The Threat of Unsafe Food

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When and Where:
Friday, November 12, 2010 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
at Indiana Medical History Museum

3045 W. Vermont St., Indianapolis, IN 46222

Indiana State Board of Health Poster
Jeff Bennett, Stephen Jay, MD

Free, pre-register by November 10

Event Description:

Americans often take the safety of their food for granted. Our laws and statutes give us confidence in the purity of our food supply.  During the Progressive Era (1890-1913), the nation embraced the idea that quality of life could be improved through the joint efforts of politics and science.  “Muckraking” writers and editors like Upton Sinclair (The Jungle, 1906) and S.S. McClure (McClure’s Magazine, 1893-1929) convinced the public that food safety laws were necessary.  The country then surrendered the food industry to government oversight with the adoption of the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.  But are we currently facing another crisis in food production in the United States?

Jeff Bennett of IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts, who has written on the topic and presented at the American Public Health Association, will speak about two men who were instrumental in establishing the pure food and drugs laws: Dr. John Hurty, Indiana State Health Commissioner (1896-1922), who wrote the first comprehensive state food and drug law in the nation, which passed in 1899; and Indiana-native Harvey W. Wiley, Head of the US Bureau of Chemistry, who crusaded for a national large-scale food law, which passed in 1906. Next, Stephen Jay, MD of the Indiana Association of Pathologists, will speak about our nation’s history of food adulteration, particularly during the early 20th century, and also discuss his own work on Capitol Hill to spread awareness of the dangers of antibiotic use in food animal production.

The exhibit will feature drawings commissioned by John Hurty for use in public health pamphlets and posters. Several of these works were created by Richmond, Indiana native Gaar Williams, a political cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star and the Chicago Tribune. A major portion of this exhibit will be displayed in the laboratory designed for testing food produced on the hospital’s farm and food purchased for the institution from outside vendors, as well. Reading lists and take-home pamphlets will be available to encourage further investigation of current food and public health laws.

During the “quiz show,” the audience will be given verbal and visual clues in order to guess the additives formerly found in certain foods.  These scenarios will be taken from actual cases that occurred during the time that Hurty and Wiley worked.

The event will be held in the amphitheater of the Old Pathology Building (1895) on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital. This building served as a research and diagnostic facility for the hospital.