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Food Safety and Global Comestibles


Tarulevicz, NT, Food Safety and Global Comestibles, American Historical Association, 2-5 January 2015, New York (2015) [Conference Extract]

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Our newspapers and computer screens are flooded with food scares and scandals. From mass meat recalls in the US to melamine in Chinese milk, we learn of the substitution of cheaper ingredients to increase profits, about the adulteration of food with harmful chemicals and about deliberate food fraud. A popular tendency is to see this as a product of recent globalization and the industrialization of the food system. Globalization has complicated the food system but issues of food quality played out on the global stage since the trade in black pepper and nutmeg and are deeply bound with imperialism and industrialisation. "Imperial machinery" secured the abundance and cheapness of food, but also fuelled worries about how technology could be used to ‘deceive and cheat consumers’ and to expose local markets to competition from distant producers.
Historians have increasingly recognized the centrality of comestibles to imperialism, tracing how it changed the domestic and daily habits of those at the centre of empires. What has received less attention is the history of food quality in colonial contexts. This paper takes the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore as its example and traces the evolution of food safety regulations, advertising, campaigns and public health messages to show how anxieties about the safety of food are complicated by a reliance on the global pantry. Although importing the vast majority of your food seems like a particularly twenty-first-century situation, for Singapore this has long been the case. It does not have, and has never had, an agricultural hinterland and this makes it a powerful historical example with relevancy to contemporary debates.

Item Details

Item Type:Conference Extract
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Historical studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Tarulevicz, NT (Associate Professor Nicki Tarulevicz)
ID Code:98016
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:Research Division
Deposited On:2015-01-28
Last Modified:2015-01-28

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