Skip to main content

We are here to help

Contact Us

2019-2020 Go Big Read: The Poison Squad : FOOD SAFETY: 1906 AND BEYOND

HIGHLIGHT: 1938 AND 2011

Just as the Poison Squad experiments, the embalmed beef scandal, and the outrage over the Chicago meatpacking industry helped lead to the 1906 law, two additional food safety laws in 1938 and 2011 came to pass after food safety disasters.  


1938: Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act

In 1937 a drug company in Tennessee released a drug called Elixir Sulfanilamide. The drug’s solvent was untested and contained antifreeze. More than 100 people died after using this medication. This raised a public outcry that resulted in the 1938 law.

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act included provisions that:

  • Brought cosmetics and therapeutic devices under FDA jurisdiction
  • Required that new drugs be proven as safe to the FDA before they could be marketed
  • Authorized identity and quality standards for food
  • Authorized factory inspections

1938 Food, Drug, Cosmetic Act


2011: Food Safety Modernization Act

From 2008-2009 the U.S. faced a severe food poisoning outbreak from peanut butter made by the Peanut Corporation of America. As a result, the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011.

The FSMA, in part:

  • Enabled the FDA to focus more on preventing food safety problems than reacting after they occur
  • Gave the FDA greater authority to enforce food safety standards, specifically related to detaining food, inspecting records, and regulating food transportation
  • Allowed the FDA to hold imported foods to the same standards as domestic foods
  • Directed the FDA to partner with local and state authorities to build a national food safety system

CDC report on the salmonella outbreak

Background on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)


Note: This section highlighted two important milestones in food safety history after Wiley, but see the section titled “Further Food Safety Milestones” for more!  


Milestones in U.S. Food Law

This resource, created at North Dakota State University, gives an overview of U.S. food and drug law. It then provides a history of milestones from 1862 through 2018.  

Milestones in U.S. Food and Drug Law History

This FDA resource also provides a detailed history of laws related to food and drug safety, from 1848 through 2013.