Salmonella Control in Denmark and the EU

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Case Study #3-12 of the Program: ''Food Policy For Developing Countries: The Role Of Government In The Global Food System''


Potential food safety hazards include foodborne pathogens,1 use of antibiotics leading to resistant bacteria, chemical residuals in food products, medicine residues, growth hormones, and genetically modified organisms. The relative importance that consumers (and public authorities) place on each individual food safety issue varies noticeably across countries.2 From an economic viewpoint, however, the common feature shared by these issues is that policy intervention to address them might improve social welfare. Two main arguments support the contention that public intervention is welfare improving: (1) insufficient information about the safety of different products prevents consumers from having a proper choice, and (2) food safety is not entirely a private matter because public expenditures on, for instance, public health costs and sick pay are linked directly to each case of human disease. Hence, public authorities have a direct economic interest in implementing optimal food safety policies. Salmonella is a bacterial foodborne pathogen that causes human illness of varying severity, from mild cases to death. Salmonella control in the Nordic countries is considered leading-edge by international standards (Wahlström 2006; Wegener et al. 2003). In the late 1980s the Danish government, together with the industries concerned, formulated Salmonella control programs as a reaction to a substantial increase in the number of human cases of illness due to Salmonella. The policy succeeded in reducing the number of human cases of illness due to Salmonella in Danish-produced meat and eggs. The policy levied extra costs on food producers and the public sector, but economic analyses suggest that there are net benefits to society in the longer run owing to economic benefits from improved public health. The international environment has created a challenge for Denmark’s formulation of future food safety policies. Denmark has experienced a large increase in the volume of imported meat products in recent years, and the prevalence of Salmonella (as well as other bacteria, especially Campylobacter) in imported meat is significantly higher than in Danish-produced meat. As a basic rule, European Union (EU) legislation does not permit countries (except Finland and Sweden) to ban imported meat on the basis of prevalence of bacteria. Recent documentation of large variations in infection levels in products from different countries (Danish Veterinary and Food Administration 2006), however, has made the EU more inclined to allow country-specific rules regarding food safety. In addition, the EU implemented new criteria for hygiene and food safety processes in January 2006 to increase food safety in Europe. Your assignment is to identify opportunities and obstacles for improving Danish food safety policy using Salmonella control as a case. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the options mentioned in this case study for each stakeholder group. The assignment should include a discussion of the consequences of increased food safety in rich countries for the trading opportunities of developing countries. For example, is there necessarily a trade-off between the best possible food safety in Denmark and the welfare of people in developing countries that wish to export food products to Denmark?

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11 pp.

©Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. All rights reserved. This case study may be reproduced for educational purposes without express permission but must include acknowledgment to Cornell University. No commercial use is permitted without permission.


Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences

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Tove Christensen, Lill Andersen (2007). Case Study #3-12, ''Salmonella Control in Denmark and the EU''. In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), ''Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies.''11 pp.

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