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Pure Food and Drug Act

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The Pure Food and Drug Act paved the way for the FDA

The United States Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 provided for federal inspection of meat products, and forbade the manufacture, sale, or transport of adulterated food products or poisonous patent medicines.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was, as is common of laws regulating business, as much an attempt by businesses to forestall and/or embrace government regulation as it was a public outcry against fraudulent practices. For example, after 1906, Coca-Cola corporation, which pushed for the 1906 Act, advertised that its soft drink was "Guaranteed under the Pure Food and Drug Act". The 1906 Act arose due to public education and propaganda from people such as Upton Sinclair (author), Harvey W. Wiley (researcher), Theodore Roosevelt (Populist politician) and Samuel Hopkins Adams (author).

Though the Pure Food and Drug Act initially was more concerned with making sure products were labeled correctly (i.e., habit forming cocaine-based drugs were not illegal so-long as they were labeled correctly), later the labeling requirement gave way to efforts to outlaw certain products that were not efficacious. An example was Wiley's 1909 attempt to outlaw the soft drink Coca-Cola (based not on cocaine in the drink, which by then was absent, but based on excessive use of caffeine). A judge found that Coca-Cola had a right to use caffeine as it saw fit, however, based on excessive litigation costs (more than $200,000 in 1911), Coca-Cola settled out of court with the US government and reduced the amount of caffeine.

Though the 1906 Act paved the way for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which points to outlawing Thalidomide as a success story in the early 1960s, critics of the FDA and of laws such as the Pure Food and Drug Act point out that harmful effects of Thalidomide were only discovered after people in other countries started dying. The US was accidentally spared because of FDA delay from FDA researcher Frances Oldham Kelsey.

See also: Meat Inspection Act

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