Liability versus responsibility: The food industry case

T. Caspi, Y. Lurie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The distinction between safety-related issues and health-related issues is essential, particularly in relation to the food industry. In this article, we will be discussing health-related issues and their significance within the context of long-term risk management in the food industry. When we deal with a health-related issue that develops gradually, and when a large number of food producers and various risk factors are involved, one cannot clearly point to the single link in the food production chain that is responsible for the damage. Moreover, the consumer and his/her eating patterns - are definitely part of the overall reasons that are likely to bring about some form of damage to his/her health. The inability to point to the single factor responsible for the damage is often used as an excuse by the food industry in order to release it from any moral responsibility for the damage caused to the health of its clients. Moral responsibility and causal responsibility are distinguished. The moral responsibility befalls the autonomous person - the one who is free to choose his actions. In this context, there is no doubt that the food corporations have far more freedom of action than the consumer. Thus, even if it makes sense to downplay their responsibility for the health damages themselves, one cannot do so regarding their responsibility to do all they can in order to prevent these damages. This calls for making a distinction between laying moral responsibility and guilt on the person who caused the harm, which is why he has the responsibility to avoid it (or to compensate the victim), and the obligation to contribute towards reducing the harm, regardless of the identity of the person causing the harm. The context of this discussion leads us to the conclusion that the food corporations have liability to the health status of their clients.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate Change and Sustainable Development
Subtitle of host publicationEthical Perspectives on Land Use and Food Production
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9789086867530
ISBN (Print)9086861970, 9789086861972
StatePublished - 1 May 2012


  • Health
  • Liability
  • Responsibility
  • Risk
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Medicine (all)


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