B1 Intermediate US 38 Folder Collection
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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.
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The Poison Supper Club That Made Our Food Safe

38 Folder Collection
published on February 8, 2020
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