FDA-Federal Meat Inspection Act

FDA-Federal Meat Inspection Act eText - Primary Source

Primary Source

Government inspectors examine hogs at a meat packing plant in Chicago in 1906, following the passage of the law which provided for Federal approval on all meat destined for interstate commerce. Upton Sinclair charged that many inspectors were on the payroGovernment inspectors examine hogs at a meat packing plant in Chicago in 1906, following the passage of the law which provided for Federal approval on all meat destined for interstate commerce. Upton Sinclair charged that many inspectors were on the payrolls of the stock yards. © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Law

By: James Wilson

Date: 1906

Source: Wilson, James. FDA-Federal Meat Inspection Act. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.fda.gov (accessed March 15, 2003).

About the Author: James Wilson (1835–1920), born in Scotland, immigrated to the United States in 1852. He served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1897, President William McKinley (served 1897–1901) appointed Wilson secretary of agriculture, a position he held until 1913, making him the longest-serving agriculture secretary in U.S. history. In addition to authoring the Meat Inspection Act in 1906, Wilson convinced Congress to add the Bureaus of Chemistry, Plant Industry, and Soils to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Introduction

The U.S. meatpacking industry that arose during the nineteenth century centered in Chicago, which sat astride the hog-raising lands of the Midwest and the cattle ranges south and west of hog territory. The industry fed Americans and people overseas. To meet the demand for beef and pork, meatpackers had to process thousands of carcasses a day.

The speed of this process encouraged sloppiness and unsanitary practices. The result was contaminated meat that came to national attention in 1900 when Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War (1898), testified before Congress that he and his troops became ill from eating the U.S. Army's canned meat rations. Roosevelt declared that he would rather eat his hat

than another tin of meat, a declaration that made newspaper headlines. Soon thereafter, newspapers began to report on the quality of beef and pork.

The Appeal to Reason, a socialist newspaper, in 1905 hired novelist Upton Sinclair to investigate the meat-packers. The novel that resulted from his observations, The Jungle (1906), revealed that workers added dead and putrid rats, feces, hair, and bones to the vats along with the carcasses of hogs and cattle.

The novel was an immediate sensation. Newspapers carried reports that news of the novel's contents had prompted President Roosevelt (served 1901–1909) to throw his breakfast sausages out a White House window. Roosevelt dispatched Charles P. Neill, the U.S. labor commissioner, and James B. Reynolds, a New York attorney, to investigate the meatpackers. They reported that the conditions were worse than what Sinclair had written.

Significance

Attention now focused on the meatpackers and Congress. The tradition in the United States had been to allow business to regulate itself. The meatpackers hid behind this tradition, arguing that they could clean up their industry without governmental oversight. The argument might have worked had the public not been outraged and had Roosevelt not calculated that he could enhance his reputation as a crusader of the people by taking on the meatpackers.

With an energy few previous presidents had displayed, Roosevelt demanded congressional action. The meatpackers, of course, lobbied Congress to do nothing, but steady pressure from newspaper editors and from Roosevelt forced Congress on June 30, 1906, to pass the Meat Inspection Act.

The act declared contaminated meat "injurious to the public welfare" and empowered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect "all cattle, sheep, swine, and goats" before they entered slaughterhouses and to permit no diseased animal to be processed for meat. Moreover, the Department of Agriculture had authority to inspect slaughterhouses for sanitary practices and to inspect meat from them to ensure its wholesomeness for human consumption.

The act was a victory for public health and for the principle that government had an obligation to protect Americans from health hazards. It also heightened the role of the federal government as an agent of public health and demonstrated that public welfare, at least in this case, trumped the right of business to maximize profit.

Primary Source: FDA-Federal Meat Inspection Act [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: In this excerpt, Congress authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect livestock before slaughter to ensure that no diseased animals enter the food supply, to inspect slaughterhouses to make certain that their operations are sanitary, and to guarantee the wholesomeness of meat that leaves slaughterhouses for distribution to consumers worldwide.

That for the purpose of preventing the use in interstate or foreign commerce, as hereinafter provided, of meat and meat food products which are unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food, the Secretary of Agriculture, at his discretion, may cause to be made, by inspectors appointed for that purpose, an examination and inspection of all cattle, sheep, swine, and goats before they shall be allowed to enter into any slaughtering, packing, meat-canning, rendering, or similar establishment, in which they are to be slaughtered and the meat and meat food products thereof are to be used in interstate or foreign commerce; and all cattle, swine, sheep, and goats found on such inspection to show symptoms of disease shall be set apart and slaughtered separately from all other cattle, sheep, swine, or goats, and when so slaughtered the carcasses of said cattle, sheep, swine, or goats shall be subject to a careful examination and inspection, all as provided by the rules and regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture as herein provided for.

That for the purposes hereinbefore set forth the Secretary of Agriculture shall cause to be made by inspectors appointed for that purpose, as hereinafter provided, a post-mortem examination and inspection of the carcasses and parts thereof of all cattle, sheep, swine, and goats to be prepared for human consumption at any slaughtering, meat-canning, salting, packing, rendering, or similar establishment in any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia for transportation or sale as articles of interstate or foreign commerce; and the carcasses and parts thereof of all such animals found to be sound, healthful, wholesome, and fit for human food shall be marked, stamped, tagged, or labeled as "Inspected and passed;" and said inspectors shall label, mark, stamp, or tag as "Inspected and condemned," all carcasses and parts thereof of animals found to be unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food; and all carcasses and parts thereof thus inspected and condemned shall be destroyed for food purposes by the said establishment in the presence of an inspector, and the Secretary of Agriculture may remove inspectors from any such establishment which fails to so destroy any such condemned carcass or part thereof, and said inspectors, after said first inspection shall, when they deem it necessary, reinspect said carcasses or parts thereof to determine whether since the first inspection the same have become unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or in any way unfit for human food, and if any carcass or any part thereof shall, upon examination and inspection subsequent to the first examination and inspection, be found to be unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food, it shall be destroyed for food purposes by the said establishment in the presence of an inspector, and the Secretary of Agriculture may remove inspectors from any establishment which fails to so destroy any such condemned carcass or part thereof.

The foregoing provisions shall apply to all carcasses or parts of carcasses of cattle, sheep, swine, and goats, or the meat or meat products thereof which may be brought into any slaughtering, meat-canning, salting, packing, rendering, or similar establishment, and such examination and inspection shall be had before the said carcasses or parts thereof shall be allowed to enter into any department wherein the same are to be treated and prepared for meat food products; and the foregoing provisions shall also apply to all such products which, after having been issued from any slaughtering, meat-canning, salting, packing, rendering, or similar establishment, shall be returned to the same or to any similar establishment where such inspection is maintained.

That for the purposes hereinbefore set forth the Secretary of Agriculture shall cause to be made by inspectors appointed for that purpose an examination and inspection of all meat food products prepared for interstate or foreign commerce in any slaughtering, meat-canning, salting, packing, rendering, or similar establishment, and for the purposes of any examination and inspection said inspectors shall have access at all times, by day or night, whether the establishment be operated or not, to every part of said establishment; and said inspectors shall mark, stamp, tag, or label as "Inspected and passed" all such products found to be sound, healthful, and wholesome, and which contain no dyes, chemicals, preservatives, or ingredients which render such meat or meat food products unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or unfit for human food; and said inspectors shall label, mark, stamp, or tag as "Inspected and condemned" all such products found unsound, unhealthful, and unwholesome, or which contain dyes, chemicals, preservatives, or ingredients which render such meat or meat food products unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or unfit for human food, and all such condemned meat food products shall be destroyed for food purposes, as hereinbefore provided, and the Secretary of Agriculture may remove inspectors from any establishment which fails to so destroy such condemned meat food products: Provided, That, subject to the rules and regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture, the provisions hereof in regard to preservatives shall not apply to meat food products for export to any foreign country and which are prepared or packed according to the specifications or directions of the foreign purchaser, when no substance is used in the preparation or packing thereof in conflict with the laws of the foreign country to which said article is to be exported; but if said article shall be in fact sold or offered for sale for domestic use or consumption then this proviso shall not exempt said article from the operation of all the other provisions of this Act.

That when any meat or meat food product prepared for interstate or foreign commerce which has been inspected as hereinbefore provided and marked "Inspected and passed" shall be placed or packed in any can, pot, tin, canvas, or other receptacle or covering in any establishment where inspection under the provisions of this Act is maintained, the person, firm, or corporation preparing said product shall cause a label to be attached to said can, pot, tin, canvas, or other receptacle or covering, under the supervision of an inspector, which label shall state that the contents thereof have been "inspected and passed" under the provisions of this Act; and no inspection and examination of meat or meat food products deposited or inclosed in cans, tins, pots, canvas, or other receptacle or covering in any establishment where inspection under the provisions of this Act is maintained shall be deemed to be complete until such meat or meat food products have been sealed or inclosed in said can, tin, pot, canvas, or other receptacle or covering under the supervision of an inspector, and no such meat or meat food products shall be sold or offered for sale by any person, firm, or corporation in interstate or foreign commerce under any false or deceptive name; but established trade name or names which are usual to such products and which are not false and deceptive and which shall be approved by the Secretary of Agriculture are permitted.

The Secretary of Agriculture shall cause to be made, by experts in sanitation or by other competent inspectors, such inspection of all slaughtering, meat canning, salting, packing, rendering, or similar establishments in which cattle, sheep, swine, and goats are slaughtered and the meat and meat food products thereof are prepared for interstate or foreign commerce as may be necessary to inform himself concerning the sanitary conditions of the same, and to prescribe the rules and regulations of sanitation under which such establishments shall be maintained; and where the sanitary conditions of any such establishment are such that the meat or meat food products are rendered unclean, unsound, un-healthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food, he shall refuse to allow said meat or meat food products to be labeled, marked, stamped, or tagged as "inspected and passed."

That the Secretary of Agriculture shall cause an examination and inspection of all cattle, sheep, swine, and goats, and the food products thereof, slaughtered and prepared in the establishments hereinbefore described for the purposes of interstate or foreign commerce to be made during the nighttime as well as during the daytime when the slaughtering of said cattle, sheep, swine, and goats, or the preparation of said food products is conducted during the nighttime.

Further Resources

BOOKS

Leffingwell, Albert. American Meat: Its Methods of Production and Influence on Public Health. New York: Schulte, 1910.

Libecap, Gary D. The Rise of the Chicago Packers and The Origin of Meat Inspection and Antitrust. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1991.

Robertson, William. Meat and Food Inspection. Chicago: >Keener, 1908.

PERIODICALS

"Between the Bread: Tougher Meat Inspection Necessary." The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 12, 2002, B4.

Purdum, Todd S. "Meat Inspection Facing Overhaul, First in 90 Years." New York Times, July 7, 1996, A1.

WEBSITES

"Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906." U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. Available online at ; website home page: http://agriculture.house.gov (accessed March 15, 2003).

"Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906." U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Safety Inspection Service. Available online at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OFO/HRDS/STATE/food%20law/Aovervw/... ; website home page: http://www.fsis.usda.gov (accessed March 15, 2003).

"The Theodore Roosevelt Administration: Meat Inspection Act, 1906." U-S-History.com. Available online at http://www.us-history.com/pages/h918.html; website home page: http://www.u-s-history.com (accessed March 15, 2003).

AUDIO AND VISUAL MEDIA

Packer to Consumer. Creative Educational Videos. Videocassette, 1988.