regard to food and health at the Pan-American Exposition, scientists
and "cranks" worked side-by-side. Two major reports described
food-related health and medical concerns of the Exposition. In the
first report, Dr. Roswell Park, Medical Director of the Pan-American
Exposition, describes the results of inspections of the numerous restaurants
and eating establishments on the Exposition grounds. Excerpts from
the second, "Some Medical Aspects of the Pan-American Exposition"
describe two exhibits related to food safety and health practices,
specifically, food preservation and meat examination. Indeed, as the
production of processed foods and the use of food additives became
more commonplace in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, there
began a movement among those in the scientific community to study
and regulate food safety. At the same time, health food "con-artists"
took advantage of a naive public's belief in the benefits of healthful
foods and "cure all diets" and used venues like the Pan-American
Exposition to peddle their wares.
Exposition Restaurant Inspection
Roswell Park, "Report of the Medical Department of the Pan-American
Exposition, Buffalo, 1901," Buffalo Medical Journal (December
Nebraska Sod House
By the end
of July there were 36 restaurants and eating places, 14 kitchens
on concessions and villages, and 57 soft drink stands, and the
resident population had increased to 1652. . . Alter a while,
the regular hours of inspection were abandoned and the inspections
were made at irregular and intentionally unexpected intervals
in order that no preparation for them could be made. The results
of this change were an evident improvement in all sanitary conditions.
In no case during August was it necessary to condemn milk or cream,
and only one eating place gave any serious trouble. This was the
Nebraska Sod house, which was all almost constant source of bother
and which later had to be closed. Night inspections revealed the
fact that many people were in the habit of sleeping beneath the
counters in booths in various streets. The practice was stopped,
for instance, of making of candy in a booth in which a family
of four lived, cooked, ate and slept.
exhibit described below reveals some of the dangers of poisoning resulting
from the adulteration of food with certain chemical preservatives and
colors. The timeliness of this exhibit was significant in that in less
than one year, Congress would appropriate $5,000 to Dr. Harvey W. Wiley,
an advocate of food safety regulations and chief chemist of the U. S.
Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Chemistry, to study the effects
of food additives on health.1 His studies
drew widespread attention to the dangers associated with food adulteration
and contributed significantly to the original Food and Drugs Act in
Medical Aspects of the Pan-American Exposition," Buffalo
Medical Journal (18 and 25 July 1901).]
interesting exhibit in connection with the artificial preservation
of food is seen in a collection of tubes displaying quantities
of salicylic acid and other substances recovered from small quantities
of food staffs preserved by their agency. Half a test tubeful
of salicylic acid is shown as having been recovered from a single
tin of canned soupand one is moved to marvel that cases
of poisoning from preserved food staffs are not more common than
they are. "Preservative,"combination of boric
acid and salt, colored with cochineal, made famous in the
army beef controversy2, is here
given a prominent place. One of the exhibits among the jams and
preserves is labelled: "Strawberry Jam." Sweetened with
glucose, stiffened with starch, colored with an aniline dye, preserved
with benzoic acid and artificially flavored. The strawberry part
of this delectable compound apparently exists in the imagination
alone. It is highly unfortunate that the exhibit does not specify
the particular brands and give the manufacturers' names of the
articles whose analysis are displayed, so that the observer might
not only appreciate the extent to which food adulteration is practised,
but might know what brands to avoide in making future purchases.
Those whose greed is such as to render them willing to injure
the public health to more quickly fill their purses should be
publicly pilloried and made to suffer the financial loss which
would follow exposure of their nefarious practises.
1901, meatpacking was one of the nation's
most profitable industries, in part because consumers concluded that
"dressed beef" was as good as or better than that of the local
butcher/slaughterhouse, was wholesome, and was safe.3
The exhibit described below was certainly of interest to Exposition
visitors, who could see the application of medical techniques and practices
to ensure food safety with regard to meat. Consider that the concept
of enforcing of such practices may not have been part of such public
exhibits. Despite the popularity of dressed meat, the publication of
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and the passage of the Meat Inspection
Act would not occur for 5 more years.
Medical Aspects of the Pan-American Exposition," Buffalo
Medical Journal (18 and 25 July 1901).]
the Bureau of Animal Industry, a feature which attracts the attention
of crowds, is the microscopic examination of pork for trichinae
and other parasites, as carried out by the Department of Agriculture
at the large packing houses. A small laboratory is here fitted
up, in which three young women make these microscopic examinations
in the presence of the visitors, and exhibit samples of infected
meat. Nearby an interesting series of pathological specimens,
both wet and artificial, showing various types and lesions of
disease in the animals used as food, will prove interesting to
all medical men, and is well worthy of careful study by health
officers and those who have to do with food inspection. This exhibit
is supplemented by a large series of lantern slides, showing bacteria,
pathogenic lesions, etc."
"Special" Foods and Cure All Diets Were Hot
Topics at the Turn of the Century
turn of the century was rich with food "reformers" and those
who thought that dietary change could save the world. It is not at all
surprising that a gathering the size and magnitude of the Pan-American
Exposition was considered by many of these food reformers to be the
perfect venue through which to educate and expose the public to their
"beneficial" products and services. Unfortunately, scientist
and crank were hard to distinguish, as this excerpt from a story in
the Enquirer of 2 April 1901 suggests.
who depends on cereal for his advancement has a good thing. His
is a plausible theory. Not being naturally enthusiastic over a
cereal diet, mankind is prone to think it very wholesome because
not particularly agreeable. Hence its popularity as a "food
for babies." Nothing that a child likes is suppose by the
truly orthodox to be good for him.
crank trespasses on the coffee fiend nowadays.
is an idea abroad in the land," says G. Edward Fuller, Pan-American
Expert in Foods, "that it is much more wholesome to drink
a hot liquid made of barley and wheat and molasses than to imbibe
an extract of the pure coffee. It is less injurious for awhile,
but my observation leads me to believe that, if cereal coffee
is drunk for any length of time, it breaks down the tissues of
the stomach and induces a flatulent condition. If a man wants
to abandon the coffee habit, he can break himself gradually by
the use of cereal coffee. But hot water would do as well."
is a curious fact that coffee has no injurious effect on the man
who smokes tobacco. The effect of either one, bad in itself, seems
to be counteracted by the effects of the other. Better than cereal
coffee is a mixture of coffee with chicory root. Statistics show
that coffee drunk by the greatest coffee fiends in the world,
the Germans and the French, contains from sixty to seventy-five
per cent of chicory, in comparison to three or four per cent used
in the Americas. If I had s sluggish liver, I'd pour chicory in
any coffee then drink any of those cereal combinations. Or if
my nerves were too much stimulated by coffee, I'd mix it with
cocoa. . ."
Later in the piece:
of these staff of life cranks wants the Exposition management to
hire him to lecture to the populace this summer. He says that if
his ideas about bread are put into practice not only will the citizens
be better nourished, both physically and mentally, but the taxation
of the city may be greatly lessened through the reduction of pauperism
and crime. He goes to the length of saying that if Christ were living
today and eating the food of our times, he would be a very different
man from the humble Nazarene."
Advertisements For "Healthful" Foods
[Click on image to see a larger version]
this Commercial article of 14 January 1901 shows, some people
thought they had all the answers. The writer of the letter says his
reform begins with the stomach, "the crucible of life.'"
of Concessions Taylor has received a communication from a person
who wishes to instruct humanity in the matter of baking cake of
a wholesome character. He maintains that the physical stamina
of men and the moral stature and beauty of women depend upon the
adoption of food reforms more than upon other ameliorative agencies
put together, not excluding religious influences. The writer says
in his letter:
man and woman on the face of the planet . . . would be delighted
to learn what I alone am able to reveal, viz., a system of living
that not only prevents the possibility of sickness, premature
death, but even indigestion . . . imperfect circulation and defective
absorption of the system."
the exposition promoters would provide a large travelling oven
placed in a suitable place, I will take the trouble of management
off their hands and produce a large profit, as it would prove
the most attractive, not only to women and children, but to most
enlightened men, who require all the brain nourishment they can
get, and they would like to get it now, and that's no joke."
of the above is found in this Commercial article of 3 January
Taylor and other Pan-American officials are now face to face with
a proposition received yesterday in the mail which seems to involve
the failure or success of the exposition. It provides an opportunity
to the Pan-American to regenerate entire mankind, whether mankind
wishes to undergo the process or not.
According to the modest confession of the corespondent of Director
Taylor, whose name is withheld out of abundant charity, the secret
of the future physical and mental stamina of the men and the moral
status and beauty of the women of Buffalo is inscrutably locked
in his own bread and can only be withdrawn by financial pressure."
Here is the letter,
in substance, with the proposition:
name had been given me with reference to my application for a concession
to sell a sample of food. As the expense that would be entailed
by giving samples of a most palatable, nutritious, digestible and
delicious article would be enormous, each person would require from
a quarter to half a dollars worth for immediate consumption. As
I am engaged in educating the people to a more wholesome and nutritious
dietary, with a view to the regeneration of the race in spite of
their prejudices, I think it would be well worth the while of the
promoters of the Exposition to offer me the most liberal terms."
to Food and Drink at the Pan-American Exposition
1. "Milestones in U.S. Food and Drug Law History." FDA
Backgrounder, May 3, 1999. Online. URL: http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WhatWeDo/History/Milestones/default.htm.
Accessed June 2010.
2. In the late 1870's meatpackers had introduced canned meats in tin
containers with the military being the largest consumer. The U. S. Navy
had begun carrying canned meats on its ships as early as the Civil War.
However, alleged problems with canned meats and dressed beef during
the Spanish-American War prompted further investigations. "Major
General Nelson Miles claimed in 1898 that 'embalmed beef' had caused
outbreaks of illness among his troops. Subsequent investigations blamed
improper distribution and handling of dressed beef and canned products
by commissary officers and cleared the meatpacking industry of wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, the canned meat and foreign dressed beef trade suffered
from the scandal for several years." Encyclopedia of the United
States in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Paul Finkelman (New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001), vol. 2, p. 276-277.