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There is growing geographical interest in the nature of the 'real' regulation of the food system. The food 'scares' of the late 1980s in the UK encouraged new legislation relating to food hygiene and safety. Its local implementation created tensions which were exacerbated by the legislative consequences of the Single European Market. In response, national-level regulatory adjustments followed, which introduced new codes of practice and techniques of hazard analysis for implementation at the local level. The result was a consolidation of a system of food regulation that can be applied differentially across the 'tiers' of retailing. This paper explores the regulatory contentions of the early 1990s in the food policy arena and the nature of food regulation at the local level. It advances our understanding of the 'construction' of food quality and safety within the UK. Moreover, we argue that its depiction of the dialectical response between policy formulation and implementation confirms the need for local, as well as national level, exploration of the nature of the contemporary state.