"In food we do not trust". Kulutuksen vaarat ja riskit

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In food we trust. The dangers and risks of consumption

Many social scientists share the opinion that our modern food culture is characterised by a fundamental ambiguity concerning what is safe, what is edible, and what are the proper manners and rules of eating. Food panics and scares are manifestations of the detraditionalization of culture. There are at least three different social mechanisms that help to cope with these ambiguities. Firstly, food scares themselves can function as negative fashions and, in this capacity, stabilise the culture. Secondly, consumers can adopt various scientific, or rather pseudoscientific, diets which drastically restrict the number of alternatives open to them, and thirdly, we can, hopefully, learn to tolerate situations of uncertainty without the help of any firm guidelines. In other words, we can gradually learn to tolerate risks without anxiety. Following Niklas Luhmann's suggestion it is important to make a distinction between risk and danger. Risks are taken whereas dangers face us anyhow. By making the consumers personally responsible for their food choice, e.g. by informing them of the risks involved, potential dangers of eating or consuming are transformed into risks. Since it is, however, principally impossible to transform most dangers into risks, the confidence and the legitimacy enjoyed by all the relevant social institutions become central – and problematic at the same time – to the stability of social life.