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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why is there No Mad Cow Disease in the United States? Comparing the Politics of Food Safety in Europe and the U.S.


This paper compares approaches towards food safety regulation in Europe and the United States. It focuses on mad cow disease and examines how the British Government and the European Union handled the first big crisis in the nineties, juxtaposed to the American response. This worst public health disaster in Europe has led to new agencies and policies. However, these institutional changes do not abolish fragmentation, but extend the existing landscape of regulatory bodies. The paper emphasizes that fragmentation – as the American case shows despite its shortcomings – prevents science from being captured by the state, allows interest groups broader access and ensures a distinct pattern of checks and balances.

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