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June 23, 1906, Pure Food and Drug Act Receives Overwhelmingly High Support in Congress

On such a day in 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act overcame a major obstacle the moment it got the support of the House and the Senate. The joint committee report that was favoring the bill presented it to the House who voted overwhelmingly for it at 240 against 17 that were opposed to it.The president, who was then Theodore Roosevelt would then sign into law this landmark Progressive Era legislation on June 30th.

For the first time in the History of the United States, there was a law allowing the federal administration to control food and drugs which were distributed between national commerce while prohibiting the production, trade, or carrying of toxic patent medicines. It rose, with the massive support of government, at the times when there were a significant number of exposés by such troublemakers as Upton Sinclair (“The Jungle”) and Samuel Hopkins Adams who could literallybe viewed as the Greatest American Fraud at the time. In application, the act primarily assured truth in labeling. The initial intention of the bill was to raise the standards in the food and drug industries while defending the images of the Firms that engaged in fair dealings.

Similarly, President Roosevelt would on the same day sign Federal Meat Inspection Act. The Bureau of Chemistry in the United States. Department of Agriculture was assigned the responsibility of Enforcing the Pure Food and Drug Act. In 1930, the division would be renamed as the United States Food and Drug Administration. The Meat Inspection Act was put under what is currently referred to as the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is still within the Branch of Agriculture.

It was on Dec. 14, 1905, when Senator Weldon Heyburn (R-Idaho) tabled the Pure Food and Drug Act waiting for the approval of the House. It would, however, stay for three months without getting any consideration from the speaker Joe Cannon (R-Ill.) causing one to wonder whether he wanted to squelch the law or not.

It was on June 2, a time in which the congressional period was approaching the end when Rep. James Mann (R-Ill.) stood to speak to the House about a fruit that had a toxic dye coloring and alcohol that contained chemical fillers. It is this address that made an impression to many members and thus several reporters view it as the breakthrough event which enabled its passage by the considerable margin it received. Although the act would have many deficiencies which became apparent in the 1920’s, the 1906 one would be replaced by Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which the president signed into law in 1938.It is this act cumbered with numerous amendments, which remains to be the foundation for control by the FDA on almost all foods, and drugs.