Materiality matters: blurred boundaries and the domestication of functional foods

Weiner, Kate and Will, Catherine (2015) Materiality matters: blurred boundaries and the domestication of functional foods. BioSocieties, 10. ISSN 1745-8552

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Previous scholarship on novel foods, including functional foods, has suggested that they are difficult to categorise for both regulators and users. It is argued that they blur the boundary between ‘food’ and ‘drug’ and that uncertainties about the products create ‘experimental’ or ‘restless’ approaches to consumption. We investigate these uncertainties drawing on data about the use of functional foods containing phytosterols, which are licensed for sale in the EU for people wishing to reduce their cholesterol. We start from an interest in the products as material objects and their incorporation into everyday practices. We consider the scripts encoded in the physical form of the products through their regulation, production and packaging and find that these scripts shape but do not determine their use. The domestication of phytosterols involves bundling the products together with other objects (pills, supplements, foodstuffs). Considering their incorporation into different systems of objects offers new understandings of the products as foods or drugs. In their accounts of their practices, consumers appear to be relatively untroubled by uncertainties about the character of the products. We conclude that attending to materials and practices offers a productive way to open up and interrogate the idea of categorical uncertainties surrounding new food products.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Catherine Will
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2015 16:54
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2015 13:24

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