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68 The role of chemicals in the food supply was an enormous debate during the postwar period, dividing opinion not only about food but technology, modern lifestyles, and the etiology of disease. While some, such as English psychiatrist Richard Mackarness, advocated a return not only to a chemical-free diet but to a “stone-age diet” based on protein rather than carbohydrates, others, such as nutritionist Frederick Stare and epidemiologist Elizabeth Whalen, believed that food additives were of enormous benefit and a sign of progress.1 By the time of the emergence of the Feingold diet, most Americans would have agreed with journalist Jacquin Sanders that “food just isn’t what it used to be,” but not all would have agreed that the changes had been detrimental.2 Such divisions accentuated the controversy surrounding the Feingold diet in both the public press and medical literature. For parents who already believed that food additives were unhealthy and had either made or considered making their diet more organic, success with the Feingold diet confirmed their suspicions about the food supply. Other parents came to the Feingold diet from the other side of the debate, believing that there was nothing wrong with such chemicals or without any clear sense that such debates were occurring. Once these parents began investigating Feingold’s theory, however, they tapped into a vast array of literature, dating primarily to the late 1960s and early 1970s, that claimed that the modern American diet was unhealthy. On the one hand, this legacy of suspicion helped to legitimize the Feingold diet for parents who might otherwise have questioned how food additives could cause behavioral disorders. On the other hand, the divisive nature of debates surrounding food additives meant that, no matter how Feingold “Food Just Isn’t What It Used to Be” Chapter 5 “Food Just Isn’t What It Used to Be” 69 distanced himself from such critics and attempted to make his diet appear scientifically valid, it was perhaps inevitable that it would be perceived as being on the radical side of the debate. Although Feingold linked the rise in hyperactivity to postwar changes in how food was produced, packaged, and preserved, there had been concerns about food adulteration and food safety well before the emergence of TV dinners and microwavable meals. In Britain, as historian Derek Oddy indicates, concern about food chemicals had grown by the 1880s, as “chemical preservatives , such as borax or formalin, were used extensively in foodstuffs to extend shelf life. The opportunities for adulteration and the use of additives and improvers was irresistible, and there were some notable instances when consumers’ health was seriously affected as producers cut corners.”3 Processed food products could be found on American store shelves at roughly the same time and, within two decades, spurred on by the publication of The Jungle (1906) by Upton Sinclair (1878–1968), American journalists had begun warning their readers about food additives.4 The Jungle, which described the deplorable working and sanitary conditions in Chicago meat-packing plants, contributed to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which was intended to prevent “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors.”5 The path to legislation began when Sinclair sent a copy of The Jungle to President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), who ordered two commissioners to investigate the author’s claims. Despite the fact that the packers were given two weeks’ notice of the commissioners’ visit, nearly all of Sinclair’s allegations were verified.6 There was a key difference, however, between the adulteration targeted by legislation such as the 1906 act and that which attracted attention during the 1960s. The adulteration described in The Jungle and other publications tended to focus on producers who added inedible or unsanitary substances to food in order to improve profit margin. For example, an anonymous physician writing in 1885 warned of the “man who willfully adds a non poisonous substance to an article which he sells, for the sake of increasing its bulk or weight, and afterward retails that to his customers as pure,” as well as the “man who adds that to his goods which shall injure the health of the partaker.” Such practices, according to the writer, “greatly effects the public health, and . . . thousands annually owe their deaths to the tricks of the trade.” Even bread could be adulterated with “chalk, pipe clay, plaster of paris...


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MARC Record
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