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Food, risk and politics

Food, risk and politics: Scare, scandal and crisis - insights into the risk politics of food safety

Ed Randall
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Food, risk and politics
    Book Description:

    This is a book about the risk politics of food safety. Food-related risks regularly grab the headlines in ways that threaten reasoned debate and obstruct sensible policy making. In this book, Ed Randall explains why this is the case. He goes on to make the case for a properly informed and fully open public debate about food safety issues. He argues that this is the true antidote to the politics of scare, scandal and crisis. The book skilfully weaves together the many different threads of food safety and risk politics and offers a particularly rewarding read for academics and students in the fields of politics and media studies. It will also appeal to scholars from other disciplines, particularly social psychology and the food sciences. The book is a lively and exceptionally readable account of food safety and risk politics that will engage policy makers and the general reader. It promises to help us all manage food safety issues more intelligently and successfully.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-335-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    This is a book about food scares and scandals, most of them British but not exclusively so. It is a book about the way in which food safety has become entwined with contemporary politics and the politics of risk in particular. Of course the safety of food has always been a matter of public concern. If British politics since the late 1980s has been marked by an exceptionally high level of interest in food safety and the risks associated with unsafe foods, we are not alone in being fearful about the safety of what we eat. Keir Waddington has compared...

  6. 2 Salmonella and media intrusion: food safety policy and politics upset
    (pp. 31-48)

    The career of one British politician, the former Conservative MP Edwina Currie, is more closely associated with food scares in Britain than that of any other. In the closing weeks of 1988 Edwina Currie (then a junior minister at the Department of Health) gave a short interview that was broadcast on national television. Just one sentence from her brief TV interview was decisive in influencing what would become the lead news item across Britain in the days that followed. The minister had made what appeared to be a startling claim: ‘Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is...

  7. 3 An inspector calls: Pennington, E. coli and disaster science
    (pp. 49-69)

    Hugh Pennington writes, inWhen Food Kills(2003: 1), that: ‘just as Glen Coe is remembered for its massacre … Wishaw will forever be associated with its lethal outbreak ofE. coliO157’. At the time of the outbreak Pennington was a professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University. He was asked to chair an inquiry into the outbreak ofE. coliO157 in the town of Wishaw, located in central Scotland, shortly after the outbreak began in the autumn of 1996. The year 1996 was already remarkable in the annals of food scares and scandals. In the spring it had...

  8. 4 BSE and vCJD – still crazy after all these years
    (pp. 70-89)

    In March 1996, the then Conservative Secretary of State for Health, Stephen Dorrell, told the House of Commons that there was probably a link between Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) – ‘mad cow disease’ – and a new variant of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD). Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease was known to be a fatal degenerative brain disease in humans. What shocked the House of Commons and attracted international (not just national) media coverage was not simply that Mr Dorrell’s statement publicly acknowledged a new form of CJD as being the probable cause of death of eight Britons, with an average age of...

  9. 5 GMOs and food – is anyone listening?
    (pp. 90-113)

    Unlike the other chapters in this book there is no single food scandal or crisis that symbolises the subject matter of this case study chapter, the risk politics of genetically modified food. However, there are two sets of linked events, one involving a scientist who worked at the world-renowned Rowett Institute and lost his job there in 1998, and the other, a national debate known asGM Nation?or theGM Public Debate, which took place in 2003 and was presented by government as part of its great GM Dialogue on which the future of genetic modification (GM) in Britain...

  10. 6 Dioxin – scares without borders
    (pp. 114-141)

    No single food scare story better illustrates, at least during the period of a national election, the proposition that: ‘Risk management has become a dominant concern of public policy yet the ability of governments to anticipate the strength and focus of public concern remains weak’ (Breakwell and Barnett, 2003: 80). The Belgian dioxin food scandal of 1999 turned Belgian politics upside down. The political fallout from public suspicions of government duplicity came quickly and dramatically to the government of Jean-Luc Dehane, who seemed to be on course for re-election before the dioxin in food scandal hit Belgian society. If ever...

  11. 7 Foot-and-mouth disease – who’s panicking now?
    (pp. 142-161)

    In April 1991 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced that foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) had been eradicated in Europe. TheNew Scientistreported its announcement as ‘good news for cows’ (NS, 1991). Though ‘good news’ for cloven-footed beasts and other farm animals, even when it appears in a respected science magazine and has come in the first instance from an international organisation responsible for concerting policy on agriculture and food between nations, rarely seems to be an unmixed blessing. The FAO announced, at the same time, that it supported the EU decision to suspend vaccination against FMD in...

  12. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 162-208)

    We have choices about the kind of risk politics (including food safety politics) that we get. Readers of this book, most of whom will be citizens of liberal democracies, can pursue and define their interests as consumers, as voters and as members of civil society. Simply talking to family, friends and neighbours and to colleagues at work connects us to a network of public opinion and influence that is regularly probed by those who govern our society, sell us all manner of goods and services and, no small matter in the complex risk politics of a liberal democracy, are paid...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-230)