By Harvey W. Wiley, MD
Summary: In 1906 the U.S. government passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act, the first federal law aimed specifically at ensuring the purity of America’s food supply. It wasn’t long before the industrial food industry—with the help of its connections in the federal government—found its way around the legislation. In this letter to President Calvin Coolidge, Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, the chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) charged with enforcing the act, calls the U.S. government to task for turning a blind eye to various cases that appeared to squarely violate the law. Dr. Wiley’s protestation (an expanded version of which appeared as “Dr. Wiley to the President” in the September 1925 issue of Good Housekeeping) caused such a stir that it prompted a reply to the president by the acting secretary of the USDA. Together, these two letters show precisely how food manufacturers and federal courts colluded to thwart the intent of America’s food purity law, allowing additives of unproven safety to become forever part of the nation’s food supply. 1925.