Accepted Paper:

The introduction of sustainability into Finnish nutrition recommendations: a new dietary ontonorm in the making?  


Mikko Jauho (University of Helsinki)
Minna Santaoja (University of Tampere)

Paper short abstract:

We analyse the introduction of the sustainability perspective into Finnish nutrition recommendations using Annemarie Mol's concept of ontonorms as an analytical tool. We present sustainable eating as a novel but problematic type of ontonorm and ask what kind of bodies and values it implies.

Paper long abstract:

It has become broadly acknowledged that food production and consumption are key areas in the transition towards a more sustainable society. In Finland, the integration of environmental concerns into food policy has emphasized the impacts of agriculture, but recently the consumer end has gained increasing attention. Although there are different understandings of what constitutes a sustainable diet, it is widely acknowledged that plant-based diets cause less environmental burden than diets including meat and dairy, and are also better for health. One key instrument in steering consumers' food choices, albeit from a health perspective, are the national nutrition recommendations. Their most recent edition from 2014 contains for the first time a section on sustainability and concern for the environment. While the recommendations still emphasize the health effects of diets, their environmental impact is introduced.

In this paper we take up Annemarie Mol's notion of ontonorms - conceptions of food and bodies with normative force - and analyse sustainable eating as an emergent yet problematic ontonorm in the Finnish nutrition recommendations. In addition to Mol's three ontonorms - epidemiological, biochemical, and aesthetic - we suggest that sustainable eating constitutes a fourth type, which could be called ethical. Based on this, we ask what kind of 'ontonormativity' sustainable eating implies: what kind of bodies and values are enacted with it? While sustainable eating increases the 'ontonormative' multiplicity of dietary advice, it is also inherently contradictory, foregrounding the health effects of sustainable eating at the cost of other, properly ethical motivations.

Panel C28
Meetings over and around food