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1906 Pure Food and Drug Act

Theodore Roosevelt

1906 Pure Food and Drug Act: Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th American President who served in office from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909. One of the important elements of his presidency was the Pure Food and Drug Act policy.

Definition and Summary of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act
Summary and definition:
The Pure Food and Drug Act (PFDA) prohibited the interstate transportation and sale of impure, contaminated food. The law was an important element of Roosevelt's Square Deal Domestic Policy and an important piece of legislation during the history of the  Progressive Era.

The Pure Food and Drug Act was the first federal law to regulate foods and drugs and a direct result of the scandals of the unsanitary methods used by the food industry that were revealed in 'The Jungle' written by the Progressive author Upton Sinclair. The Pure Food and Drug Act (PFDA) was signed by President Roosevelt on June 30, 1906, the same day as the Meat Inspection Act.

1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for kids: Progressive Era
The Progressive Era was the period in US History in which pressure groups raised the awareness of political and social injustices and the plight of many Americans who were living in squalid conditions, and earned their living in dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. Unpleasant changes in society had been brought about by rapid Urbanization where people had moved from a rural environment to a congested, dirty city setting. The effects of Industrialization had led to the growth of Big Business and Corporations and the rise of massive factories owned by ruthless, greedy Robber Barons who cared little about people, but a lot about profits. The drive to increase production and improve profits led unhygienic practices that threatened the welfare and safety of the nation.

1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for kids: Background History - Upton Sinclair
The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 were both widely accredited to a book called 'The Jungle' that was written by the Progressive author Upton Sinclair. Upton Sinclair revealed the unhygienic and
unsanitary methods used by the food industry and a scandal emerged about the quality and purity of food sold to the U.S. public. The Jungle was published in 1906 and became an international best seller. Upton Sinclair exposed Chicago's meatpacking industry telling lurid tales of diseased meat, of dead rats and the poison that killed them being thrown into the processing vats to make sausages.

1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for kids: Public Outcry
The ensuing public outcry resulted in a government investigation which changed the food laws in America overnight. Upton Sinclair was reviled by the industry owners as one of the Muckrakers of the Progressive Era. President Roosevelt sent social worker James Bronson Reynolds and labor commissioner Charles P. Neill to investigate the Upton Sinclair's claims, and make surprise visits to meat packing facilities. President Theodore Roosevelt was appalled by the Neill-Reynolds report - Upton Sinclair's damning revelations were all true. The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were immediately signed into law.

What was the Purpose of the Pure Food and Drug Act?
What did the Pure Food and Drug Act do? The purpose of the Pure Food and Drug Act was:

  • To respond to the public outcry against the unhygienic and unsanitary processing methods

  • To protect the public from contaminated, unsafe food

  • To protect the public from deceptive, mis-labeled and amplified claims of the benefits, cures and effectiveness of a drug or medicine made, marketed and branded by a manufacturer that is available without prescription

The man responsible for drafting the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was Dr. H.W. Wiley, the chief chemist of the US Department of Agriculture.

What are the Provisions of the Pure Food and Drug Act?
What did the Pure Food and Drug Act do?

  • The Pure Food and Drug Act prohibited the interstate transportation and sale of adulterated food and deceptive medicines

  • It prevented adulteration of foods and drugs

  • It prevented mis-labeling of foods and drugs

  • The Pure Food and Drug Act prohibited exaggerated claims of effectiveness made for pseudo-medical patent medicines

  • The Pure Food and Drug Act was enacted by Congress in accordance with its power under the Commerce Clause in the Constitution:

    • Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, of the Constitution (the Commerce Clause) gives Congress exclusive power over trade activities among the states

1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for kids: What is the Definition of "Adulterated" food?
The Pure Food and Drug Act banned the interstate transportation and sale of adulterated food. But what is the Definition of "Adulterated food"? "Adulterated" food is defined as:

  • Food which is combined, or packaged, with another substance that adversely affects the quality or strength of the food

  • Foods that are substituted in whole, or part, by another substance

  • Foods that have had any essential component removed in whole or part

  • Foods that have been blended, coated, colored, or stained to conceal damage or inferiority

  • Foods that have had poisonous or harmful additions made to it

  • Foods that are composed of filthy or decomposed animal or vegetable matter

  • Food that is the product of a diseased animal, or an animal that has died, other than by slaughtering

What was the Impact of the Pure Food and Drug Act?
Why was the Pure Food and Drug Act important? The Impact of the Pure Food and Drug Act was:

  • To improve the general health and welfare of the public

  • It prevented the misrepresentation of medicine and drugs

  • It gave credibility to the Square Deal domestic policy of President Roosevelt

  • It gave credence to the effectiveness of investigative journalism, books that tackled social issues and the importance of the Progressive authors referred to as 'Muckrakers'

The Pure Food and Drug Act was subsequently amended in 1912, 1913, and 1919. The provisions of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 were superseded by the stricter provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Why was the Pure Food and Drug Act typical of Progressive Reform?
The Pure Food and Drug Act was typical of progressive reform as it:

  • Challenged the unsavory and unethical practices of companies

  • It tackled the progressive issues relating to the improvement of the health and safety of the public

  • The whole subject was brought to the attention of the public and the government by the work of a Progressive writer (Muckraker)

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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