He became chief chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1883 and started his infamous “poison squad” investigations in 1902. In 1912, Wiley became Good Housekeeping magazine’s food agency manager. A brilliant pupil at his local school, he went to attend Hanover College in Indiana. Following the Civil War broke out, yet, Wiley took a pause from his studies to fight for the Union Army. He returned to school following the war’s ending and completed his degree in 1867.
Wiley continued his schooling in the Indiana Medical College. In 1871, he completed his medical degree and stayed on in the institution to teach chemistry, and afterwards joined the faculty of Purdue University as a chemistry professor. In 1878, Wiley made a surprising discovery while analyzing what he believed was pure honey. He learned that some honey sold to consumers was mainly made from glucose.
In 1883, Wiley took the place of chief chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He started his infamous “poison squad” investigations in 1902. In this endeavor, Wiley had human volunteers—put together nicknamed the “poison squad”—ingest distinct food additives to analyze their impact on health. Then he used a few of the data he collected to campaign to get a national law to control food additives and food labels.
This act brought the power of the government supporting the fight for safer foods and drugs. Before the development of the legislation, it was up to states and towns to watch over what might be found in the foods and medications sold their communities. In 1907, Wiley printed Foods as well as Their Adulteration, which contained advice on the best way to find questionable food additives, including artificial coloring and saccharin, and provided extensive info on various food types, from fish to milk to infant products.
In 1911, he started a suit against pop manufacturer Coca Cola; right considering that caffeine could be “habit forming,” Wiley desired the organization to properly identify the contents of the drink, warning consumers that it contained caffeine.
Over time, Wiley continued to challenge food and medicinal businesses to create better and safer products, and took his duty for applying the Pure Food and Drug Act incredibly seriously. Along the way, he discovered himself tangling with both government officials and business leaders on the act. The disappointed champion for food reform resigned his place in 1912.
After leaving the government’s employment, Harvey Wiley continued his attempts to assist consumers. He went to benefit Good Housekeeping magazine in 1912, becoming manager of its own food agency. 3 years after, he released Not By Bread Alone, where he offered subscribers insights on nutrients.
Reflecting on the powerful act he helped pass, Wiley written History of a Crime Against the Food Law, released in 1929, which supplied subscribers having a look through his investigations and fights to bring safer products to market. History of a Offense work proved to be among his final actions of food advocacy. Harvey Washington Wiley expired on June 30, 1930, in the age of 86, at his house in Washington, D.C. He’s buried at Arlington Cemetery.