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French Beans and Food ScaresCulture and Commerce in an Anxious Age$
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Susanne Freidberg

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195169607

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195169607.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 September 2021

The Global Green Bean and Other Tales of Madness

The Global Green Bean and Other Tales of Madness

(p.3) 1 The Global Green Bean and Other Tales of Madness
French Beans and Food Scares

Susanne Freidberg

Oxford University Press

The last years of the 20th century were tough times for selling food to Europeans. The competition was fierce, the rules uncertain, and the retail markets picky. It was not just that huge supermarket chains had come to dominate food retailing, and to demand products conforming to ever-higher standards of convenience and aesthetic quality; these trends were common across the industrialized world. In addition, they demanded that the suppliers of those products— farmers and manufacturers, but also a range of intermediaries—meet standards of hygiene and accountability that were unimaginable twenty, even ten years earlier. The supermarkets wanted assurances that none of their products would set off another food scare; too many had already shaken European consumers’ faith in the supermarkets’ increasingly globalized offerings. On the supermarket shelves, these assurances might appear as new labels or packaging, if they appeared at all. What consumers largely did not see was the work that went into providing them with food as certifiably pure as it was pretty. This work took place on farms and in packhouses; in consultants’ offices and corporate boardrooms; in activists’ meetings and chemical analysts’ laboratories. It demanded long flights, short deadlines, and nonstop vigilance. Above all, the work of assuring the overall goodness of globalized food required all kinds of people and things to deal with each other in new ways, and often across great distances. In this sense, it transformed the social relationships of food provisioning on both an interpersonal and transcontinental scale. This book explores how these changes took shape within two fresh vegetable trades, or commodity networks, linking two Sub-Saharan African countries to their former European colonial powers. The francophone network brings Burkina Faso’s green beans to France, while the anglophone network brings an assortment of prepackaged fresh vegetables from Zambia to the United Kingdom. Broadly similar in some ways, they differ radically in others, including the ways that they experienced Europe’s late twentieth-century food scares. By exploring the history of these differences and how they are sustained and transformed in specific places, practices, and social institutions, I hope to illuminate the relationship between culture and power in globalized food provisioning.

Keywords:   Accountability, Bobo-Dioulasso, Civilizing mission, Due diligence, Food-borne disease, Gastronomy, Hoof-and-mouth disease, Intermediaries, Local food

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