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.

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