‘Harmonising the precaution out of the precautionary principle? The need for maintaining flexibility and an interpretative role’

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The precautionary principle has the potential to act as a valuable tool in food law. It operates in areas of scientific uncertainty, calling for protective measures where there are potential threats to human health (or the environment). However, the manner of the principle’s incorporation and implementation within legislation are key to its effectiveness and general legitimacy. Specific considerations include the role and nature of risk assessments, assessors, sources of evidence, divergent opinions, risk communication, other legitimate factors and the weighting of interests. However, more fundamentally, the crystallisation of approaches and removal of all flexibility would undermine the principle’s central tenets. Firstly, principles crucially play a guiding and interpretative role. Secondly, reflexive modernisation and continuing scientific uncertainty call for the precautionary principle’s continued application – precautionary measures do not end the precautionary principle’s relevance. This can be partially achieved through the legislation so as to facilitate later precautionary measures, e.g. through temporary authorisations, derogations and safeguard clauses. However, crucially, it requires that the legislation also be interpreted in light of the precautionary principle. This paper investigates the logic behind the Court of Justice of the EU’s judgments and the circumstances that enable or deter the Court in taking, or permitting, stronger precautionary approaches. Although apparently inconsistent, a number of contextual factors including the legislative provisions and actors involved influence the judgments substantially. The analysis provides insight into improving the principle’s incorporation to facilitate its continued application and maintenance of flexibility, whilst bearing in mind the general desirability of objectivity and legal certainty.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventDesigning Law for Nutrition-Related Health - Surrey, United Kingdom
Duration: 08 Jun 201509 Jun 2015


WorkshopDesigning Law for Nutrition-Related Health
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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