Probably no food question has been so much discussed of late, or has appealed so generally to the public at large as that of food adulteration. Nearly all the states have passed laws providing for more or less stringent regulations, and the United States Congress has passed a national law and is considering further legislation on the same subject. Magazines and newspapers have taken up the matter; the women's clubs have enthusiastically pressed it and a vigorous "pure food" campaign has been made. This is right and proper; but, either through ignorance, or the belief that it is justifiable to do evil that good may come, many statements are made that are not only sensational in the extreme, but absolutely untrue. Others, while not absolutely wrong, convey a distinctly false impression.
Mrs. Abel, in a recent article, calls attention to some types of such statements by the following illustration:
"A baby has dined on a candy Easter egg and sausage, and the heading reads:
DEATH FROM COAL TAR COLOR IN EASTER CANDY. "Now sausage is not exactly an infant food and might perhaps have been held responsible for the sad result, but sausage is a trite and common thing, while chemical colors, bearing such a disagreeable name will surely catch the public eye!
"And did we not read one other day that a prominent hygienist had announced that 450,000 babies die yearly in this country of poisoned milk? Few of us had access to census reports from which to learn that this is a much larger number than die yearly from all causes under the ages of five, and perhaps fewer still saw the indignant denial of this official, and learned how a truthful and moderate statement can be distorted".
One of our most reputable city dailies is responsible for the following absurd statement in the report of a speech:
"Dr. Wiley, chief of the national bureau of chemistry, says that nine-tenths of the deaths each year in this country are due to dyspepsia, generally caused by impure food. He declares that the tendency also is to shorten the duration of life, and cites figures to show-that 2,000,000 deaths in the United States in the last ten years have been traceable largely to the use of bad food. It is the workingman, the poor man, who cannot afford to buy the higher priced articles of food, who suffers more from these conditions.
"Viewed from an economic standpoint also, the laboring man should be interested. In the report of the Kentucky state board of health for last year the statement is made that for every dollar spent in the purchase of food, 45 cents on the average is paid for adulterations".
The implication here is even worse than the actual statement, for while "impure food" and "bad food" might include water and milk contaminated with typhoid germs, or food that has been allowed to deteriorate by bacterial action till it is in a dangerous condition, it is evident that the meaning intended to be conveyed is that these phrases mean adulterated food. The same paper in a recent editorial makes the absolutely ungrounded charge that numerous deaths have been caused by the presence of coal tar dyes in candy. It implies that all manufacturers are actuated by greed, and that they care nothing as to the poisonous character of their materials if only they make money.