In 1906, even human remains were mixed with flesh
The title may seem biased, but it is just another Dantesque fact of our history. We are talking about the biggest industrial revolution in the food industry, which started in the United States and hit the whole world thanks to the denunciation book written by the then young author Upton Sinclair, entitled The Jungle . Although the novel had sinned in literature, with its exacerbated Manichaeism and emotional appeal for shock, it was the exposure of the American canned meat industry and the exploitation of immigrant labor that stood out.
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Perhaps Sweeney Todd's unhealthy narrative — with Mrs. Lovett crunching the bodies murdered by the devil's barber's revenge to cover up the crime and increase the filling of her pies — was not such an absurd and distant fiction from what the young journalist witnessed. The difference was that the crimes were different, as was the reason people ended up in the flesh.
In 1905, Sinclair was hired by the Appeal to Reason newspaper to report on the Chicago meat factories - Swift and Armor. For months he pretended to be friends or relatives of workers to get work. Sinclair went to investigate only the working conditions of people, but eventually discovered an even greater disregard for the human being as a consumer.
What the man saw was that hygiene in the industries basically did not exist, nor was it something to be taken into consideration, since it was a time when the production line could never stop, that the company had to always sell more and spend less. The environment accumulated diseases and dirt. The rats walked all over the place, under and over the machines and packaging. They fed on the remains that were not cleaned and properly discarded, even roamed about the goods that were about to be shipped and that were piled up in the corners.
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In deposits, poison-filled mousetraps were not collected by the leaders. The rodents then died in the flesh and were sometimes processed next to it.
Sausages, sausages, hams and other types of meat that were rotting or already moldy were mixed with good raw material to yield more and not a gram to be wasted. Those that looked or smelled were properly made up with sodium borate and glycerin.
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Poorly separated slaughterhouses from stocks, toilets, and other environments were a crime scene. The animals taken to die had no distinction as to whether they were healthy or sick. They all came in for the hooks and yelped for hours until their moment came on the treadmill. The coagulated blood that impregnated the wood and was almost never washed spilled into the stored clean water. No one wore caps, aprons, or masks. Sweat, hair, phlegm from tuberculous workers, germs, and miscellaneous waste came into direct contact with meat.
Children were hired and forced to work for hours on end, under as many threats as their elders. Maintenance-free machinery and lack of proper protection or instruction was the missing seal to close this great can of abuse. It was common for people to lose fingers to the saws. Every day Sinclair had witnessed a different case. And these limbs fell into the food along with the blood, and the production line went on and on. Nothing was thrown away. Nothing stopped. In more extreme cases, during the preparation of the dehydrated soups, whole people would go into the giant boiling cauldrons, only the bones being rescued. And the food was still being prepared. No waste.
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But was there no oversight?
Well, of course there was. On inspection days, inspectors went to the boardroom, received a large sum of money, and left without even looking at the factory.
With the publication of The Jungle in 1906, which in just two weeks sold more than 25, 000 copies and horrified the population, President Theodore Roosevelt sent Labor Commissioner Charles Neil and social worker James Bronson to inspect the factories. However, even though warning of these raids was anticipated and the owners had time to prepare, what they found was no different from what Sinclair had reported in his book.
About four months after the bestselling publication, Roosevelt signed the Food and Drug Act Act, which gave rise to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the same year, the Meat Inspection Act came into force.
With all of these methods aimed at ensuring strict oversight of everything consumed in the United States for import and export through scientific testing and examination, the meat industry turned upside down and headed for a new future. Maybe a little cleaner and more decent than they could have.