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  • - [Voiceover] Until about 1902, legal food preservatives

  • included chemicals like formaldehyde,

  • borax and copper sulfate.

  • That is until one guy organized a Poison Supper Club

  • to stop it and became the father of the FDA.

  • OK, here's the story.

  • In order to keep food looking fresh,

  • food manufacturers used a slew of chemicals.

  • Copper sulfate, a common pesticide,

  • made canned peas bright green.

  • Borax and formaldehyde were packed with meat

  • to make it appear fresher.

  • At this time in our history,

  • there were no true food regulations.

  • You didn't need to label your ingredients.

  • There was no safety testing, no monitoring.

  • Cue Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, a chemist with the crazy idea

  • that these chemicals had no place in our food.

  • He started some hygienic lab trials

  • where he could officially test the effects

  • of these poisons on the body.

  • It was easy to get the chemicals,

  • but he needed the bodies.

  • And that's where the Poison Squad came in.

  • The first 12 members of the Poison Squad

  • were volunteers from the Department of Agriculture

  • and they volunteered to eat his poisoned food for six months

  • so he could track the effects it had on them.

  • Each day, the menus would change

  • and Wiley's volunteers never knew which poison

  • they were consuming.

  • A dinner at the Poison Supper Club might look like this.

  • Applesauce, soup, turkey, canned stringed beans,

  • sweet potatoes, white potatoes, chipped beef,

  • bread and butter, coffee, rice pudding

  • and a little borax.

  • Throughout the trials, Wiley noted signs of acute poisoning

  • including upset stomachs, nausea, diarrhea,

  • vomiting, kidney damage, you know,

  • things that happen when you get poisoned.

  • And this did not stay hidden.

  • The press caught on and in 1906,

  • the first food regulations were passed.

  • This ultimately led to the creation of the FDA.

  • So thanks, Dr. Wiley.

  • Our food is so much better without all that borax.

- [Voiceover] Until about 1902, legal food preservatives

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B1 US GreatBigStory poison borax wiley supper sulfate

The Poison Supper Club That Made Our Food Safe

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    posted on 2020/02/08
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