Authority Through Deliberative Governance: The British Food Standards Agency in Action
The British Food Standards Authority (FSA) was established in the aftermath of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis as a radical break with the old climate of secrecy in food safety regulation. This chapter studies in detail how the new organization tries to reinvent openness in a highly technical field by combining different ways of knowing and actively reaching out towards the media and its different publics. The struggle of the FSA shows how seemingly self-evident goals of a deliberative governance, like openness and transparency, can be paradoxical and complicated in practice; similarly its motto of “putting ‘the’ consumer first” turns out to be more complex than it might seem. It provides a case study of how an organization tries to become authoritative giving meaning to democratic accountability and deliberation while complying with a commitment to expert knowledge. It also shows how emotional moments can be key to break through institutional routines and establish a shift in thinking and a joint commitment to a new way of working. It narrates one of the most interesting examples of a deliberative regulation known to date.
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