U.S. Importation of French Cheeses: Trade Protectionism or Consumer Protection


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Virginia Tech


This study examines the extent to which the equivalency provision presented in the SPS agreement is able to foster trade negotiations between countries adopting different food safety measures. The study examines the role of scientific evidence as well as the political, economic, and cultural factors in impacting the national regulatory process and the international trade negotiations. It focuses on the limitations of science in allowing countries to reach consensus in contentious trade-related debates laden with risk uncertainty and missing data.

The study consists of comparing the key components of the U.S. and French regulatory systems to identify the cultural basis for the differences in the perception of listeria risk and in preferences to control it. The stringent standards adopted in the U.S. and the preference for pasteurization are attributed to the complete separation of the regulatory functions form those of food production, the open style of decision-making which allows private citizens to review and comment on administrative actions, the unwillingness of U.S. regulators to expose vulnerable individuals to deadly pathogens, and the reliance on quantitative data to validate the effectiveness of pasteurization. The more flexible standards impacting listeria regulation in France are attributed to the the integration of regulatory functions with those of food production, the consumer preference for natural products, the public's trust in the government's regulatory decisions, and the belief that the determination of appropriate safety measures should be left up to the producers.



listeria, risk assessment, free trade agreements