Pure Food and Drug Act

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The Pure Food and Drug Act of June 30, 1906 is a United States federal law that provided federal inspection of meat products and forbade the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated food products and poisonous patent medicines.[1] The Act arose due to public education and exposés from Muckrakers such as Upton Sinclair and Samuel Hopkins Adams, social activist Florence Kelley, researcher Harvey W. Wiley, and President Theodore Roosevelt.


Labeling of habit-forming drugs

The Pure Food and Drug Act required that certain specified drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and cannabis, be accurately labeled with contents and dosage. Previously many drugs had been sold as patent medicines with secret ingredients or misleading labels. Cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and other such drugs continued to be legally available without prescription as long as they were labeled. It is estimated that sale of patent medicines containing opiates decreased by 33% after labeling was mandated.[2] The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 is cited by drug policy reform advocates such as James P. Gray as a successful model for re-legalization of currently prohibited drugs by requiring accurate labels, monitoring of purity and dose, and consumer education.[3]


The Pure Food and Drug Act was initially concerned with ensuring products were labeled correctly. Later efforts were made to outlaw certain products that were not safe, followed by efforts to outlaw products which were safe but not effective. For example, an attempt to outlaw Coca-Cola in 1909 because of its excessive caffeine; caffeine replaced cocaine as the active ingredient in coca-cola in 1903. In the case United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, the judge found that Coca-Cola had a right to use caffeine as it saw fit, although excessive litigation costs caused Coca-Cola to settle out of court with the United States Government. The caffeine amount was reduced.

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