Hearing the Consumer? The Laboratory, the Public, and the Construction of Food Safety in Brussels (1840s – 1910s)

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6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper addresses the role of consumers in food safety between 1850 and 1914, taking the chemical laboratory of the city of Brussels (1856) as a case study. It questions the presence of "the public" in the discourse of the city council, as well as the consumers' actual participation in the food control system (the inhabitants of Brussels were invited to bring food samples to the laboratory). Despite very frequent and loud appeals by the city's administration from 1870 on, the public reacted with weak, and diminishing, enthusiasm: the number of food samples submitted by private persons declined gradually up to 1914. This paper suggests various reasons, but suggests that the establishment of a modern public service, which was embedded in an appropriate discourse, created trust. The paper uses police archives, contemporary brochures, and reports of municipal meetings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1155
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social History
Volume44
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • food safety
  • Chemical laboratory
  • consumers
  • food history
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • 19th century

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