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Abstract

In January 2011, the US passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which represents a major legislative initiative to revise and strengthen the regulatory regime pertaining to foodborne illness and contamination. The tightening of the regulatory regime was justified on the basis of a number of high-profile foodborne disease incidents, which are claimed to have undermined public confidence in the US food safety system. While tightening food safety regulations inevitably increase barriers to trade, the central question is whether the trade inhibiting externality caused by the tightened of regulations is totally legitimate or whether it contains an element of pure economic protection. This paper seeks evidence of political influence in the governance of trade measures pertaining to food safety for fruit and vegetables in the US as manifested in import refusals. The results suggest that agricultural sector unemployment and antidumping (proxies for political influence) have had a significant positive effect on import refusals for Canada and Mexico. Evidence of politically motivated refusals was not found in the case of China.

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