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Risk on the Table: Food Production, Health, and the Environment

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Volume 21

Environment in History: International Perspectives

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Risk on the Table

Food Production, Health, and the Environment

Edited by Angela N. H. Creager and Jean-Paul Gaudillière
Afterword by Deborah Fitzgerald

366 pages, 18 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-944-0 $120.00/£89.00 Hb Published (January 2021)

eISBN 978-1-78920-945-7 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This collection draws insightful genealogies of a persistently virulent problem: food safety. The book brings together a series of well-written and exciting historical cases that together create a picture of the scientific and political struggles for food safety and their obstacles.” • Alexander von Schwerin, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

“‘Risk on the Table’ is a perfectly apt title for a book which deals with a major concern of modern societies: What shall we eat? Combining perspectives of ‘food risk’ as a matter of health concerns; environmental issues; and economic, social and employment problems, this book is truly innovative.” • Karin Zachmann, The Technical University of Munich


Over the last century, the industrialization of agriculture and processing technologies have made food abundant and relatively inexpensive for much of the world’s population. Simultaneously, pesticides, nitrates, and other technological innovations intended to improve the food supply’s productivity and safety have generated new, often poorly understood risks for consumers and the environment. From the proliferation of synthetic additives to the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the chapters in Risk on the Table zero in on key historical cases in North America and Europe that illuminate the history of food safety, highlighting the powerful tensions that exists among scientific understandings of risk, policymakers’ decisions, and cultural notions of “pure” food.

Angela N. H. Creager is the Thomas M. Siebel Professor in the History of Science at Princeton University, where she directed the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies from 2016–20. Her current work focuses on the role of genetic tests in environmental science and regulation during the late twentieth century.

Jean-Paul Gaudillière is a Senior Researcher at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, and a Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He is currently working on the transition from “international public health” to “global health,” with a specific focus on developments in East Africa and South Asia.

Subject: Environmental Studies (General) History: 20th Century to Present Food & Nutrition


List of Figures and Tables
List of Abbreviations

Angela N. H. Creager & Jean-Paul Gaudillière

Part I: Objectifying Dangers

Chapter 1. Salad Days: The Science and Medicine of Bad Greens, 1870–2000

Anne Hardy

Chapter 2. Radioactive Diet: Food, Metabolism, and the Environment, c. 1960
Soraya de Chadarevian

Chapter 3. Poison and Cancer: The Politics of Food Carcinogens in 1950s West Germany

Heiko Stoff

Chapter 4. “EAT. DIE.” The Domestication of Carcinogens in the 1980s

Angela N. H. Creager

Chapter 5. Risk on the Negotiating Table: Malnutrition, Mold Toxicity, and Postcolonial Development

Lucas M. Mueller

Chapter 6. Contaminated Foods, Global Environmental Health, and the Political Recalcitrance of a Pollution Problem: The Case of PCBs from 1966 to the Present Day

Aurélien Féron

Part II: Ordering Risks

Chapter 7. Trace Amounts at Industrial Scale: Arsenicals and Medicated Feed in the Production of the “Western Diet”
Hannah Landecker

Chapter 8. Between Bacteriology and Toxicology: Agricultural Antibiotics and US Risk Regulation (1948–77)

Claas Kirchhelle

Chapter 9. Conflicts of Interest, Ignorance, and Hegemony in the Diethylstilboestral US Food Crisis

Jean-Paul Gaudillière

Chapter 10. Defining Food Additives: Origins and Shortfalls of the US Regulatory Framework

Maricel V. Maffini and Sarah Vogel

Chapter 11. The Rise (and Fall) of the Food-Drug Line: Classification, Gatekeepers, and Spatial Mediation in Regulating US Food and Health Markets
Xaq Frohlich


Deborah Fitzgerald


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