Keeping it fresh: Preservatives and ‘The Poison Squad’
More than a century ago, enterprising manufacturers added brand-new chemical preservatives into food to keep it fresh as it traveled from the farm into rapidly growing American cities.
Milk no longer went rancid! Meat no longer spoiled! But some scientists wondered: could all these preservatives be doing more harm than good?
It took a crusading chemist named Harvey Washington Wiley to take this the fight all the way to Washington, D.C., where he recruited a “poison squad” to test their health effects—and, in the process, created the nation’s first law to protect against poisons in our food supply.
But did he succeed? Are the preservatives we eat today safe? Listen to this episode to hear Wiley’s story—and learn why some of the chemicals he tested are still in our food today.
Thumbnail photo – The German Food Additives Museum, taken by Gastropod.