While allowing governments to maintain adequate sanitary and phytosanitary protection, the SPS Agreement reduces possible arbitrariness of decisions and promotes coherent decision-making. It requires that sanitary and phytosanitary measures be applied for purposes other than to ensure food safety and animal and plant health. The agreement specifies in particular the factors to be taken into account in the assessment of the associated risk. Measures to ensure food safety and protect animal and plant health should, as far as possible, be based on the analysis and evaluation of objective and accurate scientific data. The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, also known as spS or spS only, is an international treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The agreement obliges governments to publish all sanitary and phytosanitary provisions without delay and, at the request of another government, to provide explanations on the reasons for a specific food safety or animal or plant health requirement. Although only one body has been invited to examine sanitary or phytosanitary disputes in the 47 years of previous GATT dispute settlement procedures, ten complaints were formally filed in the first three years of the SPS Convention concerning new commitments. This is not surprising, as the agreement clarifies for the first time the basis for challenging sanitary or phytosanitary measures that restrict trade and that may not be scientifically justified. Challenges ranged from issues as wide as inspection and quarantine procedures, epizootics, consumption data, the use of veterinary drugs in animal husbandry and disinfection treatments for beverages. Dispute settlement bodies were invited to consider four of the complaints; the remaining complaints have been or should be resolved following the mandatory bilateral consultation procedure.

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