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Global Food Governance

Implications of Food Safety and Quality Standards in International Trade Law


Mariela Maidana-Eletti

With increasingly globalised markets, changing consumer preferences and the steady development of technologies influencing food trade flows, safety and quality concerns have triggered the development of new forms of global (food) governance. Since its creation in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has succeeded in providing a multilateral legal framework for the development of regulatory practices through its multiple agreements. Similarly, the continuing importance of regional and bilateral trade agreements, such as in the European Union and in Switzerland, has enhanced WTO’s accomplishments through a comprehensive and dynamic set of international rules and standards for trade. However, the changing trends in the production and distribution of food products have questioned the effectiveness of the regulatory status quo. This book addresses the legal aspects of the current global architecture for food governance, particularly with regard to the role of international standards. In doing so, this work attempts at mapping the implications of domestic food measures in international trade law.


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4. Food Quality Standards as Technical Barriers to Trade


4.1 What is Food Quality and Why does it Matter? The controversy over the existence of an accurate definition for food quality has unsurprisingly been subject to lively debate.215 In particular, the concept of food quality remains vague in all cases where legislation pursues a dual objective, that of regulating market access requirements, while eliminating trade barriers.216 One line of thought argues that food legislation on compositional standards cannot exist without a tangible food quality concept.217 Follow- ing the same line, the WHO defined food quality as a series of attributes that influence the value of a product for the consumer. It further identi- fied negative and positive attributes of food quality. Negative attributes include spoilage, contamination with dirt, discolouration and off-odours; whereas, positive attributes are those such as origin, colour, flavour, tex- ture and processing methods.218 This traditional theory considers food 215 See inter alia: Anna Giusti/Enrico Bignetti/Carlo Canella, ‘Exploring New Frontiers in Total Food Quality Definition and Assessment: from Chemical to Neurochemical Properties’ (2008) 1 (2) Food and Bioprocess Technology, pp. 130–142; Claudio Peri, ‘The Universe of Food Quality’ (2006) 1–2 Food Quality and Preferences, pp. 3–8. 216 Cf. Erin Holleran/Maury Bredahl/Lokman Zaibet, ‘Private Incentives for Adopting Food Safety and Quality Assurance’ (2004) 24 (6) Food Policy, pp. 669– 683; Dawn Thilmany/Christopher Barrett, ‘Regulatory Barriers in an Integrat- ed World Food Market’ (1997) 19 (2) Appl. Econ. Perspect. Pol., pp. 91–107. 217 Raymond O’Rourke, European Food Law, 3rd ed., Sweet...

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