hobbs, Jill E., 1999. "Strategic responses to food safety legislation," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 685-706, December.
  5. Hennessy, David A. & Roosen, Jutta & Miranowski, John, 2001. "Leadership and the Provision of Safe Food," Staff General Research Papers 10549, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  6. von Amsberg, Joachim, 1995. "Excessive environmental risks: An intergenerational market failure," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(8), pages 1447-1464, October.
  7. Buzby, Jean C. & Frenzen, Paul D., 1999. "Food safety and product liability," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 637-651, December.
  8. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-58, December.
  9. Collins, E. J. T., 1993. "Food adulteration and food safety in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 95-109, April.
  10. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1999. "Two Remarks on the Property-Rights Literature," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 139-49, January.
  11. Swinbank, Alan, 1993. "The economics of food safety," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 83-94, April.
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