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Coordination for traceability in the food chain. A critical appraisal of European regulation


Risk management has become a central issue in sanitary crises. Agro food firms have devised organizational responses to sanitary risks, usually implying better traceability. European Regulation 178/2002 established mandatory traceability. This paper provides a critical appraisal of the European Regulation on traceability. The analysis characterizes the mandatory traceability established and evaluates whether the information provided facilitates the withdrawal of targeted products promised by the European Regulation. It demonstrates the importance of traceability practices and sets out the responsibilities of food business operators as defined in the regulation. This regulation is seen as creating economic incentives for more stringent traceability. The problem of private operators’ coordination in relation to traceability practices is explained and the question of whether this problem can be solved by the strict application of European Regulation 178/2002 is addressed. The limits of the European Regulation in this context are demonstrated and solutions are proposed.

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  1. 1.

    Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and the Council laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, Official Journal of the European Communities, 1.2.2002, L31/1-24.

  2. 2.

    Paragraph 28 of the introduction to Regulation 178/2002.

  3. 3.

    Directive 85/374/EEC extended to agricultural raw materials by the Directive 99/34/EEC.


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We would like to thank Diogo Souza-Monteiro and an anonymous referee for their comments on an earlier draft of this article. All errors and omissions are those of the authors.

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Correspondence to Christophe Charlier.

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Charlier, C., Valceschini, E. Coordination for traceability in the food chain. A critical appraisal of European regulation. Eur J Law Econ 25, 1–15 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10657-007-9038-2

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  • Traceability
  • Risk management
  • Food safety
  • European regulation

JEL Classifications

  • I18
  • K32
  • Q18