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Posted on October 9th, 2012, by

The development of food and drug industries in the USA was practically uncontrollable until the late 1800s ”“ early 1900s. In fact, the food industry as well as the drug industry heavily relied on ethics of businessmen and their moral principles, which did not always coincide with their financial interests. In such a situation, businessmen often ignored the basic moral principles and sold products, including food and drugs, which were potentially dangerous to human health. The lack of regulations in the food and drug industries encouraged the minimization of costs of production by means of customer health because manufacturers saved costs using products which were unsafe but cheap enough to be sold to customers en masse. Nevertheless, the lack of control created an extremely dangerous situation since health and life of Americans was under a threat, but many Americans were unconscious of the existence of such a threat until the publication of Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle”¯, in which the author revealed the truth about the meat-packing industry. The book revealed numerous facts of violation of basic sanitary norms and malpractices of companies producing and packing meat. The book shocked the public and provoked the counteraction to uncontrollable meat and food production, which later was enhanced by legislative acts which established a strict state control over the quality of food products and later over the production of drugs. Eventually, the US Food and Drug Administration was established. Today, it is a powerful state agency which actually controls the quality of food and drug production and controls the food and drug production strictly. In such a way, the US Food and Drug Administration may be viewed as the effect of the book “The Jungle”¯ written by U. Sinclair. However, it is important to emphasize that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was initially created for the purpose of the provision of food and drug safety in the USA, evokes a severe criticism since its overwhelming control is not always effective, while outcomes of its work are often beneficial to large corporations, but not the population of the USA.

“The Jungle”¯ and its effects on American society

The lack of control over the food industry in the USA did not evoke any negative reactions in the public. Naturally, there were cases of dissatisfaction of customers with the quality of food as well as drugs, but people were unaware of the actual scale of the problem. In fact, the problem was the uncontrollable use of products in the food industry at the epoch. The situation remained unchanged and food manufacturers paid little attention to the quality and ingredients of their products as long as the products were sold. At the same time, they readily used all possible means to reduce the costs of production and maximize their revenues.

Naturally, in such a situation, businessmen used different tools to save costs and the use of ingredients and products of a low quality was probably the simplest way to save costs. In addition, using ingredients of the low quality allowed food manufacturers to decrease price preserving high profitability of their business. As a result, they got competitive advantage since people readily bought cheaper products even if their quality was lower compared to more expensive products.

At the same time, it was obvious that the deterioration of the quality of food could not fail to have no effects on health of customers. In other words, many food products which were produced uncontrollably from the part of the authorities and health care specialists, were not simply of a poor quality, but they were dangerous to human health, while in some cases food products could pose a serious threat to the life of customers and provoke epidemics. However, Americans remained unaware of the existence of this problem, until the publication of “The Jungle”¯ by Upton Sinclair. The book shocked the public and undermined the meat-packing industry of the USA. Remarkably such an effect of the publication was based not on the literary talent of the author, but on the truth he uncovered in details concerning the food production in the USA, namely he focused on the functioning of meat-packing industry and businesses in the USA.

In fact, the author just described numerous cases, which were taken from the real life, of the work of meat-packing businesses. The details of this work were shocking to Americans and, today, they can horrify people who get used to the food of a high quality. For instance, Upton Sinclair wrote in his book about how dead rats were shoveled into sausage grinding machines. He explained in nauseating details, how diseased cows were slaughtered for beef; how guts and garbage were swept off the floor and sold as “potted ham”¯ (Sinclair, 124,141, 145).

Moreover, the author showed that such cases of using unacceptable “ingredients”¯ in food production were not rare and they were not the most terrifying, but they were rather routine and casual. In this respect, he draws probably the most appalling example of negligence and dehumanization of the food production. To put it more precisely, he describes the case when the occasional worker would fall into a meat-processing tank and be ground, along with animal parts (Sincalir, 211).

The facts described by Upton Sinclair in his book were really shocking. At the same time, the revealed the full scope of the problem of the lack of control over the food production, namely in regard to the meat-packing industry. The facts he discusses in his book reveal the irresponsibility of businessmen and the inability of the public to influence their work because there were no legal means to control the production of food in the USA at the epoch. The book hadĀ  a profound impact on the society because people were shocked and appalled, but, above all, they wanted to stop malpractices in the food industry.

On analyzing the impact of the book “The Jungle”¯ on the Americans, it is worth mentioning the fact that meat sales fell by half in the USA shortly after the publication of the book (Friedman, 79). The food manufacturers suffered from enormous financial losses simply because of the shock and fear provoked by the book. Customers were uncertain in the quality of meat and many other food products. As a result, they preferred to avoid buying meat to escape the risk of eating some dangerous products.

Naturally, the situation could not remain unchanged. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that it was not only ordinary Americans that were interested in a radical change of state policies in relation to the meat-packing and food industry, but it was also food manufacturers, who were also interested in the change of current practices. In fact, food manufacturers, mainly those who worked in the meat-packing industry, suffered from huge financial losses which could lead to the ruin of their business. The entire meat-packing industry could have collapsed, if the consumption of meat would keep decreasing in the USA. In such a situation, businessmen would naturally accept any decision or state policy, which could help them regain the confidence and loyalty of American customers. As for the public, its demand to stop exposing the life and health of Americans grew stronger day after day. In such a situation, the government was forced to introduce legal changes which could meet interests of both meat and food manufacturers and customers. The government had introduced regulatory practices which should prevent the risk of selling dangerous meat and food products to customers in the USA.

In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the introduction of regulatory policies definitely influenced businesses because they need to sell products which meet the established standards and which are safe to health of people. However, these products would be consistently more expensive in production, because ingredients of the high quality were more expensive than ingredients many meat-packing businesses used in their production. Hence, the quality of products influenced the costs of production, which in its turn could influence the price of products.

Nevertheless, it was obvious that the health and life of people were more important than the overall price of meat and other food products they ate. However, it is worth mentioning the fact that after the publication of the book, the public attention was mainly driven to meat and food products, while drugs were not really taken into the public consideration. This is why, at the beginning of the 20th century, the government and authorities mainly focused on the regulation of the food industry, but the introduction of a strict control over the drug industry was also an essential step the authorities undertaken later.

The Meat Inspection Act

The first reaction of the authorities on the publication of the book “The Jungle”¯ and the growing public protests against the lack of control over the meat-packing industry was the introduction of the Meat Inspection Act in 1906. The Meat Inspection Act authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to inspect and condemn any meat product found unfit for human consumption (DiMasi, 155). The introduction of this act had a profound impact on the meat-packing industry as well as on the entire food industry. New norms and standards of packing were introduced to inform customers of ingredients of products. The meat-packing companies were obliged to provide customers with detailed information on their products and labels should contain precise information on the product to avoid the deception of customers. In such a way, customers were suppose to be kept informed and warned about potential dangers of food products or, on the contrary, they could be certain in the quality of food products they bought.

The development of food industry was influenced by the Meat Inspection Act since it established the system of control over meat products, which were important for the national diet. The concerns of the authorities with the national health and safety of food led to the establishment of the control over food manufacturers, but it is worth mentioning the fact that the food production was still not controlled on the large scale. To put it more precisely, the act affected the meat industry solely, while the rest of the food industry was influenced only indirectly since the authorities did not oblige companies, which produced other food products but meat, to meet new standards established in relation to companies producing and packing meat. Nevertheless, this act encouraged the large scale regulatory policy of the food industry.

The Pure Food and Drug Act

Obviously, the Meat Inspection Act alone could not close the gap between malpractices of food manufacturers and the regulatory policy of the state. The Meat Inspection Act had to be complemented by the legal act which could cover other branches of the food industry. In this respect, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 became particularly significant because, unlike the Meat Inspection Act, this act defined the large scale regulatory policy of the state of the food and drug industries. In fact, the policy makers went even further than the public shocked by “The Jungle”¯ expected. At the same time, the introduction of this act was quite logical in terms of the new policy developed by the state.

To put it more precisely, taking into consideration the concerns of the state with the health of the nation and each American, it was logical to prevent all possible threats to the health of Americans. Hence, the regulation of the food industry should be backed up by the regulation of the drug industry. The latter was not so severely criticized by the public, but it was obvious that malpractices were admitted in this industry as well as in the food industry. This is why the state expanded its control over both the food industry and the drug industry.

According to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the authorities could conduct inspections of meat products and forbade the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated food product and poisonous patent medicines (Friedman, 83). In fact, the introduction of the act was a response of the state to the growing public pressure and concerns with the quality of food and safety of public health in the USA. The regulatory norms introduced in terms of this act contributed to the higher degree of safety of food products and drugs, while inspections would ensure that manufacturers do meet the quality standards in regard to the safety of food and drugs to the health of people.

At the same time, the act introduced regulations concerning labeling of products to provide detailed information on products and their effects on customer health. In such a way, the risk of deception of customers and negative effects of the consumption of food products and drugs decreased substantially.

The US Food and Drug Administration

In the course of the 20th century a number of legal acts were implemented which actually derived from the growing public pressure and public concerns with food and drugs safety to the health of Americans. At the same time, it was obvious that the development of an effective control over the food and drug industries was possible only on the condition of the creation of an effective state agency which could monitor and control both the food industry and the drug industry. As a result the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created.

Today, the FDA is a very influential agency which is responsible for regulating and supervising the safety of foods, dietary supplements, drugs, vaccines, biological medical products, blood products, and other products related to the food and drug industries. In such a way, the FDA has the authority to regulate the food and drug industries to ensure the safety of food products and drugs.

Obviously, the control over the food and drug industries is very complicated, especially, today, when both industries progress rapidly.

Nevertheless, it is the FDA that, to a significant extent, regulates the development of both the food industry and the drug industry. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the regulatory policies of the FDA over the food industry and, especially, over the drug evokes heat debates among specialists. On the one hand, some specialists (Hilts, 173) argue that the current regulatory policies of the FDA are essential and useful to public health because the existing strict regulations prevent threats to the public health from the part of the food and drug industries. On the other hand, some specialists (Givel, 456) criticize the FDA’s policies. To put more precisely, they argue that the FDA fails to control the food and drug industries effectively since cases of the use of dangerous drugs and food are not rare in the USA, though they do not occur en masse. At the same time, critics of the FDA’s regularity policies argue that the FDA tends to over-regulate the market preventing smaller companies, especially in the drug industry from entering the market and successful marketing performance.

In actuality, both views on the FDA have their own arguments which support either position. In this respect, it should be said that the FDA does regulate the food and drug industry. Naturally it is possible to argue whether the regulation is effective or not, but it is obvious that the FDA manages to restrain food and pharmaceutical companies from the uncontrollable use of products, which may be potentially dangerous to human health. In fact, all the products of the food and drug industries should be tested and the results of the tests should meet the FDA’s standards. At this point, supporters of the current FDA’s policies argue that the FDA’s standards are very high and practically eliminate any possibility of the introduction of a dangerous product by the food or drug industry.

At this point, it is possible to agree that the FDA does have strict regulations and high standards, but on the other hand, it is obvious that there are cases when dangerous drugs have been introduced and passed tests to meet the FDA’s standards, while their negative impact was discovered only after their introduction in the market and when customers had already use these products en masse. Nevertheless, it is obvious that such cases are exceptional, while normally all the products introduced in the US market by food and drug industries are safe to customer health.

However, such a positive effect of the work of the FDA is not convincing to critics of the FDA. In fact, many specialists (Moore, 217) argue that FDA fails to regulate the food and drug industry effectively, while its regulation has a lot of negative effects. First of all, it is worth mentioning the problem of the over-regulation of the food and, especially, drug industry. The latter is a particularly serious problem because the FDA establishes truly high standards of the quality of drugs as well as food products. As a result, companies operating in these industries need to prove that their products are safe and meet the established standards. But the problem is that many companies, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, cannot afford testing their products to meet the FDA standards. For instance, the introduction of a drug in accordance to the FDA’s standards may need hundreds of millions of the US dollars. As a result, small companies are unable to test their products and meet the FDA’s standards, even if their products are highly effective. In such a situation, many drugs which could have been produced by minor companies cannot get the admission of the FDA and they are forced either to sell their inventions to larger companies or to flee away from the US market to foreign markets where regulations are not so strict and small companies can introduce their medicaments with lower spending on testing.

The gradual replacement of small and medium pharmaceutical companies by large corporations is only one of the effects of the over-regulation of the drug industry by the FDA. Another negative effect of the overregulation is the high price of drugs customers should pay because of the high costs of the introduction of new medicaments. In fact, companies spend huge funds on the development and introduction of medicament, but it is not companies that pay for these costs. It is ordinary customers who buy the medicaments and who have to pay back a pharmaceutical company its investments in the new product and spending on testing. In other words, it is customers who pay for FDA’s high standards.

In addition, the strict regulation from the part of the FDA, especially in the drug industry, prevents many foreign companies from entering the American market. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that entering of new, large, foreign companies would increase the competition in the national market and customer would benefit from the competitive struggle because it would lead to the higher quality of products and possible reduction of prices. But foreign companies are not always prepared to strict standards and regulations from the part of the FDA. Moreover, this trends is typical not only for pharmaceutical companies but also for food companies as well, although the latter are in a better position since they do not need to spend so much on testing of their products.

Finally, it is important to point out that some specialists (Hilts, 310) warn against the impact of large corporations on the FDA. To put it more precisely, they argue that large food and pharmaceutical companies have relations with the FDA and the FDA takes decisions which meet interests of large companies. In such a context, it is possible to speak about the risk of corruption within the FDA that makes its regulatory policies and their effects uncertain.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that “The Jungle”¯ by Upton Sinclair produced an extensive impact on the development of the food and drug industries in the USA. The book had drawn the public attention to the problem of the quality of meat products Americans ate. The facts revealed by the author were shocking and provoke immediate reaction of the public. As a result, the substantial drop in the meat-packing industry and legislative changes, including the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 were direct effects of the publication of the book. All these legislative changes contributed to the regulation of the food and drug industries.

In the course of the 20th century the regulatory policies grew stronger, while the FDA established strict rules and standards in regard to food products and drugs. As a result, today, Americans can feel safe buying and consuming food and drugs. Even though the regulatory policies of the FDA are severely criticized, the huge progress the food and drug industries have made in the improvement of the quality of their products since the publication of “The Jungle”¯ is undeniable.

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