How a Group of Men Who Volunteered to Eat Poisoned Meals Led to Food Safety Regulations

Great Big Story tells the remarkable tale of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemist who was concerned about what was being added to food to keep it fresh during the early 20th century. In order to document the health effects of such toxic preservatives, Wiley recruited a group of volunteers who were willing to eat poisoned food. Wiley’s findings from this experiment required the government to take immediate action, leading eventually to the formation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Before the FDA came around, there was some pretty gnarly stuff in our food: additives like formaldehyde, borax, and copper sulfate?—poisons! To prove these toxins weren’t good for us, Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, a chemist, organized a volunteer supper club? to document the effects of these poisons on the body. His findings launched the food regulations that keep our meals safe today.