Eating Dangerously: How a Chemist’s “Poison Squad” Won the Battle for Food Safety in the US

ACS Webinars

In the late 19th century, simply eating food could be a genuine hazard. To increase the shelf life of their products, food manufacturers intentionally added dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde and salicylic acid to everything from milk to meat without any of the regulatory oversight that we take for granted today.

Join Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Deborah Blum as she reveals the dramatic true story of how food was made safer in the United States during a 30 year food safety battle for consumer protection by chemist Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley and his heroic Poison Squad.

Register now to discover the surprisingly thrilling history of food safety standards in America – a story of politics, poison and a federal chemist turned crusader who took us from a century deemed the “great American stomachache” to the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act.

This ACS Webinar is moderated by Carmen J. Giunta, Professor Emeritus of Le Moyne College and is co-produced with the ACS Division of the History of Chemistry.

What You Will Learn

  • What the US food supply was like before regulation
  • How 19th century food chemists investigated the problem
  • The science and the politics of the first consumer safety laws – and their continuing influence

Additional Resources

Co-Produced With


What an attendee said about this ACS Webinar!

As a university professor teaching future food engineers I find it important to sometimes tell interesting stories, not just facts and numbers. This webinar was a great opportunity to learn about the history of food safety. I'm sure I will mention some examples I heard today. Also, I love really old scientific literature! So it was great to get links to all these books. Thank you!


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Meet the Experts

Deborah Blum
Director, Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT & Publisher, Undark magazine

Carmen J. Giunta
Professor Emeritus, Le Moyne College

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