Carolyn Cobbold is a research fellow at Cambridge University, where she investigates the history of food and science. Her work has been published in Annals of Science, Osiris, Ambix, and Business Insurance, among others.
Elegant and insightful. . . . What is stunning is how pertinent the book is to our own times. You will find here a rehearsal for everything we are facing today-the fads, the fears, the government interventions that are either too late or too rushed, and the nagging sense that the food that most delights the eye may not always be the food that serves us best. * Times Literary Supplement * There are many reasons that Cobbold's story is compelling. Her research is detailed and extensive, using many archival sources along with other primary and secondary ones. She also makes good use of the scientific and mainstream press, juxtaposing the opinions of chemists, government policymakers, and consumers. Lengthy excerpts from press articles, in particular, convey the flavor of shifting public discourse. A Rainbow Palate is also compelling due to Cobbold's clear writing, accessible to those with little background in chemical history; the book is punctuated by helpful signposts summarizing and linking sections together. . . . Cobbold's insights about the 19th century help us to understand why this system of trust has become frayed in the 21st century. * H-Soz-Kult * A pioneering work of food science, this compact, well-referenced book captures the rise and fall of the use of synthetic chemicals-particularly coal tar dyes-which were employed in food coloring in the US and Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. . . . The book would be a good acquisition for academic and special collections that support food history, food science, and history of chemistry programs. . . . Recommended. * Choice * If you thought food coloring was not a serious subject in the history of science, this engaging and accessible book will show you very quickly just how wrong you were. Cobbold tells a wonderful story of complex and fascinating mutual interactions of science, commerce, industry, government, journalism, and law, about how powerful interests jostled around the use and regulation of potentially hazardous synthetic chemical dyes in food. This is a neglected aspect of the celebrated developments in organic chemistry and the dyestuffs industry in the late nineteenth century. In Cobbold's detailed account, reaching across several countries, we witness how political and legal systems were at a loss to know how to manage and regulate the impact of a formidable and fast-moving field of science, while scientific experts found themselves unable to control the use of their creations or the narratives told about them. A Rainbow Palate is an illuminating cautionary tale of how an important unintended consequence of cutting-edge science can work itself into the very fabric of our daily lives without a clear plan on anyone's part. -- Hasok Chang, University of Cambridge In this timely book, Cobbold tells the remarkable story of how the first industrially produced chemical food dyes were created and adjudicated as legitimate additives to food. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century chemists, manufacturers, legislators, and the public all wrestled with questions around food additives still highly relevant today, concerning risk, health, public safety, regulation, testing, and the environment. Were food colorings brilliant instances of scientific and industrial progress or toxic and unnatural artifices? How could dangers be detected and who could keep the public safe? Faced with uncertainty, how should people trust what they ate? Lively and significant, A Rainbow Palate will be indispensable for anyone interested in the difficult process by which societies manage, and fail to manage, radical new technoscientific entities. -- Simon Werrett, author of Thrifty Science