Outbreak: Foodborne Illness and the Struggle for Food Safety
University of Chicago Press (2019)
Posted: 23 May 2019 Last revised: 26 May 2019
Date Written: April 19, 2019
This book examines the interplay between government regulation, civil liability, and private governance in food safety regulation. It offers general lessons about how complex regulatory systems work, with application to areas beyond food safety — such as environmental protection, financial regulation, health and safety, and labor standards.
The book chronicles efforts dating back to the 1800s to combat widespread contamination by pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella that have become frighteningly familiar. Over time, deadly foodborne illness outbreaks caused by infected milk, poison hamburgers, and tainted spinach have spurred steady scientific and technological advances in food safety. Nevertheless, problems persist. Inadequate agency budgets restrict the reach of government regulation. Pressure from consumers to keep prices down constrains industry investments in safety. The limits of scientific knowledge leave experts unable to assess policies’ effectiveness and whether measures designed to reduce contamination have actually improved public health.
Outbreak offers practical reforms that will strengthen the food safety system’s capacity to learn from its mistakes and identify cost-effective food safety efforts capable of producing measurable public health benefits.
Keywords: regulatory governance, civil liability, regulation, food safety
JEL Classification: I18, L51, L66, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation