Food scares, such as the discovery of 'mad cow disease' and incidents of dioxins contamination, have led to political crises across Europe over the past decade, especially in Germany and the United Kingdom. In the Netherlands, by contrast, such discussions have remained relatively narrow and led to only minor changes in framing food safety as a policy issue. This relatCtructuralist conceptualisation of discourse with an interpretive approach to policy analysis, whereby discourses constitute the policy process. Adopting such an analytical perspective, this study suggests that in the Dutch case, three contextually specific discourses functioned to delimit meanings around food safety: (1) a technocratic discourse of governance; (2) a discourse of market efficiency, which links the meaning of food safety primarily to its economic implications; and (3) a specific consumer discourse, which constructs consumption (for instance, in favour of sustainability) as a matter of individual choice and private responsibility. These discourses have demarcated the meaning of 'food safety' in contemporary policy discourse in the Netherlands. Food safety became articulated as a technically defined, self-evident concept that does not require fundamental debate and food safety policy remained comparatively stable. Alternative policy options that articulate food safety as a wider political concept stretching from agricultural production to consumption, thus 'politics from stable to table', have thus far remained marginal, as this discourse analysis reveals.

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Science as Culture
Erasmus School of Economics