IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

BSE crisis and food safety regulation: a comparison of the UK and Germany


  • Beck, Matthias
  • Kewell, Beth
  • Asenova, Darinka


The BSE crisis represents one of the worst policy disasters experienced by a UK government in recent years. In material terms, it led to the slaughter of 3.3 million cattle and an estimated economic loss of £3.7 billion. In administrative terms, the crisis led to the dissolution of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), an institution that was heavily criticised by the Phillips Inquiry for its lack of openness and transparency. Although far less severe in terms of its economic impact, with estimated losses of between Euro 0.8 and 1.05 billion, the German BSE crisis resulted in extensive political fallout, leading, inter alia, to the resignation of two government ministers. This paper compares the handling of the crisis in the UK and Germany and the regulation put in place in its aftermath. It explores the reasons for the failure of both governments to manage this crisis in a credible, timely and proactive fashion. Examining the institutional contexts in which decisions about scientific evidence on BSE were made, the paper argues that, in both countries, a centralised system, in which government agencies controlled “science for government”, was vulnerable to expert-interest group alliances which undermined the potential for a credible assessment of public health and safety risks. Looking at the policies adopted in the aftermath of these crises, the paper notes that, although being far less affected by BSE, Germany paradoxically adopted far more rigorous measures for the prevention of future incidents, which included the strict administrative separation of the risk assessment and management functions. Our paper concludes that the extent of administrative reforms which are initiated in response to crises is more likely to correspond to that general receptiveness of the political environment to these reforms, than the ‘objective’ impact of the crisis itself.

Suggested Citation

  • Beck, Matthias & Kewell, Beth & Asenova, Darinka, 2007. "BSE crisis and food safety regulation: a comparison of the UK and Germany," The York Management School Working Papers 38, The York Management School, University of York.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrc:ymswp1:38

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Napier, Christopher J., 2006. "Accounts of change: 30 years of historical accounting research," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 31(4-5), pages 445-507.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wrc:ymswp1:38. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (White Rose Research Online) or (The York Management School). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.