The New Food Safety

76 Pages Posted: 3 May 2019 Last revised: 12 Feb 2021

See all articles by Emily Broad Leib

Emily Broad Leib

Harvard Law School

Margot J. Pollans

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

Date Written: April 5, 2019


A safe food supply is essential for a healthy society. Our food system is replete with different types of risk, yet food safety is understood as encompassing only foodborne illness and other risks related directly to food ingestion. This Article argues for a more comprehensive definition of food safety, one that includes not just acute, ingestion-related risks, but also whole-diet cumulative ingestion risks, and cradle-to-grave risks of food production and disposal. This broader definition, which we call “Food System Safety,” draws under the header of food safety a variety of historically siloed, and often under-regulated, food system issues including nutrition, environmental protection, and workplace safety. The current approach to food safety is inadequate. First, it contributes to irrational resource allocation among food system risks. Second, it has collateral consequences for nutrition, environmental protection, and workplace safety, and, third, its limited focus can undermine efforts to achieve narrow food safety. A comprehensive understanding of food safety illuminates the complex interactions between narrow food safety and other areas of food system health risks. We argue that such an understanding could facilitate improved allocation of resources and assessment of tradeoffs, and ultimately support better health and safety outcomes for more people. We offer a variety of structural and institutional mechanisms for embedding this approach into agency action.

Keywords: food safety, food law, environmental law, public health, nutrition, administrative law

Suggested Citation

Broad Leib, Emily and Pollans, Margot J., The New Food Safety (April 5, 2019). 107 Cal. L. Rev. 1173, Available at SSRN:

Emily Broad Leib

Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-5879 (Phone)

Margot J. Pollans (Contact Author)

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University ( email )

78 N. Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

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