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Food Labeling: Toward National Uniformity
An early home health book of the period suggested that:
The addition of any substance to an article of food may constitute a fraud an our pockets without causing us other injury, but in many cases adulteration of food and drugs is hurtful to the health. Milk, for example, may be the sole food of infants or invalids and these will run the risk of malnutrition if, as is sometimes done, some of the cream is removed and water added to bring down the specific gravity of the milk to that of milk which retains the whole cream. Milk containing preservatives must not be sold (Robinson, 1939, p. 20).
At that time, books and magazines on health frequently provided information on food adulteration and the problems that consumers should look for (Barkan, 1985). One volume on health and diet described food adulteration as being of two kinds: injurious and noninjurious. The noninjurious type of adulteration was classified as
conventional—to suit the taste and demands of the public, usually done by use of coloring or bleaching, which could be harmful.
accidental or incidental—arising from the environment, carelessness, or incompetency on the part of the manufacturer and usually consisting of an admixture of some foreign substance, such as husks, stems, or leaves.
intentional—for purposes of gain and competition (Friedenwald & Ruhrah, 1913, p. 222).
In the early 1900s, the food industry strongly supported national food legislation in order to obtain national uniformity in regulatory requirements to build credibility for the food supply. After considerable debate on the constitutionality question surrounding States' rights, Congress enacted the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906. This law was the first national effort to regulate food and drugs by prohibiting the adulteration or misbranding of these products. The Act defined food as including wall articles used for food, drink, confectionery, or condiment by man or other animals, whether simple, mixed, or compound."
One of the goals of the law was to establish national uniformity to reduce confusion in the marketplace. Consistent with the food industry's support for passage of the legislation, the House report stated that
the laws and regulations of the different States are diverse, confusing, and often contradictory. What one State now requires the adjoining State may forbid. Our food products are not raised principally in the States of their consumption.
State boundary lines are unknown in our commerce, except by reason of local regulation and laws, such as State pure-food laws. It is desirable, as far as possible,