Science in the policy-making process : the case of the regulation of food contact plastics in the UK and EC.
This thesis investigates the use, safety and regulation of the plasticisers, epoxidised soya
bean oil (ESBO), acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC) and di-(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA),
which are used in food contact plastics. The thesis analyses the scientific evidence
concerning the toxicity and migration of these plasticisers and the selection and
interpretation of that evidence by relevant national and international expert committees
and organisations in the UK and EC. The history of the control of these plasticisers is
also examined in the context of an analysis of the general control of this sector in the
UK and the EC from the 1950s to the 1990s. This investigation is located against the
background of a review of the literature on the role that science can play in the policymaking
process, and how social, political and economic factors may be structured into
the process of expert evaluation of scientific evidence and risk assessment.
The complex details of the chosen examples provide evidence that there are
considerable uncertainties concerning the safety of these plasticisers. In the absence of
adequate evidence of safety, it is concluded that historically, the benefit of the doubt has
been consistently awarded in favour of the continued use of these plasticisers rather than
in the cautious protection of public health. The further conclusion is drawn that the
policy-process has been generally inadequate in this field in order to ensure adequate
protection of public health. Evidence is presented which shows that the outcome of
expert evaluation and policy-making in this field can be related to assumptions that have
been made which have an identifiable political and economic basis. It is therefore
concluded that there is a case for changes in the policy-making institutions and
processes in order more effectively to protect public health.