Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Jungle, Part 3: Food Was Not As It Seemed

Another excerpt from Sinclair's 1906 exposé The Jungle.
"Their children were not as well as they had been at home; but how could they know that there was no sewer to their house, and that the drainage of fifteen years was in a cesspool under it? How could they know that the pale-blue milk that they bought around the corner was watered, and doctored with formaldehyde besides? When the children were not well at home, Teta Elzbieta would gather herbs and cure them; now she was obliged to go to the drugstore and buy extracts--and how was she to know that they were all adulterated? How could they find out that their tea and coffee, their sugar and flour, had been doctored; that their canned peas had been colored with copper salts, and their fruit jams with aniline dyes? And even if they had known it, what good would it have done them, since there was no place within miles of them where any other sort was to be had?"
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came into existance shortly after The Jungle was published. From the FDA's website:
"Although it was not known by its present name until 1930, FDA’s modern regulatory functions began with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, a law a quarter-century in the making that prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Harvey Washington Wiley, Chief Chemist of the Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture, had been the driving force behind this law and headed its enforcement in the early years, providing basic elements of protection that consumers had never known before that time."
I see China experiencing the same problems with food adulteration and industrial pollution today as the US experienced at the beginning of the 20th century. I suppose expedited economic growth has its downside.

The Jungle, Part 1: Breakfast And Dinner
The Jungle, Part 2: Honeycombed With Rottenness
The Jungle, Part 3: Food Was Not As It Seemed
The Jungle, Part 4: Sausage And Lard


Dr. Mel said...

Ewww. Think I'll wait till after T-giving to check these out.

Shreela said...

My mom told me about how her and her brother used to fight over who got to squish the butter packet into butter, guessing late 40s-early 50s.

Although the packet was red, once they squished it and massaged it into the white-ish? butter, the butter turned YELLOW. The packet also had salt in it. I'm sure they could have used their pantry salt instead of what was in those red packets, but apparently they wanted their butter to be YELLOW.

IMO, once an entire generation has grown up used to their food being a certain color/flavor/texture, even if these have been added in artificially, it's challenging to get people to accept a food without the additions. Look at the cornbread color preferences LOL (PS: white cornbread makes me sad haha, but I would eat blue cornbread, only if it came from actual blue corn).

If things don't hurt us right away, we tend to accept them as safe until "the watchers" huff and puff long enough that people finally listen (soy!).

Bix said...

That's a great story, about the butter packet, and funny!

I agree with you about people eating food that they're used to. One of the most difficult things for me to give up from my childhood was sweetened breakfast cereal. Oh, I could eat bowls of cereal morning, noon, and night!

Charina Johnson said...

That's a nice story!! I agree that China is experiencing the same issues with food adulteration and industrial pollution today as the US experienced at the early of the 20th century. BTW, Happy New Year to you! :)