How Private Food Safety Standards Restrict Access to Markets (and the Desirability of Doing So)
Editor’s Note: To understand the regulatory role of private standards, see An Updated Look at the Federal Policies Governing How Agencies Use Voluntary Consensus Standards in Regulatory, Procurement, and Science Documents.
by Sam Halabi
In general, private food safety standards might be regarded as beneficial for both producers and consumers. If Walmart, for example, imposes a requirement on its supplier farms to use chemical fertilizers instead of manure, an important safety risk is minimized (although with other perhaps less desirable costs imposed on farmers and their environment), consumers’ food is safer, and Walmart faces less liability for having sold or distributed contaminated food. Yet the Global GAP system of standards is far more extensive on far more criteria than food safety yet with important, costly ramifications on food markets.
Consider seafood. Fish continues to be one of the most-traded food commodities worldwide, with around 45% of the world fish catch now traded internationally. The fishery trade is especially important for developing nations, in some cases accounting for more than half of the total value of traded commodities. Seafood consumption has increased in the United States in recent decades, reaching a high during the past decade: the average American now eats approximately 16.5 pounds of seafood each year, compared with 10 to 12 pounds during the 1980s.