The research unit of Milan University coordinated by Professor Angela Lupone has dealt with legal aspects of food safety rights in relation to international trade law and has therefore focused its attention on recent developments on food safety and food trade issues within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The research unit has collected relevant WTO legal, doctrinal and jurisprudential sources with particular attention to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture and the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement). The work has been carried on with the purpose of analysing to what extent WTO Members are allowed to discipline their sanitary and phytosanitary systems, thus managing food safety, without contravening WTO obligations of trade liberalization which are applicable to agricultural and food products. To this end, the unit has focused its research on issues related to equivalence and mutual recognition of SPS measures, bilateral cooperation among WTO Members and the role of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) in developing international standards and fostering the international harmonization process. The research unit has also investigated certain open questions related to food labelling as regulated by the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), and intellectual property rights as disciplined by the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). As to the latter, particular attention has been devoted to the protection of traditional knowledge and geographical indications of agricultural products as well as the international regulation on designation of origin and its impact on the international food trade.
Thanks to the contribution of external experts, the research unit has then analyzed more in depth some specific issues on food safety and food frauds related to selected geographical areas such as China, Brazil, Vietnam and Japan. As for China, the focus has been on the main challenges posed by the outflow of agricultural product of Chinese origin, with particular attention to the functioning of the bilateral cooperation mechanism established between China and the European Union. As regard Brazil, the attention has been directed to food safety issues in the State of Minas Gerais, a major producer and exporter of agricultural commodities. With respect to Vietnam and Japan, the attention has been devoted, respectively, to the effects of the entry into force of a new national legislation and to the response of national health authorities to the Fukushima nuclear accident.