Structural Precaution: The Application of Premarket Approval Schemes in EU Food Legislation

B.M.J. van der Meulen, H.J. Bremmers, J.H.M. Wijnands, K.J. Poppe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Structural precaution refers to legal requirements by which food products (whether as ingredients, additives, genetically modified or innovative in some other form) are only admitted to the market after authorization by public authorities and till then are presumed unsafe. In the EU such authorization is granted after provision of conclusive scientific evidence of the product’s safety by the applicant. The objective of this article is to critically evaluate structural precaution in the EU against the general principles of European and international law. Moreover, it addresses the positive and negative side-effects of structural precaution for food businesses. The methods which are applied are legal-systematic and empirical. Legal-systematic research shows that the European system of structural precaution may come into conflict with the principles of free trade. Empirical research on the effects of structural precaution shows that the barriers to market access impede food innovations, negatively impact competitiveness, and induce opportunistic strategic responses by food businesses. Among the opportunistic strategic responses that were identified are window-dressing, trespassing and circumventing. These may have adverse effects on food safety. This is remarkable since food safety is the key driving force behind the application of structural precaution. The article advocates an overhaul of the present European risk prevention framework. It argues that the newly proposed European legal framework for innovative foods only partly addresses the identified problems with which the food industry is confronted
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-473
JournalFood and Drugs Law Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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