Industry Compliance Costs: What Would They Look Like in a Risk-Based Integrated Food System?

Laurian J. Unnevehr, Helen H. Jensen
June 2001  [01-WP 278]

Current policies designed to improve food safety rely on regulation and market incentives. However, the mix of both private and public incentives to improve food safety and the dynamics of industry response to regulation make analysis of the costs of food safety complex. The paper provides an overview of costs of food safety regulation and control in recent literature for both pesticide and microbial controls and draws lessons for identifying cost-effective food safety approaches. Four lessons emerge concerning industry compliance costs. First, the distribution of costs is likely to be more important than market price effects. Second, regulation has an impact on long-run incentives to invest in new technologies or inputs and therefore may bias the nature of productivity growth. Third, an analysis of costs informs the choice among regulatory alternatives; allowing market adjustments to mitigate costs and improving upon existing market incentives is likely to be the most effective ways to reach public health goals. And fourth, a risk-based systems approach can be the best way to understand the costs, incentives, and risk outcomes resulting from alternative interventions. However this approach is made difficult by patchwork regulatory authority across the food chain and lack of data required for risk assessment.

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