Meat Inspection Act/Pure Food and Drug Act

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Meat Inspection Act/Pure Food and Drug Act

In 1906, Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) wrote a novel titled The Jungle. The book was the result of the author's investigation into the lives and working conditions of stockyard workers in Chicago, Illinois . These employees worked in enclosed yards where food animals were temporarily housed before being slaughtered.

The novel was filled with details of the horrific working conditions employees experienced on a daily basis. Aside from discomfort and filth, the meatpacking industry was filled with serious health hazards. Although Sinclair's objective was to educate the American public about the injustices of a capitalistic society, readers focused mainly on the health and hygiene aspects of the work.

One reader who was particularly disturbed by what he read was President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919; served 1901–9). With his encouragement and support, two highly important bills were passed into law on June 30, 1906. These were the first federal laws regulating the food and drug industries.

The Pure Food and Drug Act required that all food and drugs meant for human consumption pass strict testing to assure safety and cleanliness. The Food and Drug Administration would be established to carry out the enforcement of these new laws. In addition, drugs that were habit-forming as well as some that required a doctor's prescription would carry warning labels.

The other law passed that summer day was the Meat Inspection Act. This required certified, trained officials to inspect all animals before slaughter to ensure their health. Any found diseased would not be fit for eating. Once the healthy animals were slaughtered, they would again have to pass inspection because some disease was not evident until the animals were cut open. Furthermore, slaughterhouses and stockyards were to maintain specific health standards and would be subject to regular inspections by officials from the Department of Agriculture. The Meat Inspection Act enforced much-needed regulations in an industry that was revealed to be have widespread sanitation and health issues. Many laws passed since that time have further regulated the meat industry to help assure consumer health and protection.