The food chain reforged: Novel food risk arrangements and the metamorphosis of a metaphor

Anne Loeber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the past decade, an entirely new regulatory framework for food safety control has emerged in Europe. Characteristic of the new institutional arrangements is the 'farm-to-fork' managerial perspective as a basis for risk management. The latter perspective is a genuine institutional innovation, cutting across long-standing borders between the traditionally separate regulatory domains of agriculture and public health. How can we understand the design of this new institutional setting? Answers formulated from a realist perspective that focus on assumed ontologically novel characteristics of 'new' risks fall short of explaining why and how the framework developed in the final decade of the twentieth century. A perspective that builds on the idiom of co-production sheds a light on the co-evolving processes of meaning-making over food risks, in particular regarding BSE, and food risk control. The eventual design can be understood as efforts to gain control of food risks under conditions of institutional ambiguity through a discursive reforging of the food chain metaphor. It was reshaped into a horizontally defined chain which runs from 'farm to fork'. In the resulting framework, food risks can be defined at the level of the production chain in addition to the individual product, which broadens the range of potential strategies for dealing with the newly framed food risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-253
Number of pages23
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • BSE
  • Food chain
  • Food safety
  • Institutional ambiguity
  • Regulatory innovation
  • Tracking discourse


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