Eating Clean: Anti-Chinese Advertising and the Making of White Racial Purity in the Canadian Pacific

Belisle, Donica
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Taylor & Francis

Between 1891 and 1914, western Canada’s largest sugar manufacturer – BC Sugar – constructed a racialized discourse of food cleanliness. This discourse argued that Chinese-made sugars were contaminated while Canadian-made sugars were clean. Through an analysis of this discourse, this article argues that BC Sugar constructed a purity/polluted binary that suggested that white consumers’ racial purity was threatened by Chinese-made sugars. It then links BC Sugar’s clean foods campaign to three broader trends. First, it illustrates that BC Sugar’s construction of pure versus polluted foods supported the effort to establish white supremacy in the Canadian Pacific. Second, it demonstrates that discourses of food purity enabled white settlers to construct bodily purity by the eating of so-called clean foods. Third, it argues that since contemporary discourses of food cleanliness rely on pure versus polluted metaphors, scholars must attend to the motivations driving today’s clean eating movement.

© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
sugar, race, whiteness, purity, clean eating, settler colonialism
“Eating Clean: Anti-Chinese Advertising and the Making of White Racial Purity in the Canadian Pacific.” Global Food History 6, no. 1 (March 2020): 41-59. 18 pp. Published advance online 9 January 2020. DOI: