Food safety standards : how risk management programmes are negotiated, constructed, and contested in the New Zealand meat industry
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In 1999 the Animal Products Act was passed into law. This Act fundamentally alters the way that meat safety standards are implemented in the New Zealand meat industry by legislating the introduction of risk management programmes (RMP) to manage hazards in meat products. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) holds that RMP strengthens meat safety standards by ensuring that they are based on objective science rather than the subjective judgements of government meat inspectors. MAF explains that this will also allow the government to establish a unified New Zealand meat safety standard to which all parties may be held accountable. This thesis explores MAF's assertion that RMP and the New Zealand standard are the products of an objective, scientific method. My central argument is that the construction, implementation, and monitoring of RMP and the New Zealand meat safety standard are not the product of some privileged scientific process. Instead, I argue that they are negotiated, constructed, and contested by networks made up of both human and nonhuman actors in the meat sector and that their outcomes are a product of this process. My study is based on a textual analysis of government and meat industry documents together with twenty-five semi-structured interviews with representatives from the government, the meat industry and other stakeholders within the network surrounding the meat sector. This thesis focuses on the arguments and methods that MAF used to win various actors to a new network based on RMP and the New Zealand standard. What linked this network together was not a unified understanding of the scientific benefits of risk management but rather a concern for how to ensure that the meat industry would remain internationally competitive and profitable. Instituting a new arrangement for meat safety based on RMP emerged as the means to achieve this. The assumption being that RMP would reduce costs and increase flexibility in the meat industry and thereby ensure market access internationally. As the thesis illustrates, however, this goal has been difficult to achieve as attempts by MAF to construct and negotiate the implementation of new meat safety standards has been contested by other actors within the network at every stage.