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Mothers of Pure Food, Rebirthing a Movement

My paternal grandmother, Edith Harper, died a year ago today: Mother's Day, 2012. She worked full time to raise seven children. Her greatest pride was putting good, wholesome food on the table for her family. My maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cosser, lived close to the land, the daughter of a long line of organic farmers. As a midwife and district nurse, she helped facilitate the birth of new life and then supported mothers and children with her nursing skills. My grandmothers' prime working years came at the time of Victory Gardens, when it was patriotic to respect food, when the land was respected and waste was zero. This generation of women venerated the production and preparation of food, and their knowledge became part of the folk wisdom of home and hearth we celebrate today.

More than a century ago, in a movement spurred by the mothers and grandmothers of the time, the United States gave birth to the Pure Food Movement which intended to protect children and families from the adulteration of food products. This was a time when food was starting to be processed, production was fragmented, and rules and protections did not exist.

Women spurred the effort for reform and regulation, standards and labeling, joined by honest producers and food processors whose exports were threatened due to the activities of more unscrupulous food manufacturers and their undeclared adulterated ingredients. Decades of work by this powerful social movement resulted in 200 pieces of legislation culminating in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which ultimately led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1930. Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1913, the Gould Amendment, a food ingredient labeling law was passed.... READ MORE...

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