Responding to public fears and the loss of confidence in the aftermath of several food safety crises in the 1990s and 2000s, more and more regulatory laws have increasingly been affected by the precautionary principle. To clarify how those developments can have adverse consequences, we discuss two very different cases. First, at the molecular level we discuss the problems the system encounters by strictly applying the linear no-threshold (LNT) at low doses model, which was adopted in response to fears about the effects of ionizing radiations. Second, at a global scale, we discuss the problems associated with the precautionary regulation on Illegal, Unreported and Unregistered Fisheries that came into effect January 1, 2010. The technical aspects of food safety testing and their impacts are perhaps unknown to policy makers but they do dominate safety decisions. Both examples show that strict application of the precautionary principle produce deleterious side effects, which go against the very policy values that the precautionary regulation should protect. We show, in particular, that overly precautionary food safety regulation may harm food security. We conclude in the EU and other Western nations, problems of food security are much more relevant to human health and life expectancy than food safety. We recommend that current food safety regulation based on the precautionary risk-regulation reflex should normatively be re-evaluated with a complete regard for the values of food security - both within and outside the EU.
European Journal of Risk Regulation
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Hanekamp, J.C, Kwakman, J, Pieterman, R, & Ricci, P.F. (2012). The administrative ordering of nature and society - Precaution and food safety at the molecular and global levels. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 3(3), 313–326. Retrieved from