Advertising Food Safety in a Global Marketplace

PACKAGING CHINA
Advertising Food Safety in a Global Marketplace
I
n 1826, ~aker, abolitionist, temperance enthusiast, and parliamentary reformer John Horniman began selling tea in preweighed and sealed packages. 1
Packet tea took some time to become established, but within a few decades
this innovation secured Horniman’s position as a leader in the trade. By the 1880s,
the practice became the norm when mass-market companies began to sell tea
in this way. At that time, as we will see in the next chapter, these firms began to
add small amounts of the new Indian and Ceylon teas to their packaged blends,
unbeknownst to consumers. John Horniman, however, first packaged tea in the
early part of the century, as a response to mounting concerns that the Chinese
were routinely adulterating tea, especially green tea, with unwholesome and even
• . th · ‘s tea poisonous matenals. Though their countrymen also adulterated e natI~n
supply, opinionated Britons blamed the Chinese for practicing this tncke~,
which most assumed had grown after the end of the East India Comp~Y ~ r. “bl ” pening monopoly of the tea trade in 1833, and especially after the 1orc1 e ~ th
of China at the end of the first Opium War in 1842. Free trade had in trU v
. . d fi fc h ts could no’ mspire a ree- or-all as inexperienced and easily fooled mere an . . . . d 1h trans1oon
sail to Chma and purchase whatever “tea” the Chinese offere · e di u
h. d es inclu n.:, to t 1s new mo e of doing business had far-ranging consequenc ‘ . 0f . . . b Ch . h . nted a variety mountmg susp1c10ns a out inese imports. The Brit1s mve d anic
h . . . d d to sprea p ways to assuage t elf growmg fears, but their solut10ns ten e
even as they sought to contain it. Chin~
I h · h · between n t e preVIous c apter, we saw how the growing animosity 0
[ the
d G B · · · · d h t blishrnent k an reat ntam msp1re the conquest of Assam and t e es a f pac ,_
I d · · d S · · d the use
0
n ian team ustry. 1milar anti-Chinese attitudes stimulate d srace
. db d” d fr. d cience an a agmg an ran mg an encouraged the development o 10° s h as re, 1 . f h fc . . orts sue i
regu ation ° t e ood system. Fears about ingesting foreign imp kerplace,
set the framework for how we still discuss food safety in a global rn~ als prof11’
D . h ‘d v· . d re officl pe urmg t e mi – 1ctonan years, merchants scientists, an sta d [rof11 r d
· d d fc · · ‘ s an v1 ise to e end the Bnt1sh public from perilous Eastern pleasure d heY co
l 1 ·me r ·ofl•
more unru y aspects of the marketplace. These authorities c a1 f roductl
draw boundaries between good and bad commodities, modes o P
!20
Packaging China I 2 I
. cl consumption. Horniman and Company’s advertising took the
d
. ibunon, an . . . . 1str_ larizing this culture of expertise, quoting extensively from chemists
I ad in popu d d ·
e . holars explorers, an government ocuments. Ultimately Horniman d China sc ‘ ‘
an reat deal of tea, but the adulteration scare and its legal response destroyed
soldag Ch’ d h d’. c h .. h taste for mese green teas an set t e con 1t1ons ror t e public to the Bntis . what they believed were the pure, modern, British teas from South appreciate . . . . . Th volatile economic, d1plomat1c, and cultural relations between China Asia. e
and Great Britain from the l~te 183Os through the 187Os thus fashioned new
attl.tudes and markets. tastes, ‘
VICTORIAN FOOD SCARES: ” THERE IS MUCH THAT IS
NOXIOUS IN THE THINGS THAT WE EAT ”
Adulteration was physically harmful, but it also exposed imperfections in the
principles of a laissez-faire economy.
4 Food has always been dangerous, but it is
only since the nineteenth century that food scares have become public events.
In our current times, food-reforming journalists, writers, and filmmakers highlight the dangers that lurk in our foods to trigger emotional responses from
their audiences and to gain support for what they hope will be lasting political,
economic, and social change.
5 Following in the footsteps of writer-activist
Upton Sinclair, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, for example, have produced
compelling exposes intended to raise awareness about the threats posed by a
globalized and industrialized food system.
6 We are not, however, the first generation to condemn the globalization and industrialization of food. At the very
moment they were creating the global industrialized food system, the Victorians
also set the terms for our criticisms and the way we think about solutions.
7 They
were convinced that science, technology, branded goods, and colonialism would
protect consumers from dangers lurking in their food supply.
Food scares are especially useful for historians. As examples of revulsion
entering bli .
h pu c consciousness, they illuminate the subtle processes of how tastes
c ange All fi d i . · 00 scan produce either pleasure or disgust, especially when they are
rnagined to b 1 . fragil e unc ean or polluting.
8 Ingestion reminds us that our bodies are
e and vul bl 9 v of th nera e. rood preferences cooking and table manners are some
e cultural ‘ ‘ . . . the b d responses to deep-rooted fears about absorbing impurities into
o y. I argue h h . b the self ‘ owever, t at food scares highlight the connections etween
and the s . 1 h b CUlturaI . ocia , t e ody and the market. They illuminate how tastes are , social and h’ . . 1 10 Perh ‘ 1stoncal, even though they are also shaped by 610 ogy.
aps to an d bl.
concern · . even greater degree than today foods and drinks evoke pu ic
•n llltd-V· • . . ‘
exposes a d tctonan Brttam. Legislation, high-profile court cases, popular ‘ n adve · · d rttSmg alerted consumers that many if not most of the pro ucts