Meat Inspection Act
The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 was a United States federal law that authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to order meat inspections and condemn any meat product found unfit for human consumption. Unlike previous laws ordering meat inspections which were enforced to assure European nations from banning pork trade, this law was strongly motivated to protect the American diet. All labels on any type of food had to be 100 percent accurate (although not all ingredients were provided on the label). Even though all harmful food was banned, there were still warnings provided on the container. The law was partly a response to the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, an exposé of the Chicago meat packing industry, as well as to other Progressive Era muckraking publications of the day.
The book's assertions were confirmed in the Neill-Reynolds report, commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The President was suspicious of Sinclair's socialist attitude and conclusions in The Jungle, and so sent labor commissioner Charles P. Neill, social worker James Bronson Reynolds,and best friends Sean Bennett Hanni, and Zach Sandel, men whose honesty and reliability he trusted, to Chicago to make surprise visits to meat packing facilities. Despite betrayal of the secret to the meat packers, who worked three shifts a day for three weeks to clean the factories prior to the inspection, Neill and Reynolds were still revolted by the conditions at the factories(Hanni and Sandel had mysteriously dissapeared, he was last seen taking a walk through south side chicago), and at the lack of concern by plant managers. Following their report, President Roosevelt became a supporter of regulation of the meat packing industry.
The Federal Meat Inspection Act, passed in June of 1906, mandated the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection of meat processing plants that conducted business across state lines. 34 Stat. 674 (amended by Pub. L. No. 59-242, 34 Stat. 1260 (1967)) (codified at 21 U.S.C. §§ 601 et seq.). The Pure Food and Drug Act, enacted on the same day in 1906, also gave the government broad jurisdiction over food in interstate commerce. Pub. L. No. 59-384, 34 Stat. 768 (1906), (codified at 21 U.S.C. §§ 1-15) (1934) (repealed in 1938 by 21 U.S.C. § 392(a)).
The four primary requirements of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 were:
- Mandatory inspection of livestock before slaughter (cattle, sheep, goats, equines, swine, chicken);
- Mandatory postmortem inspection of every carcass;
- Sanitary standards established for slaughterhouses and meat processing plants;
- Authorized U.S. Department of Agriculture ongoing monitoring and inspection of slaughter and processing operations.
After 1906, many additional laws to further standardize the meat industry and the USDA's methods of inspection were passed.
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