Review of The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs

The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs
by Gail Jarrow
Middle School, High School    Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills & Kane    155 pp.    g
10/19    978-1-62979-438-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68437-895-1    $11.99

Formaldehyde in milk, cocaine in toothache drops, sausage made from pulverized meat scraps swept off factory floors along with rat feces. “At the dawn of the twentieth century, few people had a clue that they were regularly being ripped off, drugged, and poisoned.” More and more Americans were living in towns and cities, and, instead of producing their own fruits, vegetables, and meats, they bought food from stores. They didn’t know who made the food they were consuming, and there was little regulation of the food industry. Jarrow (Bubonic Plague, rev. 3/16; Spooked!, rev. 9/18) traces the story of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, now known as the “Father of the FDA,” who devoted his life to getting the federal government to take responsibility for protecting consumers from poisonous products. No longer would radium be used to paint watch faces, or deadly nightshade in baby teething tablets. It’s a fascinating horror story and an important study of real-life heroes who stood up and fought for government intervention on behalf of the American people. The book’s open layout and plentiful archival photographs, advertisements, and other visuals enhance accessibility and interest. Thorough back matter includes a (necessary) glossary, meticulous source notes, a lengthy bibliography, an index, and a “More to Explore” guide.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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