An Economic Assessment of Food Safety Regulations

An Economic Assessment of Food Safety Regulations

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An economic assesment of food safety regulations meet and poultry
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An Economic Assessment of Food Safety Regulations:

The New Approach to Meat and Poultry Inspection

Stephen R. Crutchfield

Jean C. Buzby

Tanya Roberts

Michael Ollinger

C.-T.  Jordan Lin

Introduction and Overview

American agriculture excels at producing an abundant

supply of safe, nutritious food for the Nation and the

world.  Despite the productivity and quality of the

Nation’s food system, concerns remain about the safety

and quality of the food we eat and the water we drink.  In

recent years, some well-publicized incidents, such as

the contamination of hamburgers with the 

E. coli

O157:H7 bacterium and residues of the pesticide Alar

on apples, have led to increased public concern about

the possibility of foodborne illness and exposure to

potentially hazardous chemicals in the food supply.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s

(USDA) 1991 Diet and Health Knowledge Survey, 49

percent of primary meal preparers cited bacteria or

parasites in food as the food safety issue of greatest

concern.  An additional 26 percent cited pesticide

residues in food as their greatest safety concern.  In

response, the USDA has begun several broad-based

efforts to make further improvements in the safety and

quality of the Nation’s food supply.

This report discusses the regulation of meat and poultry

products from the economist’s perspective.  Economics

plays an important role in the public debate about food

safety.  Fundamental economic principles help explain

why food safety problems may exist.  Economic analysis

of the costs of foodborne disease helps put the social

burden of unsafe food into a broader perspective.

Finally, economic analysis of food safety policies helps

public- and private-sector decisionmakers  rank policy

options on the basis of expected costs and benefits.

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