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The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

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From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times -bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm co From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times -bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by "embalmed milk" every year. Citizens--activists, journalists, scientists, and women's groups--began agitating for change. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, "The Poison Squad." Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. Together with a gallant cast, including the muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair, whose fiction revealed the horrific truth about the Chicago stockyards; Fannie Farmer, then the most famous cookbook author in the country; and Henry J. Heinz, one of the few food producers who actively advocated for pure food, Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as "Dr. Wiley's Law." Blum brings to life this timeless and hugely satisfying "David and Goliath" tale with righteous verve and style, driving home the moral imperative of confronting corporate greed and government corruption with a bracing clarity, which speaks resoundingly to the enormous social and political challenges we face today.


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From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times -bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm co From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times -bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by "embalmed milk" every year. Citizens--activists, journalists, scientists, and women's groups--began agitating for change. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, "The Poison Squad." Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. Together with a gallant cast, including the muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair, whose fiction revealed the horrific truth about the Chicago stockyards; Fannie Farmer, then the most famous cookbook author in the country; and Henry J. Heinz, one of the few food producers who actively advocated for pure food, Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as "Dr. Wiley's Law." Blum brings to life this timeless and hugely satisfying "David and Goliath" tale with righteous verve and style, driving home the moral imperative of confronting corporate greed and government corruption with a bracing clarity, which speaks resoundingly to the enormous social and political challenges we face today.

30 review for The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Ayala

    Dude. The Industrial Revolution, for all its major leaps toward with invention and innovation, definitely fucked over some people. Like a lot of people. The biggest take away from this nonfiction book is that given the opportunity, big business will screw us over tenfold unless someone holds them accountable. They put copper, lead, formaldehyde and so much more in our food. Kids died from drinking milk. That’s so mind boggling that I had to reread the paragraphs focused on that. Paragraphs, plural, Dude. The Industrial Revolution, for all its major leaps toward with invention and innovation, definitely fucked over some people. Like a lot of people. The biggest take away from this nonfiction book is that given the opportunity, big business will screw us over tenfold unless someone holds them accountable. They put copper, lead, formaldehyde and so much more in our food. Kids died from drinking milk. That’s so mind boggling that I had to reread the paragraphs focused on that. Paragraphs, plural, because it HAPPENED MORE THAN ONCE OVER SEVERAL YEARS. This author does an amazing job of compiling all of the information together in a cohesive form. There’s a inordinate amount of information within these pages and while it can get a bit dense and repetitive, it never lost my interest. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read it and I’m going to make damn sure everybody knows to read it. FIGHT THE MAN! (Or just hold corporations like Coca-Cola accountable)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    During his successful 2016 campaign for the White House, Trump promised to have his cabinet "submit a list of every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs, and which does not improve public safety, and eliminate them." His FDA commission, Scott Gottlieb, followed that promise by saying what while he recognizes the importance of food safety legislation he wants to "strike the right balance" in its implementation. Consumer groups now anticipate delayed and reduced protections from ag During his successful 2016 campaign for the White House, Trump promised to have his cabinet "submit a list of every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs, and which does not improve public safety, and eliminate them." His FDA commission, Scott Gottlieb, followed that promise by saying what while he recognizes the importance of food safety legislation he wants to "strike the right balance" in its implementation. Consumer groups now anticipate delayed and reduced protections from agencies facing deep budget cuts. The Earthjustice Institute has warned of the "Trump administration's willingness to accommodate even unfounded and partial industry opposition to the detriment of the health and welfare of people and families across the country." Such a warning, with its mix of theatrical anger and genuine dismay could have been written, almost word for word, by Harvey Washington Wiley more than a century ago. The sense of deja vu, echoing down the years, should remind us of the ways that food safety practices have dramatically changed in this country--and of the ways they have changed hardly at all. (The Poison Squad, pg. 289) I found this book while browsing in my local library and picked it up because public health is always an interesting topic to me. It took me a little while to get started on this book, but once I did I could hardly put it down. The Poison Squad follows Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley in his career primarily as chief chemist for the Department of Agriculture, explains how his research on altered and deliberately unlabeled/mislabeled products came to shape his advocacy for safe and pure (or, at the very least, properly labeled) food and drink, and illustrates for readers the parallels between the complaints and schemes of business of decades ago and the complaints and schemes of business today. Just like the Earthjustice statement could have been written by Dr. Wiley, The Poison Squad is littered with quotations from 19th and 20th century businessmen, their lawyers, and the their lobbyists, that could be written - word for word - by the industry-at-any-cost interests of today. I knew about a couple of the cases cited in the text - the poisoning of children with milk that had been 'preserved' with formaldehyde, the mass poisoning of mainly children by Elixir Sulfanilamide - but not the vast majority. Well written, informative, and very, very relevant, The Poison Squad was an amazing book and it is one that I would highly recommend. However, given that a good many of the descriptions are graphic, I have one caveat: I would try not to recommend The Poison Squad to someone who didn't have at least an ok tolerance for nauseating descriptions, the likes of which are extremely likely to cause intense revulsion at the very idea of some things once being considered 'food.' For example: Doctors continued to worry over continued reports of "grocer's itch," a side effect of the deceptive practice of grinding up insects and passing the result off as brown sugar. Sometimes live lice survived the process. (The Poison Squad, pg. 66) The secretary [of agriculture, Wilson] also had endorsed a November decision to seize fifty-two industrial-sized cans of eggs preserved in a 2 percent solution of boracic acid. The Hipolite Egg Company of St. Louis sold these huge cans--forty-two pounds each--to the baking industry at a price much lower than fresh eggs. Hipolite specialized in salvaging dirty, cracked, and even rotting eggs for use in breads and cakes. The company was particularly known for using "spots" (decomposing eggs); mixing their contents into a thick, homogeneous mass; using boracic acid, a by-product of borax [the cleaning product also used for pest control] to halt further decomposition; and then selling the eggy soup by the can. (The Poison Squad, pg. 203) New options [for coloring agents] arose with synthetic dyes made from coal tars--dense, chemically complex residues left over the processing of coal...The new dyes were durable, cheap, and potent--and rapidly adopted by industrial processors of everything from fabric to food. (The Poison Squad, pg. 229) The organizers [of the pure food exhibit] decided to exhibit two thousand different brands presenting tainted food and drink sold in the United States. ...Minnesota and South Dakota sent sheets of silk and wool, each five feet square, brilliantly colored with coal-tar dyes extracted from a variety of strawberry syrups, ketchup, jams and jellies, and red wine. Michigan sent samples of lemon extract in which the manufacturer had used cheap but deadly wood alcohol as a base. Illinois provided more faked extracts, such as "vanilla" made only of alcohol and brown food coloring...Participating states provided forty brands of ketchup, labeled as a tomato product, that were mostly stewed pumpkin rind dyed red, and some fifty brands of baking powder that were largely well-ground chalk enhanced by aluminum compounds. To the fury of food industry executives, the fair's head of publicity, Mark Bennett, send out a news release titled "Lessons in Food Poisoning," which noted: "If you want to have your faith in mankind rather rudely shaken, take the time to look about in the exhibit of the State Food Commissioners in the south end of the Palace of Agriculture." (The Poison Squad, pg. 115) This is a small sampling of just what I could easily find and could be easily understood from a relatively short quote. I personally think the text is all the better for including these details; they do not allow industry malpractice and unethical behavior to hide behind the veneer of polite wording. I think it is necessary the same way that Upton Sinclair's graphic descriptions of the Chicago stockyards and packing plants were necessary (The Jungle, as well as other information about it and the yards themselves are also quoted, by the way). But, because I know not everyone has the same opinion as me, I would try to take into account personal taste when making - or choosing not to make - a recommendation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Doherty

    Page turning and solicitous! This incredible story widens the view of what we think we know about how our nation’s food. From flood shavings in the chowder, to exactly how much plaster makes sour milk looks just right again – this book is for anyone who loves reading about history that you can’t believe is true. Where the Food Explorer took us on a wild ride, discovering where our food came from – this wowzers of a history will make you sooooo glad we had Dr. Wiley on our side ensuring we aren’t Page turning and solicitous! This incredible story widens the view of what we think we know about how our nation’s food. From flood shavings in the chowder, to exactly how much plaster makes sour milk looks just right again – this book is for anyone who loves reading about history that you can’t believe is true. Where the Food Explorer took us on a wild ride, discovering where our food came from – this wowzers of a history will make you sooooo glad we had Dr. Wiley on our side ensuring we aren’t poisoned daily! Galley borrowed from the publisher.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Today, when talking about the safety of our food, we are concerned with MSG; high-fructose corn syrup; trans fats, synthetic sweeteners, artificial colors among others. In the late 1800's into the early years of the twentieth century, you would have been concerned more about arsenic, formaldehyde (yes, embalming fluid); salicylic acid, copper sulfate, and borax being used as preservatives. Coal-tar dyes to make the food appear fresh and bright. Saccharin to replace the more expensive sugar. Acet Today, when talking about the safety of our food, we are concerned with MSG; high-fructose corn syrup; trans fats, synthetic sweeteners, artificial colors among others. In the late 1800's into the early years of the twentieth century, you would have been concerned more about arsenic, formaldehyde (yes, embalming fluid); salicylic acid, copper sulfate, and borax being used as preservatives. Coal-tar dyes to make the food appear fresh and bright. Saccharin to replace the more expensive sugar. Acetic acid replacing lemon juice. So-called neutral spirits colored, flavored and called whiskey. Nitrites to bleach flour to brilliant whiteness. Lead and a variety of minerals in candy. It is suspected that hundreds if not thousands of young children were killed by milk that was more chemical than dairy - the recipe could be a pint of water to each quart of milk after the cream was skimmed off. Add a bit of chalk or plaster of paris for whitening. Molasses to give it a golden color and to replace the cream, a squirt of something that may include pureed calf brains. And don't forget the formaldehyde! Yummy, isn't it? You don't want to know what could be in butter. Food manufacturers were certainly inventive with their additives. Sometimes the only thing missing in the product was what it was advertised and sold as. Of course, what it could include was mashed fruit and vegetable leavings. Charred rope. Sawdust. Crushed nut shells, ground insects and floor sweepings of all kinds. This book is about Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemist in the employ of the federal Department of Agriculture (the infant FDA) and his fight to eliminate toxic minerals and chemicals from the foods available to the American people. The same chemicals/additives, which were forbidden for use in Europe and Canada, flooded American food. And it was a long, exhausting fight. Utilizing the resources available, Wiley would create his 'poison squads' which would be volunteers who would take in the chemical investigated over a period of time and record any negative impacts on their health. The data would be analyzed and the report released to the public. Of course, the manufacturers fought hard and long. They were all about using cheaper materials instead of authentic, pure food products. Most were certainly were not willing to make the product a few cents more expensive but without toxic additives. But Dr. Wiley had his supporters as well - the AMA, women's groups, several Congressmen and Senators, various state-level secretaries of agriculture, newspaper journalists especially after the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle which blew the lid off the meatpacking industry of Chicago. Fanny Farmer and her famous cookbook. H.J. Heinz that proved that food could be uncontaminated, tasty and appealing to the buying public. 1906 saw the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act but food industry lobbyists managed to convince industry-friendly politicians to basically weaken and gut the law. But it was a start and Dr. Wiley eventually lost his neutrality in his crusade for unadulterated and safe food which caused tension within the Department of Agriculture. Taking on Coca Cola for their cocaine and caffeine. Taking on the whiskey manufacturers. Saccharin and bread whitening agents. In the end, Dr. Wiley felt the best decision for him and his family was to continue his crusade through a job offered by Good Housekeeping magazine. He never saw the modified Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 which corrected the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Unfortunately, it took the death of more than a 100 people who were poisoned and killed by cough syrup sweetened by antifreeze. This is a vital book to read. Not just because of how far food safety has advanced over the years but how much more work needs to be done. Additional laws and updates to food and drug regulation over the years is in danger from our current administration as Trump promised to eliminate every unnecessary regulation and it seems that the FDA and its work is once again under fire. Only time will tell if it survives or is stripped of its authority and dominion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Fascinating but, at the same time, deeply disturbing, account of the decades-long effort by Dr. Harvey Wiley, a chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century, to protect consumers from adulterated food and drugs. A hundred years ago, Dr. Wiley's name was probably familiar to most Americans. My thanks to author Deborah Blum for reminding us of his important contributions, which continue to improve our lives today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeimy

    This is billed as a fascinating story about how food was made safe in America, but I have to disagree with the second part of that statement. It is about how food was made safer. However, it doesn't take much for readers to see how much our capitalistic government bends to serve the whims of corporations. Food adulterations continue to occur. Read this book to understand how much has improved and ponder how far we still have to go.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book describes the work of Department of Agriculture chemist Harvey Wiley in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wiley worked tirelessly to get the U.S. government to regulate food producers and marketers, who were producing foods in highly unsanitary conditions and adulterating foods with substances that mimicked actual foods (pumpkin rinds, coconut shells), were intended to restore rotten foods (formaldehyde), were intended to preserve foods longer in that era of uncertain This book describes the work of Department of Agriculture chemist Harvey Wiley in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wiley worked tirelessly to get the U.S. government to regulate food producers and marketers, who were producing foods in highly unsanitary conditions and adulterating foods with substances that mimicked actual foods (pumpkin rinds, coconut shells), were intended to restore rotten foods (formaldehyde), were intended to preserve foods longer in that era of uncertain refrigeration (again with the formaldehyde), were intended to color foods to make them look better (copper sulfates, coal-tar dyes), or were intended to take up room in the package with a substance less expensive than the food product would have been (borax, floor sweepings). There were no requirements that products be labeled for contents or package weight. Food manufacturers and packagers strenuously resisted regulations and contributed to congressional representatives to convince them that such regulations were "anti-business," although people were being sickened and poisoned and deceived. Women's organizations (in this pre-women's suffrage era) lobbied strongly for regulations, as did publications like Good Housekeeping magazine. The publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in 1906 exposed sickening practices in the Chicago meatpacking industry and helped to pass the first, rather toothless pure food law, but it was a step on the way to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration and to the labeling and packaging requirements that we take for granted today. One thing that I kept thinking as I read this book, in this era of deregulation, is that businesses and industries will buy votes and do almost anything else they must to save money or make money--witness the oil industry and the dismantling of regulations to protect the environment--regardless of the effects on human beings, screaming all the way that they will be put out of business or that the government is anti-business if it tries to protect the people it is supposed to be serving. And the politicians pocket the money and fail to act, for the most part, until some lethal scandal occurs and the outrage of the people forces action. Let this be a warning to us that regulation can be a very good thing. The book essentially ends when Dr. Wiley retires, although there is an epilogue that traces more recent developments. I wish the author had gone into detail about recent years and the accomplishments of the FDA (such as keeping thalidomide out of the United States), but I guess she had to stop somewhere. I enjoyed reading this book, although it is horrific what food producers used to do to save pennies or attract business at the expense of their customers' health and lives (arsenic in candy, kids?).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Papaphilly

    What an amazing book. This is both truly well written and a reminder how history repeats. if you hear about how good the food used to be, this book reminds you how good the food really was not. The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century is history at its best. Told with a reporter's eye, but with humanity, Deborah Blum never lets the reader forget what is at stake. She spins a tale that reads like a well written novel, but never str What an amazing book. This is both truly well written and a reminder how history repeats. if you hear about how good the food used to be, this book reminds you how good the food really was not. The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century is history at its best. Told with a reporter's eye, but with humanity, Deborah Blum never lets the reader forget what is at stake. She spins a tale that reads like a well written novel, but never strays from the main pint of the book. This is the story of America's food purity law and the battle that started at the turn of the twentieth century and continues to this day. What comes across very well is this is the type of battle that is waged throughout American history. I was amazed at the companies that are under fire today were under fire then too. I am also amazed how certain brands were always industry leaders in both quality and purity. The same arguments portrayed the are used today. It is too expensive, it will not hurt the public, the government has no oversight to name just a few. The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century is also about iconoclastic personalities. Dr. Wiley, the main focus of the book is so single minded, he cannot comprehend compromise. This is both an excellent history and an excellent read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    An intense historical narrative about the fight to regulate food in the US. Deborah Blum's book will shock and intrigue you as she goes through the life of Harvey Washington Wiley's whose research and strength pushed legislation to protect the current and next generation of Americans from terrible ingredients food companies added to make their food last longer or produce faster. You mouth will drop at her descriptions of formaldehyde being used in milk, green slime getting scrapped off canned me An intense historical narrative about the fight to regulate food in the US. Deborah Blum's book will shock and intrigue you as she goes through the life of Harvey Washington Wiley's whose research and strength pushed legislation to protect the current and next generation of Americans from terrible ingredients food companies added to make their food last longer or produce faster. You mouth will drop at her descriptions of formaldehyde being used in milk, green slime getting scrapped off canned meat, and whiskey using anything but distilled corn. If you still have a steady stomach, you'll be intrigued by the politics and lobbying used to help food companies keep these terrible practices. Then, prepare to be surprised at the extents Wiley went to show how dangerous these food additives were, including human experimentation. The worst thing about all this? Despite Wiley's hard work, we're still not done yet. This book is incredibly fascinating and very well written, propelling you through 19th and 20th century American history and looking at a section you might not have read about before (beyond THE JUNGLE by Upton Sinclair which is talked about in the book!). This compulsive read is perfect for American history buffs and would be a "cool" gift for foodies.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade For Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, by Deborah Blum, is as close to a perfect work of nonfiction as I can imagine. If I didn’t know better, I would have said that it was custom written for me. This book follows the career of Dr. Harvey Wiley, a tireless proponent of legislation to keep food safe for consumers. His chemical work and political advocacy helped bring about the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and government regula The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade For Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, by Deborah Blum, is as close to a perfect work of nonfiction as I can imagine. If I didn’t know better, I would have said that it was custom written for me. This book follows the career of Dr. Harvey Wiley, a tireless proponent of legislation to keep food safe for consumers. His chemical work and political advocacy helped bring about the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and government regulation that helps keep Americans safe and healthy to this day. Without Wiley’s work, unscrupulous food, drink, and drug manufacturers would have continued to adulterate these products with poison and sold garbage under false labels. This may not sound all that exciting, but this book is packed with political scandals and (my favorite) horrible stories about awful historical practices. Blum writes about all of this with wit and fairness that made it all a pleasure to read—but only for people with strong stomachs... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Van Opstal

    This is a fantastic and engaging book even for its grotesque description of adulterated and poisoned food in late 19th and early 20th century. I love all of this because it’s chemistry, and the main character food chemist Harvey Wiley is fascinating and a crusader for pure food. It’s scary to think there were no labels on food or ingredients listed. All that we take for granted. Until the first pure food and drug law in 1906, lots of food was not what you think it was. This is an important book This is a fantastic and engaging book even for its grotesque description of adulterated and poisoned food in late 19th and early 20th century. I love all of this because it’s chemistry, and the main character food chemist Harvey Wiley is fascinating and a crusader for pure food. It’s scary to think there were no labels on food or ingredients listed. All that we take for granted. Until the first pure food and drug law in 1906, lots of food was not what you think it was. This is an important book to read during these times where the science is not in question about safety (not just food and drugs, but waste, climate change) but this administration seems to think so. Just like the Poisoners Handbook, Great book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This is fascinating account of the manufactured food industry in late 18th and early 19th centuries and how U.S. govt chemist, Dr. Harvey Wiley (truly a hero) fought to educate the public and impose regulations to clean it up. The descriptions of the preservative and adulteration practices of the time will horrify and disgust you. Admittedly the last half of this dragged a bit for me, with a lot of science and details about the politics of enacting "pure food" legislation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A fascinating look at the history behind the FDA and the legislation enacted to protect the American food supply. This book was packed with information but Blum kept things fast paced and easy to digest (pun intended). I thoroughly enjoyed "The Poisoner's Handbook," so I expected to like this one, too, and certainly did!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Absolutely fascinating. I guess I should feel glad that the American political system has always been full of craven, venal blowhards. Frankly we’re all lucky to be alive, given this history of the pure food and drug act.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Great! Well-written and packed with interesting stuff about food safety and regulation. Amazingly disgusting info on dairy and meat contamination in early 1900. Dr. Harvey Wiley is my new hero. Lots of great political insight here too, for those who like this kind of stuff.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Fascinating, but don’t read it anywhere close to mealtime.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Evan Deutsch

    Wow, what an interesting book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Jonsson

    A look at what food, drugs and drink had in them before the days of FDA regulations. I only wish there had been more personal examples of people being poisoned that had been described.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill Heather

    I do not think I love the balance in this -- I would have preferred more on the political or more on the science, but this felt unsatisfyingly short on both, somehow. Still a very fascinating book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Myers

    You know how some things seem like such an entrenched part of our society that we’ve forgotten how they got there? Deborah Blum reveals the story of one those facets of America: food and drug law (did you ever stop to think what “unbleached” flour means, or why labels are so proud of this fact? Mystery solved thanks to this book). Blum details Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley’s decades long quest (1880s-1906) for food and drug regulation, against always-formidable business owner foes and their govern You know how some things seem like such an entrenched part of our society that we’ve forgotten how they got there? Deborah Blum reveals the story of one those facets of America: food and drug law (did you ever stop to think what “unbleached” flour means, or why labels are so proud of this fact? Mystery solved thanks to this book). Blum details Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley’s decades long quest (1880s-1906) for food and drug regulation, against always-formidable business owner foes and their governmental allies. Rife with truly disgusting historical detail--congealed rope sent as meat to American soldiers, insects in dry goods, formaldehyde in milk--Blum renders evergreen American philosophies about regulation and capitalism in stark clarity. History isn’t as far away as it feels sometimes, and this book has made this particular legacy feel alive and close--a real accomplishment.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sanschag

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth P

  25. 5 out of 5

    Randi Abel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maryann

  27. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Sausville

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lily

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Scherer

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