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In Food We Trust: The Politics of Purity in American Food Regulation, Courtney I. P. Thomas

Reviewed by A. Bryce Hoflund

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In this book, Courtney I.P. Thomas explores the history of food safety regulation in the United States and discusses how a focus on food adulteration (food purity), rather than on microbial contamination (food safety), has permeated our food regulatory system since its inception. Through a historical analysis of food safety legislation and an examination of various food-borne illness outbreaks, she builds the case that our food safety regulatory system needs to be overhauled. The focus on the difference between food purity and food safety and their influences on the development and growth of our food safety regulatory system makes this book an important contribution to the fields of regulatory politics and food policy.

Through a discussion of legislation and court cases and an examination of the various roles of policymakers, regulators, producers, and consumers, Thomas provides a strong case for why food safety regulation should be viewed as inherently political. She begins with an examination of the country’s first two pieces of food safety legislation, the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the 1906 Federal Meat Inspection Act. Thomas argues that the 1906 statutes focused on the idea of food purity, which was defined in the statute as food that has been adulterated, to the detriment of food safety, which “emphasizes a science-based perspective groun

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