Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

The boundaries of fraud: the role of the Spanish Real Academia de Medicina in the establishment of food safety and quality standards in the late-nineteenth century

Ximo Guillem-Llobat


In the late-nineteenth century the regulation of food quality and safety experienced a clear turning point with the establishment of new sites for food controls, the emergence of new experts and the passing of food laws. One of the main changes in the regulation came with a reconceptualization of quality based on composition; a change which was in accordance with the standardizing trends then applied in each and every area of knowledge. In Spain, the Royal Academy of Medicine was one of the main authorities quoted in the search for  official definitions of edible foodstuffs and for standardized compositions. The paper will focus on the assessment activity fulfilled by the Royal Academy between 1877 and 1902. Taking into account four relevant controversies on food regulation (those dealing with foodstuffs such as oil, wine, saccharin and paprika) it shall address its contribution to the establishment of food quality standards. The paper shows that this task was carried out very poorly and discusses the different factors which can explain this type of contribution. In order to fulfil this latter discussion, the training as well as the social and political activities of the main academicians involved in food quality assessments (such as Gabriel de la Puerta, Ángel Pulido, Juan Ramón Gómez Pamo, and Ángel Fernández-Caro) deserves special attention.

Text complet: PDF (English)