The book selection for November for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum. The Poison Squad is the 2019-2020 UW-Madison Go Big Read selection.
By the end of the nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident: food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safey, or even labeling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers.
Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as "Dr. Wiley's Law."
Deborah Blum brings to life this timeless and hugely satisfying "David and Goliath" tale with righteous verve and style.
While the experiments on the Poison Squad were groundbreaking, they would likely not be possible today due to the risks posed to the human subjects. Wiley also did not follow best practices such as maintaining a control group. How could the Poison Squad experiments be improved scientifically and ethically?
Even with scientific evidence of the dangers of ingesting certain chemical additives, the fight to institute government oversight was an uphill battle. Aside from business concerns, what other factors come into play when making regulations in the food industry? Are there examples of this struggle in recent food legislation?
Wiley predicted the negative health effects of certain chemical preservatives, dyes, and even tobacco, but those in industry attempted to discredit his concerns, labeling them as mistrust and fear of the future of food in the modern age. Today, chemophobia has led to negative consumer impacts, such as vaccine avoidance. Can you think of other examples where the mistrust of chemicals by the public has led to controversy?
Let us know what you think of The Poison Squad, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United State and the heroes, led by Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change.
Welcome to the KPL Book Club Blogspot
Welcome to the internet home of the Kilbourn Public Library (KPL) Book Club. The KPL Book Club meets at the library once a month. A book is chosen for each month and then members of the book club meet the last Monday and Wednesday of every month for lively discussion and treats. While we can’t offer you treats via the internet, this KPL Reads blog was designed for those of you who would like to participate in the book club but don’t have time to join us at meetings. Each month KPL staff will post discussion topics and questions to get you “talking”. Join in the discussion by adding a post to the blog. Click on the word comments below the post you want to "talk" about and write your comment. Be sure to check back often to see feedback and comments.