What impact did Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle have on changing the way we look at the food industry?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This book had a profound impact on the food industry. While Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906 order to build public sympathy for the plight of oppressed workers, he happened to set his story amid the meatpacking plants of Chicago. As a result, the novel set off a firestorm of protest about the lack of sanitation in the food industry. In the novel, anything, including human bodies, that happened to fall into the food vats were ground up and canned. At this time, there were no government inspections of meat plants and no real way for people to know what they were buying.

As a result of people's worry and revulsion after reading the book, which was a bestseller, meat sales fell. In 1906, the government passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act to reassure the public that they were buying what they thought they were buying. Government inspectors could now enter meat packing plants, inspect what was going on, and certify the products as safe for consumption. Sinclair famously said that he aimed for people's hearts in the novel and ended up hitting their stomachs.

Since the novel's publication, the public has supported regulation of the food industry so that people know what they are eating. Never again would the public trust the food industry to regulate itself wholly without oversight. This interest in food industry supervision has continued, so that now companies must list the ingredients in food and other nutritional information on food packaging.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle changed the way Americans looked at the food industry. As a result of his book, Americans no longer trusted that the food industry had the best interests of consumers in mind when they prepared or handled food. The terrible conditions in the meat industry led to demands for reform. This book highlighted the terrible working conditions in the meat industry and the unsanitary conditions under which the meat was being handled and processed. This led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act in 1907, which allowed the federal government, through the Department of Agriculture, to inspect meat factories.

This book led to the passage of another law that regulated the food industry in the United States. The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906 and called for the regulation of the food industry, making it illegal to falsely label food and medicine. This law also created the Food and Drug Administration.

The passage of these laws tried to restore consumer confidence regarding our food and medicine. The goal was to reassure people that their food and drugs were safe.