Friday, October 04, 2013

Lecture: Social Network Models of Food Safety Standards Worldwide, and Impacts on Trade and Health

"A Tangled Web:  Social Network Models of Food Safety Standards Worldwide, and Impacts on Trade and Health"

Felicia Wu, PhD

Hannah Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Michigan State University

October 10, 2013
Patenge, C102 East Fee Hall, 4:00 p.m.

When nations make decisions about setting food safety standards, the impacts go far beyond the public health impacts of the nations' populations.  These standards have effects on a nation's main trading partners, as well as on the entire global network of nations trading particular commodities.  There are also effects on the distribution of more contaminated vs. less contaminated foods worldwide.  Two case studies, which involve social network models of global food trade, are presented in this lecture.  The first is on maize trade and the impact of aflatoxin regulations. Aflatoxin, produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus, is a potent carcinogen found most commonly in maize and nuts.  We find that like attracts like: nations trade maize with other nations that have identical or very similar standards, and rarely do pairs of nations' trade maize if their total aflatoxin standards are different by more than 5 ng/g.  The second is on pistachio trade.  We find that differential aflatoxin standards force market segregation on a global scale, with stricter nations importing primarily from one nation and less strict nations importing primarily from another.  Potential economic and global health effects associated with these regulations are described.  In the end is a story of hope: an epidemiological study conducted in Qidong, China, of the decrease in liver cancer mortality over a 30-year timeframe due to reduced aflatoxin exposure through switching from maize consumption to rice consumption in the population.



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