For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Swindled!

The IPKat has been thoroughly enjoying reading his copy of Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee - The Dark History of the Food Cheats, by academic-turned-food-writer Bee Wilson. If the publisher (John Murray) has a web-page with data concerning this book, the IPKat failed to find it despite the best offices of Google. However, you can buy it on the usual book-sale websites. Listeners to BBC Radio 4 will recognise this book as having been serialised some months ago.

The author sets out to describe and explain the reasons why foods are adulterated and products are counterfeited, raising some interesting philosophical questions as to when an recipe is an adulteration rather than an innovation. She also sets out, on layman-accessible style, the attempts made to legislate against food abuses and why those attempts have been so frequently unsuccessful.

Bee Wilson's thesis is that there is no better weapon against consumers being swindled by adulterated and fake foods than for them to be armed with knowledge as to what real foods taste like and as to what the effects of their various ingredients are. To this end, she advocates wider use of geographical indications and appellations that, if properly policed, give the consumer a wide degree of assurance as to the likely quality of what they eat. She likens the current regime of geographical indications to the old power exercised by the guilds in Europe in policing and maintaining the standards of their members -- an analogy that the IPKat remembers his learned and sometimes controversial friend Hugh Hansen making some years ago at the Fordham IP conference.

Trade marks and appellations listed in the Index include Basmati, Bordeaux, Bournville, Bovril, Bred-Spred, Champagne, Coca-Cola, Crosse & Blackwell, Heinz, Miracle Whip, Nestle, Pepsi, Snapple, Tilda and Unilever.

Bibliographic data: xiv + 370 pp. Hardback. £16.99. ISBN 978-7195-6916-6. Rupture factor: low.

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