If health-conscious people were to choose between diets recommending natural or processed food products, which would they choose? The language of dietary advice today is dominated by notions of nature, organic farming, and organic products. It seems that such labels are very appealing to people wanting to live more healthy lifestyles. Only 40 years ago, however, health experts and dietitians in the Polish People’s Republic used a far different language to convince their beneficiaries to eat certain foods. It was the language of science, industry and technology. Embracing Technology In 1970s media discourse, the word “natural” was hardly ever used; both in cookbooks and women’s magazines. It was obvious then that vegetables, fruit, mushrooms and milk were all-natural. What seemed…

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Food research is a kind of extreme sport. For one thing, it seems to have more than its share of converts whose enthusiasm for what they do borders on the evangelical. But most of all, food research is risky. Its intellectual terrain is seismically volatile and deep hidden chasms await the careless at every step. Peaks of euphoric discovery seem always to be followed by bottomless uncertainty and confusion. Perhaps I exaggerate, but I can think of no other area of enquiry that produces and destroys so many orthodoxies, or where common sense ideas turn to chimera with such regularity. George Johnson, the American science writer, recently recounted the curious example of food research and cancer. Johnson recalls that by…

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