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This book was one which showed how bad conditions were in the meat-packing industry in Chicago. Even though the book was fictional, the bad things it portrayed were real enough that it made people very upset.
In large part because of this book, Congress got involved in reforming the food industry. One of the major things that this involvement led to was a new law called the Pure Food and Drug Act.
Upton Sinclair, along with other muckrakers, was given credit for inspiring this and other reforms of the Progressive Era.
Reform is a critical element in Sinclair's work. Emerging from the haze of Industrialization, Sinclair's work is designed to call to action reform on many levels. Naturally, the practices of food preparation is one part of this examination. Another call within the book is the idea of reforming the preoccupation of acquiring material wealth at all costs. The depiction of factory workers and the conditions in which they work was a demand for greater workers' rights reform. At the same time, reform of how government and business collude was another element in Sinclair's work. If Sinclair was right in that conditions were so bad in so many ways, the natural question would be what constituted the inertia to such change. The logical extension of this particular idea involved the notion of government assuming a more regulative stance regarding business, making reform of this relationship of critical importance.
Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle exposed the terrible betrayal the meat industry bestowed upon early immigrants and the United States Military. While the work was presented as fiction, the author based much of the story on realistic events occurring in the meat industry. Immigrants purchased meats that included more sawdust than meat resulting in the immigrants becoming weak from lack of nutrition. Military soldiers were fed packaged meats that were also sawdust based. The government contracts included the purchasing of meats that were lacking in nutritional value. The soldiers were fighting for our country but were not even provided with an appropriate food source. The public response was an outcry for radical changes in the processing of meats. For example, some package meats in the story included items swept from the floor that was retrieved and put into the meat during processing. The result of public upset over the book led to government regulation of meat processing.
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