The informational turn in food politics: The US FDA’s nutrition label as information infrastructure.
Sommaire de l'article
This article traces the history of the US FDA regulation of nutrition labeling, identifying an 'informational turn' in the evolving politics of food, diet and health in America. Before nutrition labeling was introduced, regulators actively sought to segregate food markets from drug markets by largely prohibiting health information on food labels, believing such information would 'confuse' the ordinary food consumer. Nutrition labeling's emergence, first in the 1970s as consumer empowerment and then later in the 1990s as a solution to information overload, reflected the belief that it was better to manage markets indirectly through consumer information than directly through command-and-control regulatory architecture. By studying product labels as 'information infrastructure', rather than a 'knowledge fix', the article shows how labels are situated at the center of a legally constructed terrain of inter-textual references, both educational and promotional, that reflects a mix of market pragmatism and evolving legal thought about mass versus niche markets. A change to the label reaches out across a wide informational environment representing food and has direct material consequences for how food is produced, distributed, and consumed. One legacy of this informational turn has been an increasing focus by policymakers, industry, and arguably consumers on the politics of information in place of the politics of the food itself.