We often read stories about people who spend their lives pursuing a grand goal that is for the betterment of society as a whole only to die sometime before their work has reached fruition. In the case of Harvey Washington Wiley, that was not the case.
Wiley was an American Chemist with a steadfast passion to see our nation free from adulterated impure and unhealthy foods. Noted as the driving force behind the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, Wiley toiled for years trying to rid our food system of items and ingredients that were in his opinion (and the opinion of many Americans) distasteful to say the least. Some of his work helped to remove some potentially toxic chemicals such as borax from use in the food production industry. Wiley spent a large chunk of his life, some of it working for the U.S. government, trying to ensure that American citizens were not only getting the actual foods they believed they were buying (such as bread made from flour and not flour and sawdust) but food that was safe to eat and not laced with a conglomeration of ingredients that only a chemist, as Wiley was, would recognize.
To anyone who has a love for "true food", as I do, Wiley was an unsung hero. Even after being essentially forced into resigning from his position as the first commissioner of the FDA Wiley continued to spread the gospel of real and safe food through his position with the then highly regarded Good Housekeeping Institute.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was considerably watered down and the types of chemicals & foodstuffs that Wiley worked so tirelessly to prevent or remove from our food system were added and used with wild abandon almost from the time of his leaving the FDA.
Fast forward a mere 85 years and we have a food system that not only regularly utilizes many of those same chemicals but has become absolutely dependent on them. We now have a society where food chemistry is a multi billion dollar industry, food related ailments such as type two diabetes and obesity are so rampant that for the first time in history, children born after the year 2000 are expected to live shorter lives than their parents.
The story of Harvey Washington Wiley is one where David was clearly unable to slay Goliath, and one where Goliath went on to rule what is supposedly the greatest nation in the world.