Lien, M and Nerlich B. Eds. (2004), The Politics of Food, Berg


Ch2. Handling Food-related Risks: Political Agency and Governmentality

By Bente Halkier

  • Consumption is a particular field of practices within the sociality of everyday life, which combines the satisfaction of needs with expressions of identity. Analyzing food consumption means dealing with everyday life experiences and with practices that are characterized by the material and sensate experiences of taking things into the body and keeping things out of the body.  


Ch3. Risk, Blame and Culture: Foot and Mouth Disease and the Debate about Cheap Food

By Brigitte Nerlick

  • Risk refers to people’s intentional and systematic ways of dealing with threats and insecurities, whereas people are exposed to danger irrespective of their own choices. Risks are taken, whereas dangers happen to you (Beck 1992:21).


  • Whether the type of activity constitutes political activity can be assessed from agency (the capacity of citizens to act), community (the degree to which citizens experience a sense of belonging to collectivity that is related to their actions), and influence (the ways in which citizens are capable of making a difference to societal problems by their actions).


  • Negotiations of norms are intimately related to larger discursive repertoires in society, enhanced by the use of mass media.


  • The Cheap Meat Debate in 2001 (after the outbreak of Food Mouth Disease in Britain): “The real-price of cheap food”:
    • There are huge hidden costs behind what appears cheap at the checkout. “We pay three times over—once at the till, then again through tax for EU subsidies and then again through hidden subsidies.” (Felicity Lawrence 2001).


    • So-called cheap food is actually expensive, whereas so-called expensive, i.e. organic food is relatively cheap (Friends of the Earth UK 2001)


    • Few people seemed to spare a thought for those consumers who are less well off, and few people seemed to notice the sneering undertones of the tirade against ‘cheap food,’ The dietary options of many would be severely reduced if there were no cheap meat or supermarkets. (Starr 2001)


  • The choice of risks to worry about depends on the social forms selected. The choice of risks and the choice of how to live are taken together. (Douglas and Wildavsky 1982)


  • Risk is not only scientifically, socially, and culturally constructed in this case, it also becomes an issue of individual and, most importantly, of consumer choice and ultimately an issue of morality; As newspapers reported extensively on these topics, people suddenly know much more about the provenance, distribution and safety of their food than ever before, more than they might ever have wanted to know. In the process, FMD became a very personal issue.  


  • In the case of FMD, greed for cheap food was the sin and the price consumers had to pay for their greed was FMD. Religion stepped in where science had left a vacuum.


  • Consumer choice is the first link in the chain.


*Reference an my further reading:

Beck, U. (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.

Diamond, E. (2001). Get Real about Food and Farming. Retrieved Mar 9, 2010, from Friends of the Earth UK:

Douglas, M. a. (1992). Rish and Culture. London: Routledge.

Lawrence, F. (2001, Feb 28). Hidden costs behind the checkout prices. Retrieved Mar 9, 2010, from The Guardian :

Lawrence, F. (2001, Feb 28). Switch to local suppliers urged to end crises. Retrieved Mar 9, 2010, from The Guardian:

Starr, S. (2001). Sheep, pigs and scapegoats. Retrieved Mar 9, 2010, from Spiked:


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