Dr. Harvey M. Wiley, food purity crusader
Atlantic City, N.J., July 16, 1908
Dr. Wiley of the Government's "Poison Squad," Talks of Foods.
"Better bread making would lead to fewer divorces," said Dr. H. M. Wiley, of the government's "poison squad" in an address before the American Biscuit Makers association.
"Good bread, in my opinion," he added, "would help solve the American evil of divorce. If the bakers make good bread and they educate the people to buy it, the great destroyer of domestic happiness, dyspesia, would be removed and we will hear no more of the divorce problem."
Quoted from the Lewiston Evening Journal, Lewiston, Maine, July 16, 1908, page 1, column 3.
Ah, dyspesia, the wrecker of marriages! Apparently, "dyspesia" is an old-time medical term that encompassed a list of indigestive symptoms: gas, bloating, belching, nausea, heartburn, etc. I agree with the doctor that it would be a very good thing indeed to eliminate those things from marriage.
I'm smiling at the thought of Victorian spouses enduring each other's dyspesia, but I'm also remembering that food purity regulation was in its infancy in 1908. Contaminated, spoiled, and unsafe ingredients were a huge problem.
Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, (1844-1930) was the Dr. Wiley of the newspaper story I quoted above. He was the chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 1882-1912. His research into food safety changed the lives of Americans then and still affects us today.
|Dr. Wiley in his laboratory at the USDA|
Because of the publicity generated by Dr. Wiley and the Poison Squads, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Surprisingly, this act did not eliminate the food preservatives mentioned above.
"While Wiley agreed that small amounts of preservatives were harmless and could slow food spoilage, he also argued that the accumulation of additives posed a public health threat, because it was not possible to control how much a person ate over time. He was ultimately unsuccessful in fighting food preservatives, but borax, salicylic acid, formaldehyde, and copper sulfate fell out of use." (Source: "Pioneering Consumer Advocate Gave Rise to FDA")
After Dr. Wiley left the USDA in 1912, he accepted a position with Good Housekeeping magazine, where he founded the Good Housekeeping laboratories and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and continued his crusade for safer food.
In honor of his many years of public service and his pioneering work in food safety, Dr. Wiley is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.