Food Safety, Reputation, and Regulation: An Economic Perspective

June 15, 2022, 2-3 pm ET 

Presented by Dr. John Bovay
Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech


This presentation reviews the empirical economic literature on food safety, reputation, and regulation. Globally, food-borne diseases cause about 600 million cases of illness per year, causing discomfort and leading to lost wages, lost productivity, hospitalizations, and deaths. However, it is not known whether additional food-safety regulations would improve social welfare, that is, whether the benefits from reduced illness would exceed the costs to producers, sellers, consumers, and taxpayers. Producers and sellers have strong private incentives to provide safe food, largely related to the negative demand effects seen in response to food-safety problems including recalls, scandals, and other scares. Private incentives can lead producer groups and market intermediaries to require private or collective standards for food safety that exceed the stringency of government standards. Private and collective standards and government regulations can all have distributional effects—some producers will benefit, some will lose, and consumers may benefit or lose. In some cases, mandatory disclosure of information about food safety can improve safety outcomes, without imposing additional or more stringent regulation. However, inspection scores may be manipulated by both inspectors and inspected entities. To achieve improved food-safety outcomes, Dr. Bovay suggests that food-safety regulations should focus on outcomes rather than on practices or processes. 

Contact Garland Mason with any questions or concerns by emailing

Loading player for

Dr. Bovay's presentation was based on a paper he was working on at the time. That paper is now published (open access): 

Bovay, J. (2022). Food safety, reputation, and regulation. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy.