3.1 PART 1. Food Safety Regulation in Europe
Goals and structure
As a consequence of a series of food safety crises, the development of new technologies and increased public concern most European Member States and the EU institutions have witnessed major reforms in their regulatory systems. These reorganisations have often been characterised by a stricter separation of scientific and political components of Risk Analysis and a stronger commitment to the principles of transparency, participation and accountability.
In this research part SAFE FOODS experts set as their task to review existing national and European management practices that deal with new food risks.
The main goals of this comparative study were:
To give insight into the legal and institutional structures and recent developments of six different food safety systems:
the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary and the European Union.The choice of countries was not random, it aimed to show the different ways in which European food safety systems were affected and modified since the food safety crises. For example, the UK, France and Germany were the main actors in the BSE crisis of 1996. Sweden, on the other hand, was untouched by this crisis and forms an interesting contrast. Hungary was included in the research as a country that had recently joined the EU and which has been subjected to intense transformations since then.
To describe changes in regulatory procedures and structures in the past 5-10 years
and to analyse the causes of these changes in the different countries.
Additionally, four specific food safety cases were used as examples in order to evaluate the different arrangements that each country made to regulate the risks:
- Aflatoxins as case study
- Campylobacter as case study
- Genetically modified foods as case study
- Pesticides as case study
This institutional study was based on two sources of information:
a) A literature overview and document research that included the analysis of relevant legal documents.
b) A set of interviews conducted with relevant officials, policy makers and stakeholders.
To guarantee comparability of results between the six studies, the research team created a common framework in the form of a template which served as guideline for the national studies and the EU level study. This research template was presented to experts at the workshop “European Food Safety Regulation under Review”, which was organised in July 2004 in Stuttgart, Germany. Afterwards, the draft was further refined and modified according to obtained comments and suggestions.
In this way, the research template offered analytical guidelines for the national studies and the EU study, placing the focus of the review on:
- The allocation of Risk Assessment and Risk Management responsibilities
- Improvement of:
● Transparency (throughout the Risk Analysis process)
● Public and stakeholder involvement
- Handling of scientific uncertainties which are associated with food risks
Key questions that were added in the institutional review include:
- Which agencies or organisations are charged with the different tasks of regulating food risks?
- Which authorities assess the risk (characterising them scientifically) and which manage the risk (decide on the measures to be taken)?
- How do these authorities coordinate their tasks and work?
- What kind of expertise do the authorities use to support their statements and decisions?
- What do they do if experts come up with different conclusions?
- Which facets of a risk issue do the risk managers consider (safety, economic, social, cultural, ethical), and how do they integrate or prioritise these aspects?
- Do the authorities make an effort to listen to the concerns and wishes of the consumers and stakeholders (e.g. retailers, NGOs)?
- Do the authorities involve these actors in the regulatory process?
For the interviews, a questionnaire was created in order to collect information related to crucial analytical strategies used during management of the four example cases.
Results of the literature review were shared among the research team at a 3-day workshop in July 2005 in Haigerloch, Germany. In these sessions team members reviewed commonalities, differences and peculiarities of the institutional arrangements and modifications in European food safety governance.
Study results are divided per country and EU level.
The tables below give an overview of the most relevant features of recent food safety governance reforms in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary and at the EU level.
A summary of this study is provided by the presentation "Institutional re-arrangements in European food safety governance - A comparative analysis".
View the results for:
- European Union level
- United Kingdom