Mind & Body

The Poison Squad Ate Questionable Foods To Keep People Safe

Although "The Poison Squad" would make a great title for an action movie, it was actually the name of an important group from history. The poison squad was a group of undergraduate students established in 1902 who voluntarily ate foods with untested preservatives and chemicals to make some quick cash. They ate anything, and they were proud of it.

The purpose of this group, assembled by chemist Harvey Wiley, was to make foods safer for the general population. Wiley wanted food science to include safety, which meant understanding what exactly is in the foods people were eating. The poison squad was there to test the safety of questionable chemicals. The squad even had a song with the lyrics: "On Prussic acid we break our fast; we lunch on a morphine stew; we dine with a matchhead consommé; drink carbolic acid brew." In time, the squad gained fame. People even wrote to them in hopes of joining their ranks. Over time, Wiley became known as the "Father of the Pure Food and Drugs Act," since the poison squad inspired what is now the FDA. Get more of the story in the video below.

The Chemical-Eating Heroes Who Made Food Safe

Meet the poison squad.

5 Poisonous Foods You Love

Are you eating any of these?

5 Keys To Safer Food

From the World Health Organization.

Written by Curiosity Staff October 10, 2016

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