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Precautionary bans or sacrificial lambs? Participative risk regulation and the reform of the UK food safety regime

By Henry Rothstein


This paper explores contemporary trends towards participative risk regulation and considers the impacts of participative reform on policy processes and outcomes. Using the example of reform of the UK food safety regime, the paper examines whether participative reforms, in the form of stakeholder decision-making, are able to deliver their promised benefits and if not, why not. Empirically, the paper examines how UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) used a stakeholder decision-making process to manage the potential risks from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in sheep in 2002, and the initial rejection of those proposals by the European Commission. The paper finds that the potential benefits of the stakeholder process were mitigated by a number of institutional factors, including: considerable interpretative flexibility in how to represent consumer interests and the concept of precaution; restricted openness and exclusion of key stakeholders; and the impact of the supra-national regulatory context. The paper concludes that broadening participation per se does not necessarily produce more democratic or robust policy outcomes than closed processes, although it may have some limited value in improving public confidence in the regulatory regime

Topics: HG Finance
Publisher: Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2003
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Provided by: LSE Research Online
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