Assessing the Relative Influence and Efficacy of Public and Private Food Safety Regulation Regimes: Comparing Codex and Global G.A.P. Standards

Sam F. Halabi and Ching-Fu Lin


An extensive global system of private food regulation is under construction, one that exceeds conventional regulation thought of as being driven by public authorities like FDA and USDA in the U.S. or the Food Standards Agency in the UK. Agrifood and grocer organizations, in concert with some farming groups, have been the primary designers of this new food regulatory regime. These groups have established alliances that compete with national regulators in complex ways. This article analyzes the relationship between public and private sources of food safety regulation by examining standards adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a food safety organization jointly run by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization and GlobalG.A.P., a farm assurance program created in the late 1990s by supermarket chains and their major suppliers which has now expanded into a global certifying coalition. While Codex standards are adopted, often as written, by national food safety regulators who are principal drivers of the standard setting process, customers for agricultural products in many countries now demand evidence of GlobalG.A.P. certification as a prerequisite for doing business This article tests not only the durability and strength of private sector standard setting in the food safety system, but also the desirability of that system as an alternative to formal, governmental processes embodied, for our purposes, in the standards adopted by Codex. In many cases, official standards and GlobalG.A.P. standards clash in ways that implicate not only food safety but the flow of agricultural products in the global trading system. The article analyzes current weaknesses in both regimes and possibilities for change that will better reconcile the two competing systems.