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Doctoral Dissertation Research: An Actor-Network Study Of Artisanal Food Production And Food Safety Regulation


<p>The regulation of food through the creation and imposition of standards has important consequences for food quality and the economic value of food. Most studies of food production standards have focused on large-scale producers. The rise small-scale and localized agrifood production and the corresponding increase in artisanal production has led federal and state food safety regulatory agencies to revise food production policies to encourage these new processors. These efforts, however, frequently expose fundamental disagreements over the nature of artisanal production and the role of food safety standards. These disagreements impede debate on public policy responses. This study uses ethnographic and field observations of food safety inspections and semi-structured interviews with artisanal bread and cheese makers and inspectors to investigate these scientized policy mismatches and their possible remedies. Tools from actor-network theory (ANT) are used to draw attention to the multiple ways the ostensibly simple social phenomena of reconciling practices and standards takes place. The study investigates the multiple approaches that food safety inspectors take to regulatory enforcement, just as artisanal producers take multiple approaches to artisanship. ANT provides methodological tools for conducting a fine-grained exploration of the interactions between artisans and inspectors, the tensions that may arise in these interactions, and the ways in which closure is and is not reached.The broader impacts of this study are to contribute to food policy studies by analyzing the practical enforcement of food safety regulations during inspections, thereby enhancing understanding of these public policy instruments, and to science and technology studies by analyzing how scientific standards operate in practice. In addition, by focusing on artisanal producers, the study helps inform policy that is designed to encourage and support small-scale and artisanal agrifood initiatives. Finally, by fostering opportunities for engagement, collaboration, and mutual understanding among producers and food safety inspectors, this work enriches the relationship between science, governance, and society.</p>

Bingen, James
Michigan State University
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