We Are What We Eat: Food and American Identity at the National Archives

national archives
Courtesy of the National Archives

Out of the Jungle
Upton Sinclair exposed the stomach-churning conditions of the Chicago stockyards in his 1905 novel The Jungle. ("There were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit," he wrote.) The public outcry was heard at home and around the world — as evinced in satirical British postcards sent to the U.S. State Department from South Africa at the time. On a single day in 1906, Congress passed two landmark pieces of legislation: the Meat Inspection Act, which mandated inspections of live animals, carcasses and processed products as well as better sanitary conditions; and the Pure Food and Drug Act, which was a precursor to the Food and Drug Administration and forbade interstate commerce of misbranded foods, drinks and drugs. "Prior to that, the government wasn't really in the business of protecting consumers," Kamps says.

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