ABSTRACT

In the Western world, where “healthy” food is largely constructed within a medical paradigm, healthy usually means the well-being of humans, and healthy food is frequently narrowly defi ned in terms of the essential material nutrients for human health. Recent advances in food science technology, coupled with increased consumer interest in healthy foods and beverages, have enabled food-producing organizations to create and market food products that claim physiological benefi ts beyond the need for basic nutrition. These functional foods have sparked considerable public debate despite growing in popularity and availability. As the boundaries between foods and medicines are simultaneously becoming blurred and being reconstructed, the resulting complexity of medical and market information draws on multiple alternative discourses, and creates challenges that are played out rhetorically. For example, within a medical paradigm, food producers use new biotechnologies to manufacture foods that combine food elements in novel ways to “fi x” health problems, such as osteoporosis. Yet, Anlene, a milk product designed to help combat osteoporosis, was initially promoted without a clear health warning that the product should not be consumed by those taking blood thinning drugs for heart conditions.1 Intriguingly, competing discourses about the health value of “natural” foods inform the positioning of products like New Zealand manuka honey; yet, such “natural” products are increasingly sold in the form of “health supplements” (such as royal jelly), and as an ingredient in manufactured foods (like muesli bars), as well as in a raw or unprocessed form.