My work in the area of food safety grew out of research on pesticides, which led to an interest in chemical residues on foods and in drinking water.  More recently, I've been working on an analysis of the Food and Drug Adminstration's seafood HACCP program.

Some research highlights in this area are:

Research Results


We develop a theoretical model of enforcement and compliance under HACCP regulation and use FDA’s seafood inspection records to examine: (i) if FDA has targeted its inspections under HACCP regulation; (ii) the effects of inspections on compliance with HACCP and plant sanitation standards; and (iii) the relationship between compliance with HACCP and pre-existing sanitation standards.  There is some evidence of targeting based on product risk, but not on past compliance performance.  The threat of an inspection increases the likelihood of compliance, but only for sanitation inspections, not for HACCP.  HACCP compliance does not improve compliance with sanitation standards.

Alberini, Anna, Erik Lichtenberg, Dominic Mancini, and Gregmar I. Galinato, “Was It Something I Ate? Implementation of the FDA Seafood HACCP Program”, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, forthcoming.

Different countries have different traditions of food and food preparation and different kinds of concern about food safety, so their regulatory systems differ. Science-based standards are essential for ensuring accountability in international trade.  Increased trade can help improve food safety regulation in developing countries but does not automatically do so.

Lichtenberg, Erik, “Impact of Food Safety on World Trade Issues”, in K. R. Schneider, B.G. Swanson, and S.E. Valdes Martinez (ed.) Current Issues in Food Safety. New York: McGraw-Hill, forthcoming.

An overview of how economists conceptualize and measure the benefits and costs of food safety with illustrations from USDA studies of microbial hazards and EPA treatment of chemicals in food.

Roberts, Tanya, Jean Buzby, and Erik Lichtenberg, “Economic Consequences of Foodborne Hazards”, in K. R. Schneider, B.G. Swanson, and S.E. Valdes Martinez (ed.) Current Issues in Food Safety. New York: McGraw-Hill, forthcoming.

Most environmental regulations require providing an adequate level of protection with a sufficient margin of safety against uncertainty.  A formal theoretical model of cost-effective regulation under this approach shows that some regulatory measures may be undertaken mainly to reduce uncertainty while others increase protection on average.  A higher the margin of safety increases the total cost of regulation but lowers the marginal cost.  Empirical studies of pesticide contamination of drinking well water and shellfish contamination by dairy wastes show that the incremental cost of increasing the margin of safety can be quite high.  This approach can distort regulatory priorities by placing too much weight on low-risk, high-uncertainty problems (e.g., pesticide residues on foods) and too little on higher-risk, lower-uncertainty problems (e.g., farmworker safety).

Lichtenberg, Erik, "Conservatism in Risk Assessment and Food Safety Policy", in Julie A. Caswell (ed.), Economics of Food Safety.  New York: Elsevier, 1991.

Lichtenberg, Erik, "Risk Assessment, Economics and Chemicals in Food", Journal of Agribusiness 9, 25-38 (Spring 1991).

Lichtenberg, Erik, David Zilberman and Kenneth T. Bogen, "Regulating Environmental Health Risks Under Uncertainty:  Groundwater Contamination in California", Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 17, 22-34 (July 1989).

Lichtenberg, Erik and David Zilberman, "Regulation of Marine Contamination Under Environmental Uncertainty:  Shellfish Contamination in California," Marine Resource Economics 4, 211-225 (1988).

Lichtenberg, Erik and David Zilberman, "Efficient Regulation of Environmental Health Risks", Quarterly Journal of Economics 49, 167-178 (February 1988).