Balancing food risks and food benefits: the coverage of probiotics in the UK national press
Nerlich, Brigitte and Koteyko, Nelya (2008) Balancing food risks and food benefits: the coverage of probiotics in the UK national press. Sociological Research Online, 13 (3). ISSN 1360-7804
Official URL: http://www.socresonline.org.uk/13/3/1.html
The 1980s and 1990s were marked by a series of food crises, environmental disasters and the emergence of so-called 'superbugs'. At the same time, social scientists, such as Ulrich Beck, began to study the rise of a modern 'risk society'. The late 1990s and early years of this new millennium have been marked by increasing consumer interest in organic and natural foods but also in novel food products, such as probiotics or friendly bacteria which, as supplements or added to yoghurts, promise to help fight various effects of 'modernity', from stress to superbugs. Using thematic analysis and corpus linguistic tools, this article charts the rise of probiotics from 1985 to 2006 and asks: How did this rise in popularity come about? How did science and the media contribute to it? And: How were these bacteria enlisted as agents of attitudinal change? Analysing the construction of certain food benefits in the context of a heightened state of anxiety about food risk might shed light on aspects of 'risk society' that have so far been overlooked.
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