What was the most significant development in the food industry in the early 1900s?
The most significant development in the food industry in the early 1900s was the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which was the first federal government regulation placed on food production. Prior to 1906, all food was regulated at the state and local level, with no standards set for sanitation or edibility. Rapid advances in the food industry, like chemical additions to alter taste, consistency, and color, canning, and automated production lines resulted in unsupervised food production and a great deal of food below edible levels.
Since lower-quality foods were commonly altered by adding chemicals, the federal government began to take an interest in regulation; in the late 1800s Harvey Wiley became Chief Chemist of the Federal Chemistry Division, and eventually authored the 1906 PFDA as mentioned. This started the full regulation of food from edible content levels to packaging, and the FCD changed its mission to perform these regulatory inspections. The Pure Foods Movement and Upton Sinclair's condemnation of the slaughterhouse industry The Jungle both pushed public opinion towards regulation of food, resulting in President Franklin Roosevelt's Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the first fully comprehensive regulatory document on food production and safety.