Food economies that take place informally or ‘under the table’ can offer interesting insights into relationships that people have with their food, and with social and institutional frameworks that shape their food systems. Relying on data from 14 in-depth interviews conducted in Nova Scotia in 2013, this paper interrogates the tensions between everyday eating practices and food safety regulations. Specifically, I examine how informal economic activities related to food expose some of the (perceived) shortcomings of those regulations. The stories that the participants shared offer a glimpse into the world of meaning attached to a range of practices that exist on the margins of contemporary food and public health systems. These stories and the associated practices challenge current regulatory policies as scale-inappropriate, and criticize the industrial food system as inadequate for meeting the needs of contemporary eaters. My analysis offers a cultural studies perspective on food safety regulation and on ideological resistance embedded in informal food economies. I illustrate this with a specific example of raw milk to further probe how people engage with their food and how they navigate through the world of food safety – and more generally public health – regulations.

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Keywords alternative food networks, food safety regulation, informal food economy, public health policy, raw milk
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Journal Critical Policy Studies
Knezevic, I. (2016). Illicit food: Canadian food safety regulation and informal food economy. Critical Policy Studies, 10(4), 410–425. doi:10.1080/19460171.2015.1102750