Friday, April 8, 2011

Harvey Wiley's Wild Vaporing


Dr. H. W. Wiley, Chief of the Bureau of Chemistry of the Department of Agriculture, is quoted in the newspapers as saying that "more than one million babies had been sacrificed to the various concoctions known as paregorics and pain-killers, and over twice that many were killed by impure milk."

Dr. Wiley was too wily to state in what length of time these three millions of infants were slain, but from the context, the impression is left that he meant annually. If so, the statemenfis too absurd to need confutation.

According to the latest statistics obtainable—the United States census of iooo, the death rate of the country is placed at 17.6 per thousand, which, estimating the population at 80,000,000, would give a total of 1,480,000 deaths annually. If we estimate the total of infantile deaths (•'. e., deaths under 5 years old) at 50% of this total, which is far above the actual figures, it would give us only some 700,000 per annum. Of these, the greater part would be past the age when milk is the staple of existence, and a large proportion of these latter would be nourished at the breast. So we think it can be safely said that there are not more than 100,000 to 200,000 deaths a year, of infants which have been fed on artificial milk foods. Of course, if Dr. Wiley meant, instead of annually, that 3,000,000 infantile deaths have occurred in all time, his figures may be correct, but even then we would like to know where he got his statistics.

"We do not know," continues this garrulous doctor, "anything about the milk that we have left at our houses. or the conditions under which it was produced." If the doctor made this statement (it is a part of the interview telegraphed broadcast over the country), he proclaims himself to be in a state of inexcusable and criminal ignorance. As a physician, on whom the health and lives of others depend, it his duty to know all about the milk supply, not only of his own home, but of his town generally, and as a citizen it is in his power to invoke the authority provided by nearly every municipality in the country to see that the milk supply is kept unpolluted."

If, however, the city governments, near to the people as they are, and familiar as they are with local conditions, can not protect the public from fraudulent food products, is it reasonable to suppose that Dr. Wiley, with the entire country to look after, would be able to entirely eradicate the evil?

Continuing in a similar strain, the doctor declares that "there are a thousand and one possibilities which might have combined to make what nature intended as a food, the most virile poison that chemistry can produce."

This bit of exaggeration is printed in the papers to which the interview was telegraphed in capital letters, a fact that only emphasizes the misstatements contained in it. Science knows of "no possibilities that can convert milk into the most virile poison that chemistry can produce," but false science, fakirism in the name of science, and selfseeking in the garb of philanthropy, by endeavoring to bar all preservatives, can convert it into a substance sufficiently dangerous to human life. To quote further, Dr. Wiley says: "I have found that the foods we daily consume are so fraught with germ life of a harmful nature that I am almost afraid to go to the table. The butter is painted; there is little other to be found anywhere. Canned goods are kept years and sold for the genuine article. I speak particularly of condensed milk. If we know nothing of the fresh milk we get, surely our knowledge is more limited as to the product that is put in cans."

Of course, we cannot know "upon what meat" this Caesar of the Agricultural Department hath fed. or where he buys his groceries, but if his statements are to be believed, his larder is in a most miserable condition. "His butter is painted; there is but little other to be found." That depends upon where one looks, and the object he has in view in looking for it. If he is searching in auction job lots, and with the view of making capital for the advocates of "Pure Food," so-called, possibly he might get butter, stained by some vegetable color. We, in the West, find no difficulty in getting all the pure, fresh, wholesome butter that we want, and that at moderate prices, and we believe the same conditions prevail in the East. The use of the word "painted" in this connection, by-the-by. is a bit of hyperbolism akin to the "embalmed meats" of the Medical Supply Bureau during the Spanish war. Because butter is habitually tinted of a yellow or golden color, to please the eye. it does not at all follow that it is harmful. As to oleomargarine the greatest of hygienists and scientists have de

clared that when properly made it is not only palatable, but nutritious and wholesome. To see that it is properly prepared should be the duty of the inspectors under existing laws on the subject.

Of canned milk against which the next exaggeration of this Agricultural Department expert is directed, we can say that if properly prepared there can be no possible change, whether microbic or chemical, either in one year or fifty. The best possible proof of this is that in the halfcentury or more in' which it has been in use, and the thousand and tens of thousands of millions cans of it that have been sold, there has not been a single fatal case of intoxication from this cause that we have ever heard of. We have never even heard that one has been made seriously ill by it.

Finally, in a burst of piety, the good Dr. Wiley declares that "the Lord intended us to resort to cans only to tide us over one season, until green fruits could be had again, but the canneries don't know this." We do not know where the doctor gets his information as to the Lord's intentions, but supposing that he gets it directly from headquarters. we would only remark that if such were his intentions he should be more careful about sending late frosts to kill off the green fruits and vegetables, and should be more just in the distribution of the supply, so that not only the rich, who are able to pay for them are provided for, but the poor and the needy also.

With this bit of ad captandum cant the doctor closes this remarkable series of exaggerations. Not a single statement attributed to him in the whole article will bear the test of investigation, even the most casual. Yet, this is the man into whose hands as an expert scientist the American people are to be delivered if one of the so-called "Pure Food" bills, now before Congress, shall be erected into a law. He is to be the virtual arbiter of the fortune of every manufacturer of articles of food, drink and medicines. He has endeavored to stir the people to demand, and has stirred the Senate to pass a "pure food" law for the benefit of the "dear people," as he would have us believe, by statements similar to those of which we have just shown the absurdity. The bare thought of giving him such power is monstrous!

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