Special Episode: Deborah Blum & The Poison Squad
Oh, to taste the food of the past. Strawberry jam made from farm-fresh strawberries. Milk straight from the cow. Cookies baked with freshly churned butter and brown sugar. Because that’s how it was, right? Everything used to be fresher, more pure, unadulterated by preservatives or additives, right? Our latest TPWKY book club pick shows us just how wrong that notion is. Science journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Deborah Blum joins us this week to chat about her book, The Poison Squad, which tells the story of the fight for food safety regulation in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. In our conversation, Blum rips off those rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and reveals that strawberry jam rarely contained strawberries, milk could include a mix of formaldehyde and pond water, butter had borax, and brown sugar was mostly ground up insects. Until one man, chemist Harvey Wiley, stepped up and spearheaded the campaign for food safety legislation, all of these horrific practices of food adulteration were entirely legal. Tune in to learn what Wiley was up against and some of the tactics used in his struggle, including the wild story of the experiment that gave this book its title.