Pure Foods, Mechanization, and Food Safety in Singapore

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 2:30 PM
Salon 6 (Palmer House Hilton)
Nicole T. Tarulevicz, University of Tasmania
Singapore, since British settlement in 1819, has imported most food, and consequently relied on industrial processing and packaging. The quality of the processed product depends upon the quality of technology employed, including sterility of equipment and hygiene of environment and human handlers. The nutritional quality of products can be affected by the place of cultivation, geographically (land, water and feed quality) but also culturally. Food products can carry and transmit disease, and they can be stealthily adulterated to deceive the consumer.

All of these factors and potential problems were reasonably well-known to Singaporean consumers, a state of awareness that has existed since the mid-nineteenth century, thanks to advertising, government regulation and to the role of the popular press in exposing fraud, illness and death from unsafe practices. For over one hundred years it has been through the paid advertising of producers and distributors in the same press that products were marketed as safe and healthy commodities. The advertisements can be characterized by two features - an engagement with a globalized discourse of pure foods and by an emphasis on industrial food production as providing cleanliness via technology and mechanization. Singapore thus provides a prescient historical example that anticipates contemporary food system complexity and the food safety concerns associated with contemporary globalization. This paper suggests that this example allows us to examine not only how people get sick, but the regimes of knowledge, both global and local, that make people afraid of getting sick.

<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation