Document Type



A safe food supply is essential for a healthy society. Our food system is replete with different types of risk, yet food safety is often narrowly understood as encompassing only foodborne illness and other risks related directly to food ingestion. This Article argues for a more comprehensive definition of food safety, one that includes not just acute, ingestion-related risks, but also whole-diet cumulative ingestion risks, and cradle-to-grave risks of food production and disposal. This broader definition, which we call “Food System Safety,” draws under the header of food safety a variety of historically siloed, and under-regulated, food system issues including nutrition, environmental protection, and workplace safety. The current narrow approach to food safety is inadequate. First, it contributes to irrational resource allocation among food system risks. Second, it has collateral consequences for other food system risks, and, third, its limited focus can undermine efforts to achieve narrow food safety. A comprehensive understanding of food safety illuminates the complex interactions between narrow food safety and other areas of food system health risks. We argue that such an understanding could facilitate improved allocation of resources and assessment of tradeoffs, and ultimately support better health and safety outcomes for more people. We offer a variety of structural and institutional mechanisms for embedding this approach into federal agency action.