This paper seeks to explain the development of a transnational food safety policy approach in
the context of the European
Union (EU). The diverse reactions to the series of food scares
over the past decade, such as the discovery of the link
between BSE (Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy) and the fatal human variant of the disease, a new variant of Creutzfeld
Disease (nvCJD), suggest that ‘food safety’ bears contextually contingent meanings.
As a consequence, a mere ‘recognition’
of the transnational nature of BSE as a problem is an
insufficient explanation for the swift evolution of an EU-based
food safety policy over the
past decade, and the important ways in which food safety policy has come to include
and public health policy.
The existing scholarship presents the policy-making process as linear and based on readily
problems, rational deliberation, and problem-solving. In contrast, this paper does
not take the notion of ‘food safety’
as given, but rather examines the ways in which the
meaning of ‘food safety’ is constructed, (re-)produced, and negotiated
in discursive practices.
By drawing on a discourse-theoretically informed framework, in-depth interviews and textual
this study inductively distills three central shared understandings, or discursive
categories, that EU food safety policy
is based on: the category of the ‘food chain’, the
category of ‘the consumer’, and the notion of being a ‘stakeholder’.
It is argued here that the
arguably open nature of these three discursive categories has facilitated the negotiation of
shared ‘food safety vocabulary’ in the EU context.