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FOOD SAFETY

with him. Sure enough, they all became ill with the same symptoms (Asimov, 1972). In 1945 Clostridium perfringens was first recognized as a cause of foodborne illness. It was not until the years 1975 to 1985 that scientists first rec- ognized some of today’s major foodborne pathogens—C.

jejuni, Y. enterocolitica, E. coli O157:H7, and Vibrio cholerae.

Food Safety Regulations

The earliest food safety regulations in the United States were motivated not by a desire to provide safe food to consumers, but rather out of foreign trade concerns. In 1641 Massachusetts passed the Meat and Fish Inspection Law to assure foreign trading partners that the colony produced high-quality food products. Until the late nine- teenth and early twentieth century state and local gov- ernments regulated food. Most food was grown and produced locally, so local laws were adequate to deal with problems. As the population changed from rural to ur- ban, and people no longer had a personal connection with food producers, the food supply became more national in scope and distribution. This national scope necessi- tated national regulation.

The year 1906 was an important one for federal food safety regulation with the passage of both the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The public was fed up with shocking disclosures of unsanitary conditions in meatpacking plants and the use of poiso- nous preservatives and dyes in foods. In A Popular Trea-

tise on the Extent and Character of Food Adulterations

consumers read that almost every food they purchased was adulterated or mislabeled. The Poison Squad, a group of USDA chemists formed in 1902 to study preser- vatives used in food products by eating the foods them- selves, revealed that many of the chemicals used in food production were harmful to human health. Upton Sin- clair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, highlighted the horrible working conditions of the nation’s working class by de- scribing in lurid detail the filthy conditions and adulter- ation of meat that was common in the Chicago meat industry. The public was more horrified at the thought of rats and other undesirables mixed in with their sausage than of the poor treatment of workers. Sinclair later wrote, “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident hit it in the stomach.” Meat sales dropped by half within weeks after the book’s publication.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act protected con- sumers by “assuring that meat and meat food products are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, la- beled, and packaged.” The act established sanitary stan- dards and mandated continuous inspection of cattle, sheep, goats, and equines before, during, and after slaughter. The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act forbade the adulteration of foods, drinks, and drugs in interstate commerce. Foods were considered misbranded if they were labeled so as to deceive the public, if the contents in terms of weights and measures were either incorrect or not present on the package, or if the label contained

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

any false or misleading statement concerning the ingre- dients of a food.

Although it was a good start, the Pure Food and Drug Act had some very large flaws. Since it did not set standards as to what exactly should be in a particular food, it was almost impossible to prove adulteration of a food. For example, without knowing how much strawberry was supposed to be in strawberry jam, federal lawyers could not prove that a product with almost no strawberry in it was not strawberry jam. The act required the government to prove that offenders intended to deceive or poison con- sumers with their product. When brought to court de- fendants pleaded ignorance of the results of their actions. These deficiencies led to a renewed push for regulatory reform in the 1930s.

In 1933 Arthur Kallet and F. J. Schlink published the

immensely popular book 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dan- gers in Everyday Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics. Written in

true muckraking style, it stirred the public’s ire at the condition of the food they were eating. The basic premise of the book was that the federal government was unable to protect consumers from bad food and drugs, both due to incompetence and to the lack of adequate laws.

As with passage of the 1906 act, public opinion played a strong role in sending the message to Congress that reform was needed. Since much of the media sided with the food manufacturing industry against reform, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took its message directly to the people, speaking at women’s clubs, to civic organizations, and on the radio. The FDA collected hun- dreds of products (both food and drug) that had injured or cheated consumers, emphasizing that the 1906 act did not regulate these products enough to prevent such oc- currences. The exhibits were photographed and con- verted into posters to illustrate the need for new laws. They were displayed at FDA talks and at a museum in FDA headquarters. The exhibit was christened the “Chamber of Horrors,” leading to the publication of The American Chamber of Horrors by the FDA’s Chief Educa- tional Officer, Ruth deForest Lamb, in 1936. Ms. Lamb recounted some of the little-known, and sickeningly lurid, behind-the-scenes details of the food industry. In arguing the need for a new food and drug law, she noted that the 1906 laws were outdated due to new modes of living, new kinds of products, new methods of manufac- turing and selling, new tricks of sophistication, and new scientific discoveries, all demanding a more modern method of control.

Finally, in 1938, Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). This act, with a num- ber of adjustments and amendments, is still the major force regulating foods. It continued with many of the in- tentions of the 1906 act, but broadened the scope of fed- eral regulation and plugged many of the loopholes. For the first time the law defined adulteration to include bac- teria or chemicals that are potentially harmful; allowed

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