Long ago, the federal government recognized the need for consumer protection that would need a widespread overseeing agency to ensure regulations were properly executed. It was in the mid-nineteenth century that the politicians came together to appoint Lewis Caleb Beck to the role of food tester. It was his responsibility, as of 1848, to perform chemical analysis on the agricultural products sold to Americans.
Fourteen years later, the Department of Agriculture was formed and the men who played a part in this agency took on the roles earlier assigned to Beck. While this did serve a purpose, it was not enough to keep the public safe. In 1906, the Pure Foods and Drugs Act was passed, which paved the way for the formal development of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), as we know it today. The Act was intended to stop the mislabeling of products and the related false claims. It was the persistence of Harvey Washington Wiley and others like him that brought the law to the books. The chief chemist with the Department of Agriculture believed that all people deserved accurate information regarding the contents and safety of the foods they served at their tables each night. Wiley was not alone. The media also played a major role in reforming the American food and drug marketplace. Samuel Hopkins Adams was a journalist in the era of Wiley who did his best to expose the major downfalls of the marketplace at the time. At the center of the debates was the meat-packing industry where conditions were so bad that people would be physically ill at the descriptions.
The same belief exists today regarding the need for protection of the public. The ongoing process of revamping and improving the FDA is the reason for the 90-plus bills presented before Congress on the topic of food and drug regulation. The FDA cannot do it alone. Media and the internet present information regarding tainted foods and unsafe medication products regularly, so consumers can make necessary changes. The courts oversee cases frequently that punish companies that knowingly endanger the public. The system works because so many believe in its importance.