The European Food Import Safety Regime Under a 'Stress Test': The Melamine Contamination of the Global Food Supply Chain
14 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2011
Date Written: December 1, 2010
Ensuring that European food imports are safe presents special challenges, as production takes place in third countries outside the direct control of the member states. Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, besides a few exceptions regarding high-risk products (such as animals and animal products), the regulation of food import safety in the European Union (EU) is not the focus of direct legislative attention. As a result, the safety of food imports in Europe is pursued not through the application of special conditions governing the import of third-country products, which would impose systematic and Herculean checks at the external borders, but rather through the decentralised enforcement by member states’ market surveillance authorities of a harmonised set of product safety regulations: the European food safety acquis. This article provides a critical analysis of this regime by choosing as a case study the recent melamine dairy scandal. Although representing one of the most challenging food contaminations the world has ever faced, the melamine dairy scandal did not produce any tangible negative health effects on the European population. By examining in detail the main features and mechanisms of the EU food safety regime, with a particular focus on the rapid alert system (RASFF), this article assesses to what extent this outcome can be ascribed to the European regulatory framework or to other factors.
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