Abstract: The Controversial Governance of Food Safety Regulation: Italian Firms and the Dilemma between Market Promotion and Consumer Protection, 1960s-1990s

Alessandra Tessari


This paper examines the role played by institutions, powerful lobbies, and the private sector in food safety regulation by focusing on the Italian poultry industry. Notwithstanding the increasing demand,both public and private, for safer food, there was no institutional guarantee of quality; the government protected the vested interests of the conservative poultry retailers and small poultry producers. After many unsuccessful attempts to enter into a constructive dialogue with government institutions on the sanitary issue, from the 1960s the leading poultry firms adopted a sanitary self-regulation similar to "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points" (HACCP) as a food safety control system, thus reassuring consumers with guaranteed sanitary products. This strategy proved to be successful because it contributed to heightening quality standards and public expectations as well, thus indirectly providing the government with the necessary incentive to modernize sanitary regulation in the long run. Moreover, this paper explores the historical development of the private sector's early attempts to protect public health, focusing on the underlying relationships between market promotion and consumer protection at critical junctures when corporate social responsibility (CSR) become embedded. It shows how among all the companies that followed the U.S. model of poultry mass production, Arena gained the leadership by seriously undertaking its "company stakeholder responsibility."