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Content Reading Guide:
TR, Progressivism, Food, and Medicine
Upton Sinclair, a muckraker journalist, wrote a book called The Jungle. Just as Jacob Riis exposed the terrible living conditions of immigrants, Upton Sinclair exposed the unsanitary conditions of food processing factories. This caused citizens to become concerned about consuming mass produced food. The Jungle was written with a focus on the meat industry in Chicago and also displayed how bad working conditions were for those in the food processing factories.
Many Progressives felt that the only way to stop these terrible occurrences from putting the public health at risk was government intervention. Teddy Roosevelt asserted that he would use government power to intervene, if Sinclair’s descriptions proved true.
TR appointed a commission of experts to investigate meat packaging and Upton Sinclair’s claims of unsanitary conditions. The commission backed Sinclair’s claims. Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. The government began to force food companies to serve food in a sanitary way. The government also paid for the inspections.
Companies made outrageous claims to sell products that did not work. Some children’s medicine had opium, alcohol, and other drugs. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed. The law called for label claims to be backed by truth. Removing contaminations from medicine and food was also required. In this way, the Progressives were using the government to act as a “referee” to force the food industry to provide food for the public that was not contaminated or unsanitary.