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This talk draws from my book manuscript, From Label to Table: Regulating Food in America in the Information Age (UC Press, 2023), which is a history of the emergence of the Information Age in food and diet markets. By following the history of policy debates about food labels at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from the 1930s to 1990s, it explores evolving popular preoccupations of diet and personal responsibility for health, and the consequences of packaged food economy for food retailing and marketing. In particular, I describe the FDA’s transition from an earlier philosophy of regulating markets through “standards of identity”, which were codified traditional recipes, to a new philosophy, still governing today, that relies on informative food labels, such as ingredient panels and the Nutrition Facts label. This transition in labeling both registered and reinforced a dramatic change in how people understood what is food, from a traditional view that food is something familiar, self-evident, and grown to an industrial view of food as something engineered, processed or composed, and whose true qualities are, without proper labeling, not evident to the ordinary consumer.

All welcome - This event is free, but booking is required.