Dr. Harvey Wiley wrote the first Food and Drug and Cosmetic Act, which was passed in 1906. This act is considered to be the forerunner of today's FDA. One of Dr. Wiley's many notable battles was against the bleached and refined flour that was then [in 1905] being introduced into the marketplace. It was a battle he lost with his removal from office a mere six years after his appointment in 1906 as the head administrator of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. By 1939, bleached and refined flour, made from USDA-verified nutrient-depleted wheat, was required by Congress to have a handful of unstable, cheap vitamins added back in as a solution to the problem of what was basically a non-food.
From 1902 to 1907, Dr. Wiley, as first head of the Bureau of Chemistry, used the newly emerging “muckraking” media of his day to educate hundreds of thousands of people all across the nation on the health-depleting effects of food additives and food processing. He did this by conducting a huge public experiment for which he drafted teams of healthy, young men who later became known as the Poison Squad. These young men started out on the old-fashioned American diet and then, one by one various food additives were added - with the results being duly recorded by Dr. Wiley and then happily reported by the press.
Dr. Wiley’s intent was to demonstrate and document the deleterious effects of the various additives and chemicals being used by food processors for their “foods of commerce.” These additives included boric acid, alum, benzoic acid, benzoates, sulphur dioxide, salicylates, sulfites, saccharin and more.
Periodically, Dr. Wiley published bulletins detailing and describing the negative health effects of each of these additives. And on a daily basis, the progress and travails of Dr. Wiley’s Poison Squad was eagerly and hungrily reported by the muckrakers – and just as eagerly read by an increasingly enlightened public. By 1906, Dr. Wiley and his Poison Squad were household words and enough public momentum had been established that Congress overwhelmingly passed the Pure Food and Drug Act - commonly known as the Wiley Act. Its chief architect was Dr. Wiley who today, because of this law and his tremendous efforts on its behalf, is regarded as the founder of the FDA.
Dr. Wiley was forced from office a mere six years after its creation, as a result of the powerful and well-financed political efforts of those whose interests he threatened. In response he dedicated himself to writing a book about his experiences. During the course of his trying to market his manuscripts, they all disappeared. Painstakingly he reconstructed the book, and self-published in 1929 under the title of A History of a Crime Against the Food Law. Within a few weeks Dr. Wiley died and within weeks after that all known copies of Wiley's book were pulled from bookstores and library shelves. Luckily for posterity, a manuscript was recovered and is now available online. In the first chapter, Dr. Wiley makes the case that food preservatives are never harmless.
Today over five thousand chemicals are added to our foods, with an average annual consumption of some 14 pounds for every man, woman and child in America. Nearly 2000 of these chemicals have never been thoroughly tested for potential harmful effects. Another 1/3 have been determined by the FDA to be GRAS, or Generally Regarded As Safe, which is not a label that inspires full confidence when you consider the facts.
For example, propylene glycol is an ingredient added to many canned foods (and personal care products) but a trip to the local paint or hardware store will disclose large warning labels on products that contain this substance which tell you to avoid contact with skin, eyes or mucous membranes. A review of USDA safety data sheets for propylene glycol raises even more concerns. Historical evidence and political machinations should inspire additional cause for concern, as Eustace Mullins describes in his 1988 book :
Coumarin, which was a key ingredient of imitation vanilla flavoring, had been in continuous use for 75 years before it was found to produce serious liver damage in laboratory animals. . . The 1938 Food and Drug Cosmetics Act [that mandated that substances had to be safe] certified 19 dyes for use in foods. Since then, 3 have been decertified, leaving 16 for use in foods . . . Dr. Arthur A. Nelson reported that FDA tests in 1957 showed that 10 of the 13 certified dyes then in use had produced cancers when injected under the skin of rats . . . Yellow AB and Yellow OB, which are known cancer hazards, have been widely used to color margarine and butter. They are made from a dangerous chemical called beta-napthylamine. It is notable because it has low toxicity, that is, it is not poisonous in its effect, but it is one of the most carcinogenic substances known . . . [Despite all this] manufacturers are adept at organizing influential lobbying groups in Washington, of which the public remains unaware. Some 96 companies, including Dow, Monsanto, Hoffman LaRoche and many others, put up $5000 each per year [as of the book's publication in 1988] to support the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology and the Institute of Food Technology, groups which systematically mislead the public about the dangers of cancer-causing food additives. They are able to minimize and weaken the frequent attempts by Congressmen to expose the dangers of many of these additives. It is all part of the game of public relations.