As a nation, People in the Uk are taking and eating more and more probiotics - live micro-organisms (usually bacteria) - which are ingested to exert a positive effect on health beyond traditional nutritional effects.

The project will shed light on how the meaning of this novel food is negotiated in the accounts of members of the public, in promotional literature, in media coverage and government documents in the context of food scares, health scares and nutritional uncertainty. It will examine how discourses may be shaped by recent healthy eating campaigns, high profile food scandals (BSE, GMOs), the threat from 'unfriendly bacteria' (salmonella, listeria, Ecoli including 'superbugs' such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile) and issues of cleanliness, as well as changes in the political landscape where germs can be unleashed as ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Exploring the meaning of probiotics in this context will fill in one piece in a complex jigsaw puzzle that involves germs, antibiotics, hygiene, disease and nutrition. 

The overall aim is to explore what visions of health, science and society are built into probiotics as a ‘new’ type of food. The project will complement studies that focus on public perception of food risks by examining the social construction of food 'benefits'.

Start date
03 May 2007
End date
02 June 2008
Grant holder
Professor Brigitte Nerlich
Dr Nick Wright
Professor Ronald Carter
Professor Paul Crawford
Grant amount
Grant reference
Linguistics (General)
Grant type