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"Rice Pudding. Milk. Bread and Butter. Tea. Coffee. A Little Borax."
July 12, 2011 12:14 PM   Subscribe

But beyond the disgust element was another more important question concerning borax: was it actually safe to eat? This troubling issue was the reason why squad members were imbibing the compound at Christmas, the reason for the Poison Squad experiments themselves. Established by a famously outspoken, crusading chemist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Harvey Washington Wiley, the squads were also meant to answer another, larger question: were manufacturers actually poisoning the food supply?
posted by liketitanic (19 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 


Great article!

There is a current exhibit at the National Archives in DC called "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?, which goes into the history of the FDA and the regulation of food (and promotion of some foods at the expense of others) in the US. Very cool, worth a visit if one's going to be in DC.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:20 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


So why all the doom and gloom on the labeling? Because a surprising number of people, especially children, mistake the packets for food.

I blame Dippin' Dots.
posted by mykescipark at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2011


If that'll get rid of the silly "ice cream of the future" pagodas viz a war on drugs like response to dippin dots being a gatway food, I'm all for it..
posted by k5.user at 12:34 PM on July 12, 2011


There's a good episode of the Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast about Harvey Washington Wiley. It's the episode called "A Pure Food Father and His Poison Squad".
posted by neushoorn at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a floor cleaner AND a dessert topping!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:40 PM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Aww - it's spam from a 1902 cookbook... borax, borax borax and more borax!
posted by symbioid at 12:57 PM on July 12, 2011


Says something that I just naturally assumed that this was talking about a modern food manufacturing process, and not something from 100+ years ago, until I saw the actual dates in question a few paragraphs in.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2011


were manufacturers actually poisoning the food supply? ---July 12th

64 Paranoid Metafilter.com members died this month after they collectively decided that all food was poisoned. ---August 3rd


.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:32 PM on July 12, 2011


Borax is a component of caviar, outside the US. Caviar for the American market is made saltier to compensate.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2011


Aw, I miss our house receiving Lapham's Quarterly, especially when it's a theme close to my heart.

That said, excellent post!
posted by Kitteh at 1:44 PM on July 12, 2011




This is one of the problems that less regulation and allowing food manufacturers to self police would solve, right?
posted by kzin602 at 1:58 PM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I know I've mentioned this on Metafilter before but:

the linked article mentions an awesome book, Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee, which goes into much greater detail not only about Wiley and his poison squad but also into fake and dangerous foods of the past two centuries as well. It's really quite good.

Also, if you're looking for a book that examines the recent 'melamine from China' crisis, I can recommend the ever-engaging Marion Nestle's Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. As you might guess by the subtitle, it goes far beyond pet food. Very interesting, and of course Marion Nestle's one of the apostles of the modern food movement.
posted by librarylis at 3:06 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nestle's one of the apostles of the modern food movement.
posted by infini at 4:00 PM on July 12, 2011


If that'll get rid of the silly "ice cream of the future" pagodas viz a war on drugs like response to dippin dots being a gatway food, I'm all for it..

You shut your mouth! I've been in love with Dippin' Dots forever. As a kid, I took the slogan "ice cream of the future" literally and spent every grocery trip eagerly waiting to see whether other manufacturers had converted to the creamy spheres.

ALAS
posted by GilloD at 4:51 PM on July 12, 2011


If you ever want to learn all about how awesome borax is, go visit the Borax Visitor Center, built upon a big tailings pile next to an enormous pit mine in the middle of the Mojave. Yeah, it's full of corporate propaganda about how boron is in everything naturally and super great, but it's a pretty damn awesome experience. They give you borate rocks that act like natural fiber optics. They have really cool detailed models of all of the processing equipment they have on site. The temperature is like the surface of the sun, and the landscape is like the surface of the moon.
posted by zsazsa at 5:06 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia article on borax says that it is still used in cooking in some parts of the world, including Asia, which may explain why I once saw a hand drawn sign in a restaurant window (in California) mentioning a borax dish. Yum!
posted by eye of newt at 8:18 PM on July 12, 2011


You shut your mouth! I've been in love with Dippin' Dots forever.

Indeed. Invented by a guy from my alma mater, I'm proud for him and his creation. He seemed like a really sweet guy, actually. So, I just can't hate on them.
posted by readyfreddy at 6:46 AM on July 13, 2011


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