Non-tariff barriers, food safety and international trade

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Non-tariff barriers, food safety and international trade 

Governments can legislate to exclude certain types of food.  They can also control the types of food that is available.  In particular, they can control the labels and 'contents declarations' they must carry. 

Differences in wealth, dietary habits and consumer preferences could lead to different preoccupations and food safety aims.

The relative uncertainty of much of the scientific evidence, and achieving the same food safety aims through different methods means that food law can diverge across the world. 

Non-tariff barriers can hinder trade and increase costs, as manufacturers have to formulate  different products to meet the divergent legislative requirements in their various markets.

Some products might not be able to penetrate a market at all. This is a very real concern of producers in low-income countries, for if their governments fail to assure their counterparts in the importing nations that certain minimum requirements are met, no trade at all may be possible between the two parties in the product concerned. 

Agricultural trade barriers have come under increasing scrutiny, and so have the impact of non-tariff barriers on international trade.  

Politicians have two main concerns.  First, they wante access to foreign markets for their export  products.  They also want to impose disciplines upon their overseas trading partners to make sure that any (food safety) legislation in the importing nation is justifiable on the basis of objective scientific evidence.  However, consumer groups in importing countries have expressed the concern that an international trade law could limit the country’s freedom to determine its own food safety standards.  This is the case if the importers’ intention was to set standards at levels which exceed the internationally agreed standards.