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The Pure Food Question

"Gypsum in cayenne pepper and ginger, canned meats containing borax or sulfites or both,
glucose in preservatives, starch and phosphates in cream of tartar and strawberry pop colored
with aniline dye"--sounds like a Ralph Nader report, doesn't it? But this litany of adulterated
food comes from "the good old days." State Food Commissioner E. L. Redfern issued a
chilling report on the quality of food at the turn of the century.

"Mr. Redfern several months ago paid enough attention to preserves and jellies bought on the
open market to find millet seed in strawberry jam, which seed he planted to sprouted blades
of grass in a flower pot. He has now turned to spices, syrups, fruit products, extracts, catsups,
and olive oil.

"Out of a total of forty-five articles examined he found twenty-five adulterated, twenty pure,
and sixteen colored. . .Mr. Redfern's report says:

"'Out of the six samples of cream of tartar bought on the market, three were found to be
composed of a large percentage of starch and phosphates. These mixtures sold for the same
price as the pure tartar. Such practices are fraudulent, for when the consumer calls for cream
of tartar the law should see that he gets it, and not a cheap mixture of tartar, starch, phosphate
and lime.'

"'A deplorable condition was found in the case of the cayenne pepper, out of eight samples
six were colored with aniline dyes and adulterated with gypsum.' "'It is hoped that our next
legislature will see fit to pass a law that will stop such wholesale adulterations or at least
compel the articles of food to be properly labeled so that the consumer will know what he is
buying. The pure food question has been taken up by many of the women's clubs throughout
the state and it is desired that they ask their representatives and senators to the coming
legislature to support a law which will give the state jurisdiction over all classes of food
products, many of which at the present are badly adulterated.'"


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Last updated 14 September 2005

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