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Doctoral Dissertation Research: Effective Data Tracking in the Regulation of Food Supply Chains


<p>This project, which trains a graduate student in methods of conducting empirically-grounded scientific research, explores the factors that influence effective data tracking in the regulation of food supply chains. The ever more prevalent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have caused consternation across the world over the safety of our food. For example, in 2014, the European Union (EU) alone issued 3,792 food recall alerts, ranging from dangerous bacteria to defective packaging. These threats of food contaminants have pushed the World Health Organization and the United Nations to incorporate food traceability - the ability to track a food product's origins - into their initiatives for assuring a secure global food supply. Public health officials view documentation about food's origins and pathways as a necessary component of controlling risk within the supply chain. In practice, however, food traceability regulation often does not take the values of safety, quality, and knowledge of food producers into account. Understanding how the local conditions of food production conflict with food safety regulation is critical for developing better policies to protect all Americans from the dangers of food contaminants.</p>

<p>In this project, Gregory Kohler, under the supervision of Dr. Keith Murphy of the University of California at Irvine, will investigate the dynamics of data collection and regulation of food supply chains. Through an ethnographic study of a dairy cooperative, Mr. Kohler will examine how food traceability operates both as a tool for knowledge production and as a mechanism of governance by looking at the ways food traceability has expanded outside the realm of health into supply chain management more generally. The methods include participant observation in the dairy cooperative headquarters and member farms, interviews with farmers, managers, inspectors, and regulators, video-based linguistic anthropological data collection and analysis, and behavioral experiments involving the collaborative analysis of video and audio data with informants. Besides increasing scientific knowledge of the societal effects of food regulation on farming communities, findings from this research will inform debates surrounding the role of data tracking in constructing knowledge across various issues, including food, national security, and quality control.</p>

Murphy, Keith; Kohler, Gregory
University of California - Irvine
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