This paper explores some significant sources of variation in the way health standards are derived and used in various countries: differences in biological and regulatory philosophies, in enforcement strategies, and in institutional arrangements. Such cross-national variations raise a number of questions about the process of standard-setting. Among the issues discussed here are the nature of the trade-off between long-run goals and feasibility criteria that merely codify current technical and economic practice, and the possibility of replacing statutory regulation by self-regulation and non-statutory codes and standards.

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