an excerpt from
America's History of Tainted Consumer Goods
By Jan Whitaker
read the entire article at:
- If future historians ask which developing economy was the bigger counterfeiter of consumer products – China or the United States – it won't be easy to decide.
...Current scandals might lead people to believe that food and product safety regulations were the natural evolution of business and good government. But it took consumer outrage to bring needed changes in America in the early 20th century.
...Newspapers broke stories daily revealing that even reputable department stores sold flatware with less silver content than advertised and walnut furniture made of gum wood.
...During the Civil War, Union soldiers' shoddy uniforms fell to pieces and their shoes disintegrated.
...By the time Upton Sinclair published his exposé of the meat industry, "The Jungle," in 1906, the adulteration of meat was old news. During the 1898 Spanish-American war, consumers became sensitized to the issue of "embalmed beef" when a general went public about the impurity of Army meat rations. The defense that the beef was no different from that sold to the public only increased the alarm. Although the charges were never proved that spoiled meats were doctored to make them appear fresh, a skeptical public demanded more government watchdogs.
...When Chinese restaurants emerged in the 1890s, rumors spread that they served cat and rat meat. British tea growers proclaimed to the US market that their teas were 100 percent pure, but that Chinese teas contained foreign matter.
...The conditions that promote adulteration are clear: a rapidly expanding economy and lax government controls, combined with bargain-hungry consumers driving a market for cheap goods.
...Jan Whitaker is a consumer historian and author of "Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class."