Since before recorded history, elixirs and wonder drugs have been marketed to the unwary, the gullible, and, most tragically, those in great suffering. The past century, however, has witnessed efforts to establish the safety of such nostrums.
Beginning in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drug Act, the story of food and drug regulation in the United States has been one of incremental changes to legislation designed to protect consumer interests.
Early in the twentieth century, Harvey W. Wiley, a physician considered to be the “father of the Food and Drug Act” and who served as the first commissioner of what would become the Food and Drug Administration, worked to institute consumer protections.
In the 1990s, during his tenure as FDA commissioner, David Kessler ’77 took up the cause of consumer advocacy by establishing the Nutrition Facts food label mandated by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.
Now, the current commissioner, Margaret Hamburg ’83, is overseeing a redesign of this label, an update intended to further aid consumers who wish to make better food choices in the supermarket.