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6 - Regulation of Food Systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2015

Michael T. Roberts
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
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Summary

Introduction

[1] Adaptation by Food Law to Food Systems’ Issues

[a] Affects in Previous Food Law Phases

The concept of “food systems” as used in this treatise refers to multiple systems: local, regional, national, and global. Two additional points flesh out the concept of food systems as used in this treatise. First, each food system comprises the production, processing, preparation, packaging, promotion, sales, preparation, distribution, and consumption of food. The shorthand descriptor of these events is known as “farm-to-fork” or “farm-to-plate,” which connote a systematic way of thinking about the life cycle of a food product. Second, a “food systems approach” involves more than the acknowledgment of the multiple stages in the modern food system; it also refers to an orientation that raises normative questions about what sort of food system(s) is preferable. Discussion of these normative questions involves food policy that is beyond the scope of this food law treatise; however, the implications of the debate are germane to food law because much of emerging law governing food is shaped in response to the changing norms and social ideas about the food system(s).

The adaptation by food law to food systems issues is evident in each of the phases outlined in this treatise – food commerce, safety, marketing, and nutrition. For example, a critical issue in food safety regulation is whether small enterprises should be excluded from food safety laws in order to preserve the small farm, seen by many as the foundation for a successful local food system. Emerging labeling laws determine how food credence information (i.e., organic, grass-fed, cage-less, GMO-free) is conveyed to consumers concerned about the values of the food system from which the food product is derived. Indeed, the motivation for state initiatives on mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods is less about food safety and more about what kind of food system voting consumers prefer. Finally, laws are being used to correct the deficiencies in food system(s) that result in malnutrition and obesity.

The pressures on the law to govern the layered, complex food systems are immense. Gaps in administrative regulation give rise to additional legal tools, such as private standards, self-governance, and litigation. Preferences for one food system over another generate policy tensions and affect the type of laws that emerge.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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