History and Laws behind the Federal Food and Drug Act of 1906
As one of the primary federal consumer-protection laws in existence today, The Federal Food and Drug Act of 1906 was a law that had two primary goals for food and drugs: (a) forbid harmful ingredients and additions and (b) demand labeling of ingredients to inform consumers. According to Janssen (1981), it was hoped that the enactment of this law would eliminate adulterations and poisons sometimes found in foods, sometimes in drugs and often in both. The foundation of food and drug protection came from the development of scientific methods of analysis by the Federal Bureau of Chemistry, which we know today as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (Janssen).
Brief History of the Legislation
The regulations of the FDA which we know today were born from a grass roots effort in the 1870’s, the Pure Food Movement. Originally, it focused on trade interests because of competition from “replacement” food products (glucose for sugar, “lard” from cottonseed oil, oleomargarine for butter, etc.) and the intolerable differences in existing state laws to which manufacturers had to comply (Janssen, 1981). As industrialization created a demand to provide the rapidly increasing localized populations with food from distant areas, a “buyer beware” era emerged. From the use of chemical preservatives and toxic colors to the development of “patent medicines” which contained opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine; all were sold without restriction and labels did not list ingredients. The effort to enact a federal law was led by Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, head of the Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture. Through his own research with human volunteers to determine the effects of food preservatives on digestion and health, dubbed the “Poison Squad,” Wiley enlisted the support of the American Medical Association, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and other consumer groups (Janssen). Meanwhile, his staunchest opposition came from the largest advertisers in the country; distillers and patent medicine firms.
“But the tide was turned, according to historians and Dr. Wiley himself, when the voteless, but militant club of women throughout the country who rallied to the pure food cause” Janssen, 1981, ¶ 12). Undoubtedly, these women supported Dr. Wiley because he had become a popular speaker at their supper clubs where crusading writers of national magazines also joined his campaign by publishing his findings as editorials. Ultimately, legislation closely followed the January 1906 publishing of Upton Sinclair’s best-selling novel...