The Expert Consultation recognized the role of value judgements in triggering risk analysis and further recognized that making such decisions is one of the most value-laden dimensions of risk management.
The Expert Consultation recognized the importance of science as a basis for food safety policy. It is nevertheless clear that food safety decisions cannot be based on science alone. Objective scientific analysis must be embedded in a broader decision-making process and it cannot answer all necessary questions. The Expert Consultation agreed that science is not separate or divorced from ethics, as it is premised on a series of decisions and interpretations, each coloured by values.
The interaction between science and ethics for the most part operates smoothly, but the value and ethical components of food safety risk analysis are often less than transparent. The lack of transparency and the resulting inability to examine and discuss the implicit value decisions can undermine the credibility of the food safety system. Therefore, the Expert Consultation emphasizes that in order to enhance and maintain the credibility and integrity of those decisions, there is a need to be more explicit about broader social, cultural, environmental and other values that are inevitably incorporated in science-based food safety decisions.
The Expert Consultation recommended the following.
I. The ethical and value dimensions of food safety policy be explicitly addressed in order to have an informed and balanced discussion of these dimensions. This implies that:
international food safety organizations make clear that science, while an important tool, is not sufficient in itself for food risk analysis and that it needs to operate within an ethical framework;
international food safety organizations develop and adopt procedures that are directly and explicitly oriented to discussions and debate over the ethical dimensions of their food safety policies with the continued and increased participation of the affected private sector and international NGOs;
the work of this Expert Consultation be advanced by FAO and WHO through their initiation of an internal review of food safety decision-making processes, with the aim of defining the ethical components of their food safety policy decisions; and that
the Code of Ethics for International Trade in Food be finalized as a matter of priority.
II. Discussion and decision-making on these ethical and value dimensions be transparent for interested parties, participatory in design and characterized by good communication among all interested parties. This implies that:
risk managers and risk assessors operating at national, international or organizational levels ensure that their risk analysis procedures contain effective means of outreach and inclusiveness to the affected stakeholders;
the risk communication practices of risk assessors and risk managers operating at national, international and organizational levels include strategies to facilitate access to these risk analysis processes, in order to enable both public scrutiny and improve substantive results;
international food safety organizations adopt procedures that facilitate communication among risk managers, risk assessors and interested stakeholders, in particular through the development of risk assessment policies; and
international food safety organizations continue to expand the involvement and participation of private sector and international NGOs in consultative and decision-making fora and meetings.
III. In order to participate equitably in ethical and scientific discussions in the food safety system, the capacity of the involved or affected parties has to be built. This implies that:
international food safety organizations and other relevant bodies stimulate capacity building in developing countries to enable them to participate effectively in international expert bodies and standard-setting organizations; and that
international food safety organizations stimulate capacity building in Member States to incorporate into risk analysis processes both the definition and justification of ethical and value judgements and the application of science.
IV. The right to adequate food is the right to food that is safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable. This implies that:
the right to adequate food should not primarily be regarded as a right to receive food aid, but as a right to be supported to create one's own food security, including the capacity to make and enforce sound food safety decisions;
the same international food safety standards that apply to foods traded internationally should apply to food aid;
donor countries giving food aid must adhere to an ethical framework that does not impose a double standard where food safety is compromised - or preclude the right of recipient countries to opt out - and that respects the culture, religion and food-related traditions of the recipient country; and that
food aid does not impose on recipient countries ethical dilemmas regarding potential trade-offs between the need to feed a population and safety or other important national concerns.