Photo of Erik MillstoneErik Millstone
Emeritus Professor (SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit)


Much of Erik's research has focused on the ways in which public policy-makers reach decisions concerning the protection of environmental and public health, and particularly on the interactions between scientific and non-scientific considerations. He routinely focuses on how policy-makers decide on the rules with which to regulate industrial products and processes, especially in the food and chemical sectors. Erik has studied a wide range of public health and environmental issues including food additives, pesticides, BSE, GM foods and crops, and the control of lead pollution.   

In recent years his work has also addressed more general questions about the role of scientific expertise and advisors in public policy-making.


Since the Brexit Referendum he has focussed most of his efforts on analysing the implication of Brexit for UK food security, and has published extensively on that issue. 

His most recent contribution to debates about the safety of the artificial sweetener 'aspartame' can be found at:

Erik Millstone's research efforts are currently focussed on  the STEPs centre, details of which are given at  STEPs research explores the possible pathways out of poverty for poor people living in different 'rural worlds' and identify how they can become more economically, ecologically and socially sustainable in an era of growing risk and uncertainty.  

With colleagues in the STEPs team, Erik Millstone is working with the UK Government Office for Science on its Foresight project on the Food and Farming Future Project (

Erik Millstone is also working in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Development Studies ( and Keystone ( on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the ALINe project to explore the ways in which learning within and between agricultural development projects can be beneficially enhanced. (see

Previous Projects

In the BASES project, or Building a common data base on scientific research and public decision on TSEs in Europe, he studied the history of BSE policy-making, comparing the UK, with other EU Member States, especially France, Portugal and the Netherlands. Two aspects in particular were scrutinised. One was the extent to which, and the ways in which, scientific evidence influenced regulatory policy-making in the period from 1985 until 2003. The other concerned the ways in which the UK public sector research system responded to the challenges posed by uncertainties in the scientific basis of BSE risk assessment and risk management.


Some of the results of that study are published as:

·       BSE: risk, science and governance, co-authored with Patrick van Zwanenberg, Oxford University Press, 2005

·       'BSE - a paradigm of policy failure', with P van Zwanenberg, Political Quarterly, Vol. 74, No 1, January 2003, pp. 27-37

·       'The politics of expert advice: lessons from the early history of the BSE saga', (with P van Zwanenberg) Science and Public Policy, Vol. 28, No. 2, April 2001, pp. 99-112

·       'Mad Cow Disease - Painting Policy-Making into a Corner' with P van Zwanenberg, Journal of Risk Research, Vol 10, No 5, July 2007, pp 661- 691  


In a second project, known by its acronym CJD-Risk, Erik collaborated with an international team lead from the European Office of the World Health Organisation, including participants from Germany, Italy and Finland. That project focussed on risk communication strategies adopted by the governments of EU Member States and the European Commission in relation to BSE. The results of that study will shortly be published as


·       Health, Hazards and Public Debate: lessons for risk communication from the BSE/CJD saga with C Dora et al, World Health Organisation, 2004.  

He lead an EU-funded international comparative project on science based international food safety disputes, the report of which was published in September 2004 and is available at

He also lead an international comparative study into \\'risk assessment policy\\' making, which examined the UK, the USA, Germany, Japan, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and Argentina.  The report of that study was published in April 2008 and is available at    

He also lead a 9-country EU-funded comparative project on how public policy-makers can respond to the rapidly increasing incidence of obesity in Europe, which is known by its acronym 'ProGrow'. PorGrow was the acronym for 'Policy options for responding to the growing challenge from obesity'; it was funded by a €750k grant from the European Community. The participating countries were the UK, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary and Cyprus.  Details about, and reports from, that project are available at:   Some of the results of that study are published as:  

·         'The PorGrow project -  an introduction and overview', (with T Lobstein), Obesity Reviews, Volume 8, Supplement 2, 2007, pp. 5-6  

·         'Methodology for obtaining stakeholder assessments of obesity policy options in the PorGrow project', (with A Stirling, T Lobstein), Obesity Reviews, Volume 8, Supplement 2, 2007 pp. 17-28  

·         'The public health and policy context of the PorGrow project', (with T Lobstein), Obesity Reviews, Volume 8, Supplement 2, 2007 pp. 7-16  

·         'Policy Options for Responding to the Growing Challenge from Obesity (PorGrow) in the United Kingdom', (with L Mohebati, T Lobstein and M Jacobs),  Obesity Reviews, Volume 8, Supplement 2, 2007 pp. 109- 115  

.        'ThePorGrow project: overall cross-national results, comparisons and implications\\', (with T Lobstein), Obesity Reviews, Volume 8, Supplement 2, 2007 pp. 29-38


.        'Obesity policy options: a systematic appraisal', (with T Lobstein), Manchester Statistical Society, Summer 2007

  ·         Policy options for responding to obesity: evaluating the options. Summary report of the EC-funded project to map the views of stakeholders involved in tacking obesity - the PorGrow project, with T Lobstein, University of Sussex, November 2006