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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: 26 July 2021

France: Expertise and Friendship

France: Expertise and Friendship

(p.126) (p.127) 5 France: Expertise and Friendship
French Beans and Food Scares

Susanne Freidberg

Oxford University Press

Que voulons-nous manger?—What do we want to eat? The French government posed this question in 2000 as part of a Ministry of Agriculture project on l’Etats Generaux de l’Alimentation (EGA), or the “General State of Food.” It also recruited thousands of citizens to respond in surveys, discussion groups, and a national colloquium, which were all duly recorded, analyzed, and interpreted by market researchers. Described as an effort to promote debate and dialogue around the French public’s “true” food concerns, the EGA seemed an extraordinary overture from a government not known for soliciting public opinion on policy matters (Marris 1999). But then, it was an extraordinary time. In the previous five years, mad cows, dioxin chickens, and listeria had found their way into the French food supply; opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) had mushroomed into a major political crisis; a millennial shipwreck off the Brittany coast had dumped huge quantities of potential carcinogens into some of the country’s richest fishing waters. Media coverage of these affairs had played up the roles of government officials who were either corrupt, incompetent, disingenuous, or simply unable or unwilling to address questions about possible food risks (Jaillette 2000; Mamère and Narbonne 2001). The government badly needed to show that it was listening, and that it could protect the public’s health. Yet the EGA findings, while inconclusive in many respects, did show that alleviating public anxieties about the food supply would take more than stricter safety measures (Joly and Marris 2001). For the French were concerned not only about mad cow disease and listeria, but also the loss of their culinary patrimony. In particular, they feared that globalization would force upon them the travesties of “Anglo-Saxon” food culture, from Big Macs to biotech maize. France’s fresh produce importers would probably find the EGA’s findings old but ironic news. After all, the importers had helped to globalize one prominent part of the French diet, namely fresh produce. For much of the past century France, unlike Britain, had produced much of its own fruit and vegetable supply.

Keywords:   Canned food, Dole France, European Union (EU), Irrigation, Mandataires, Paris, Selection, Wal-Mart

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