Meat Inspection Act/Pure Food and Drug Act – Encyclopedia of U.S. History

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.