Scholarship code CU4.288

Food Safety and Criminal Compliance: Towards New Enforcement Models Against Individuals and Corporations

  • Reference person
  • Host University/Institute
    Unitelma Sapienza – University of Rome
  • Internship
  • Research Keywords
    Food safety
    Criminal Compliance
  • Reference ERCs
  • Reference SDGs
    GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production


The regulatory framework aimed at fighting criminal offences in the food sector is still an under-investigated subject in the domestic and international scenario, despite the fact that these are forms of criminality that seriously endanger the health and economic trust of consumers, even in the context of the single European market, and considering also that no transition to a modern and sustainable food production can be achieved without building an adequate system of “criminal law protection” of these fundamental interests.The European Union has so far regulated the subject of food safety and food quality in a detailed way in terms of administrative law, whereas no concrete initiative has ever been taken in the area of criminal law apart from an old proposal by the European Commission, which, however, has never been pursued at a regulatory level.For these reasons, the various European national legislations are very different as the European countries do not have a common definition of food fraud and other food-related offences and, in general, have underdeveloped enforcement mechanisms where, inter alia: offences are often focused solely on the violation of administrative regulations on food production and trade; many legislations anticipate the “trigger mechanism” of criminal law (crimes of danger) even at a stage when there is no real danger for the consumer (using the approach of the “precautionary principle” that may jeopardies, in the criminal law perspective, the respect for fundamental rights); many food offences are sometimes not included among the predicate offences of corporate criminal liability (see, for instance, the Italian Case) notwithstanding the fact that it is often in the context of large multinational companies that these crimes occur, etc. Another key issue is related to the fact that, in order to enhance the safety of food production, a large number of private technical standards have been developed in the food sector, which, despite being created and implemented in the private sector, greatly influence the standards of proof of criminal negligence, thus complicating the work of legal and commercial practitioners.Having regard to this background, this research project will be carried out following various interconnected research lines:1. Reaching a common definition of food fraud and food crimes in the international scenario not only to bring “order” in the subject from a theoretical standpoint, but also to assess the possibility of harmonizing the criminal legislation of the European countries in this field using the legislative tools of EU treaties (art. 83, par. II, TFEU); 2. Identifying useful amendments to the criminal enforcement mechanisms against individuals in order to overcome the main aforementioned problematic issued of this area of the criminal regulatory framework;3. Investigating the possibility of building innovative enforcement mechanisms against legal persons for food offences, not only taking into account the fact that the high technical standardization of this sector makes it possible to test regulatory tools focused on the organizational fault/failure to prevent model, but also assessing the possibility of introducing offences whose exclusive perpetrator is the legal person that trades products that are dangerous for the consumer, regardless of the identification of the individual offender in the context of the corporation (so building a truly “autonomous” liability of the legal person).

Suggested skills:

Knowledge of the main research methodologies of criminal law, with regard to the analysis of private and public sources, case law and scientific literature.The Ph.D. Student must also be able to apply the comparative law method and conduct empirical research by carrying out interviews with experts in the field.

Research team and environment

Research at UnitelmaSapienza (a young online & distance learning University directly linked to Sapienza University of Rome) is carried out in various Laboratories, Research Centers and Research Groups.Prof. Mongillo, Full Professor of Criminal law and supervisor of the research project, is involved in a national and international research and institutional network, collaborating with various universities (e.G., Luiss Università, Unimore, Univ. Vanvitelli, Univ. Santiago de Compostela, Univ. Castilla-la Mancha , Università Autonoma de Barcelona, London University, Leipzig Univerisity) - and institutions (e.G., Cnpds, International Association of Penal Law, Italian Anticorruption Authority, Ministry of Justice) – in research on corporate criminal liability, food crime, corporate compliance. This research, coordinated by prof. Mongillo, will see also the collaboration of various young scholars with a specific expertise in this field, including the fight against food crime and corporate crime. This line of research aims at investigating the future perspective for improving these systems, fostering an increasing exchange of best practices between the public and private sectors.