Donnerstag, 21. Januar 2016, 17:30 - 19:00 iCal

Food or Drug?

Regulatory Cultures and Their Consuming Publics

Department of Science and Technology Studies / Seminar Room / Staircase II / 6th floor (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


The recent proliferation of novel “functional” foods designed for their health-promoting properties and the increase in use of new health claims to promote traditional foods have challenged existing regulatory classifications intended to distinguish medicinal products, with stricter safety standards linked to medical professionals, from food products intended for general lay consumers. This interplay of marketplace innovation with regulatory safety concerns and quality control, what is characterized as a “food-drug interface,” has been particularly problematic in the context of globalized markets, where foods created in one regulatory culture circulate in new communities with different ideas about diet, health and personal responsibility. In this talk I will examine three examples of the marketing of products implicated in debates over the construction and deconstruction of a food-drug boundary: 1) debates in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s over prefunctional foods and the labelling of health risk on non-medical products, 2) the branding of the Mediterranean diet and Mediterranean foods in the last thirty years as part of an exportable “healthy lifestyle,” and 3) professional disputes in South Korea in the last two decades over the classification of an Oriental medicine ginseng pill as a Western prescription drug. Through these three cases I will draw comparisons across different regulatory cultures on how they engage consuming publics, and I will show how products work as pre-packaged “embodied knowledge” that can be used to “mobilize consumers” in political disputes.

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Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung


Elisabeth Haslinger
Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung
01 4227 49601