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USA - Consumers, Producers, and the Shifting Logic of Food Safety


Jun 06, 2022

Food adulteration laws, although often portrayed as laws benefiting consumers, had important agricultural dimensions in the late nineteenth century. When federal legislation to stop adulteration gained steam, chemists within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) were charged with detecting it. Thus, in this way, consumer legislation such as food labeling or food safety laws reflected the actions of the agricultural industry. Bacteriology also gained authority as a mechanism to determine food safety. As the federal government timidly advanced federal food legislation to regulate margarine and meat exports, states advanced legislation that increasingly targeted manufactured foods. The dynamics of food regulatory policy, however, also reveal how regulators have weighed the balance between producers and consumers. In the late nineteenth century, federal policy-makers intervened to protect agricultural interests, promoting consumption of agricultural goods with favorable tax policy and sufficient regulation to gain access to international markets.

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