Friday, November 16, 2018

FDA, You've Come A Long Way!

Canned Food Cans Supermarket Food Canned S We've all heard of the FDA or Food and Drug Administration but did you realize they have been around for a very long time?  I certainly didn't.  The FDA as we know it was predated by the Department of Agriculture around 1862 and run by a chemist who set up a laboratory to analyze samples of food, soil, fertilizers, etc.

In fact, one of the first things they investigated was the question of whether adding sugar to wine to increase the amount alcohol was considered an adulteration.  At the time the answer was no but 40 years later when the FDA started, the answer changed to yes. 

The Department of Agriculture did not have the first lab due to Customs having established their own lab in 1848 due to the Import Drugs Act. This lab was needed because America had become the dumping ground for counterfeit, diluted, contaminated, and old, decomposing drugs and people were being injured but by the time the Department of Agriculture started its lab, the customs lab has faded away.

Over time as part of its investigation, the Department of Agriculture began investigating questions of food safety.  At this time, the population was moving from the country to the cities so food had to be moved quickly.  Unfortunately, the main way of refrigerating foods was by ice, milk was unpasteurized while cows were not being tested for tuberculosis.  In addition, manufacturers used chemical preservatives and toxic colors in the food making it dangerous.

Add to that the fact that medications were being sold with no monitoring and often contained heroin, cocaine, morphine, or opium that were not listed in the ingredients.  None of the medicines carried warnings so any "warnings" came via the mouth of those who had been hurt. 

In 1883, Dr Harvey W Wiley joined the Department of Agriculture Lab.  Over the next 20 years, he started pushing towards more government control over foods and medications.  In 1902, he convinced a group of prisoners to eat foods treated with chemical preservatives such as borax, salicylic acid, sulphurous acid, and benzoic acids along with formaldehyde.  This group was nicknamed "The Poison Squad" and it lasted 5 years but Dr Wiley was convinced chemical preservatives should not be used except in extreme circumstances.

Finally, in 1906 the FDA came into being to monitor both food and drug manufacturers to make sure everything was safe and it was headed by Dr Wiley.  One year, he hired the first 28 inspectors out of over 2000 who took the test.  One of the inspectors, Walter G. Campbell, wrote the first manual, set up the process needed to seize items, and created the system designed to ensure proper enforcement of the laws.

Campbell was also the one responsible for the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act passed in 1938 which is the base for all of our current rules. This version required drug companies to prove that new products were safe before marketing them, proof of fraud was no longer required to prohibit false claims for drugs, poisonous substances could no longer be added unless it could not be avoided but it had to fall within safe tolerances, factories could be inspected now, etc. 

Since then, the rules have been strengthened to protect Americans even more so now all drugs had to be tested and shown to be safe before being released to the consumer.  The laws even extend to monitoring infant formula so children receive only the best.

And that is a brief history of the FDA.  Let me know what you think, I hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

French Winemakers versus The Nazi's.

Wine Red Wine Glass Drink Alcohol BenefitThe other day, I stumbled across a book on Amazon about how the winemakers in France fought the Nazi's during the occupation of France. 

I'd never heard of the winemaker's fight to keep the Nazi's from profiting by taking over an industry that provided a living for about 20 percent of France's population.

When the Nazi's took over, they saw the wine industry as a way of bringing in additional funding by purchasing the wine at rockbottom prices before turning around and selling it for a tremendous markup with the profits going to the Fatherland.

At the beginning, in 1940, soldiers would march into various Chateaus, take the wine, and transport it by the truck away to be sold but within a very short time, they created a system but they didn't count on a certain lack of cooperation.

Although the Germans appointed their experts to be in charge of the process, many of them had established relationships with the winemakers dating back before the war, so the experts tried to make things easier for the French.  Thus the French seemingly cooperated but this was not exactly true.

Many winemakers made the decision to do what they could to prevent the Germans from profiting from selling French wines.  Some growers and restaurants built false walls to hide the better wines while janitorial staff kept the dust from cleaning to make bottles of cheap wine look dusty and old so the Germans believed they were getting the good stuff.

Unfortunately many of the vineyard workers were arrested placed in internment camps before being sent to Germany as forced labor. This didn't stop some of the winemakers from getting creative.   One stored his best wines in caves hidden from everyone while another buried his in the vegetable garden under tomatoes, squash, etc. 

There is a story of one owner who managed to get forged papers claiming the bottles were reserved for a specific officer. When a troop of soldiers arrived they were told the only place large enough to hold them was the same place where the wine was stored.  Since they were fearful the men would be unable to keep away from the wine, they were billeted elsewhere. 

As the Nazis became more brutal, winemakers began performing their own acts of resistance.  For instance, they labeled one shipment of wine for Homburg rather than Hamburg so it didn't get to its destination.  In other cases, they sabotaged trains to prevent the wines from being moved to Germany.  Or they might sneak aboard trains and steal some of the wine so it didn't go to the Germans, doing it again and again until complaints came back that the wine barrels were empty. 

Soldiers were stationed near the rail station and a floater of some sort was put in the top so they'd know if any were stolen but the resistance took the wine out and filled the barrels with water so no one would know.  Eventually, the Nazi's hired locals to help watch for the thieves but it didn't help because the ones hired were the ones doing it.

Other participated by hiding Jews or helping move members of the resistance across lines by hiding them in huge wine barrels.   In addition, they moved papers and arms using this same technique, but this was done with the possibility of being caught by the Germans or being turned in by collaborators.

There are more stories that could be shared but this is just a taste of how the French vineyard owners fought the Nazi's during World War II.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

HIstory of the Gallup Poll.

Survey, Icon, Survey Icon, QuestionnaireIf you read yesterday's entry, you'll know that for the 1936 election, before the Literary Digest sent out its massive mailing to obtain the data for their prediction, a man popped up out of Princeton New Jersey stating their predictions would be wrong and even provided their prediction!

George Gallup, a man who spent time since he was in college wondering if there was a more efficient way of polling people other than going person to person. 

He began investigating the methods used by agricultural inspectors to test a supply of wheat or water.  In fact, his doctoral thesis 'A New Technique for Objective Methods for Measuring Reader Interest in Newspapers,' became the basis of the Gallup Poll.

As he conducted research on the topic and published the results in journals which lead to his becoming noticed by companies, one of whom, hired him to be their director of research in 1932.  In the same year, his mother-in-law ran in place of her deceased husband as a democrat in the very republican state of New Jersey.  She won despite not having run any sort of campaign but being of the same party as Roosevelt. 

This lead Gallup to wonder if he could use his sampling methods to predict the winner in elections so he ran a test using the 1934 Congressional elections and his results were only a percentage point off.  This lead to a gentleman seeing the earning potential in this type of predictions so he partnered with George Gallup to create the American Institute of Public Opinion.  The idea was that with such a prestigious name, people would be more likely to return results even though the institute only had a few workers who counted votes.

In 1935, George began writing a syndicated column in which he guaranteed he could predict the winner of the next presidential election with more accuracy than the Literary Digest and even offered a money back guarantee.  This allowed his partner to place "America Speaks" in 42 newspapers and set off a major competition between the two.

  The Literary Digest scoffed at Gallup and predicted Landon would win the election with 57 percent of the vote.  They'd predicted the previous winner but with the depression, they didn't have as much money available so they only polled 10 million people who belonged to a higher economic class because they only looked at those who owned automobiles and telephones. 

On the other hand, Gallup predicted Roosevelt would win with 54% of the vote.  He was off by about seven percent when Roosevelt won with 61 percent of the vote but his prediction was correct.  The Literary Digest went out of business within one year and Gallup emerged as the foremost authority on polling of his day.

He founded several other institutes in England and one in the United States to monitor movies.  His company asked question after question that most never thought about such as "Do you believe in God" but for all this data collection, he had trouble with the 1948 Dewey vs Truman election.  Due to the splintered Democratic party, it was believed that Truman had no chance to win so instead of completing the usual surveys, they only looked at the results from the national party attendees and predicted Dewey.  Truman continued campaigning and won leaving egg on the face of pollsters including Gallup.

This caused him to revise his polling methods and hang in there but the field began diminishing until the 1960's but in 1958, he founded the Gallup Organization which was his own polling company run by he and his son.  He moved the focus to marketing research but kept his academic methods.  The company began to grow and develop but not without problems.  In the 1968 election season, it was discovered that pollsters created fraudulent results from Harlem and were alleged to have ties to Nixon.  That aside, the company has continued to grow to become the powerhouse it is today.

The company merged with Select Institute back in 1988 but has retained its name and methods.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

History of Polling

Vote Election Icon Voting Right Decision SIn today's world, we are bombarded with polls, especially around election time but did you know political polls have been around since 1824 when the first one was conducted by the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian.  On July 24th, they published the results of a straw poll on the upcoming election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

At this time, newspapers were not very impartial and were more often seen as mouth pieces for political parties but they needed to move away from this and become more objective to expand readership.  Unfortunately, straw polls were really extremely objective but were used until the beginning of the twentieth century.

During this time period, many newspapers published copies of the ballot within their pages, urging readers to cut it out before filling it in and either mailing it in or placing it in a special ballot box at the newspaper.  In fact, newspapers suggested readers buy more copies to add more ballots or to "stuff the ballot box" thus encouraging more sales and sacrificing accuracy.

Pretty soon pollsters began using telephone directories, voter lists, and automobile registrations to create sample lists.  They'd often choose say every 10th name to make the sample they'd contact for data on upcoming elections but this method had a bias towards only the wealthier people.  People were contacted using the mail and asking them to return the form.

They discovered mail was not the best way.  To get better results, pollsters began using the personal interview where they passed out pencils and ballots to people on the street.  Sometimes, they'd select a specific area to get information from say white or blue collar workers because they wanted a selection from cross economic groups.

Most newspapers conduction local or regional polls but beginning in the 1890's, several newspapers including the New York Herald Tribune began polling over larger areas.  By 1912, these polls covered areas containing up to 35 states.  In 1924, the Hearst empire tried to poll 43 states but there was error rate of 6 percent, however when they redid it in 1928, they managed to cover 46 states with only a 3 points of error.

Then in the 1930's the Literary Digest (the Time or Newsweek of the era) sent out over 20 million ballots covering 48 states.  They predicted Roosevelt would win the 1932 election with 59.85% of the votes.  Although many questioned their sample as focusing on the more well to-do, Roosevelt won the election with 59.14% of the vote.  In addition, they predicted he would take 42 states for 474 electoral votes compared to the actual 41 states with 472 electoral votes.

They began crowing about their success and were ready to predict the results of the 1936 election when a man popped up out of New Jersey saying their predictions were all wrong! More about that tomorrow.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.