Our condiments don’t explode is a pretty good sales slogan

I always assumed concerns over preservative were a post-war thing. Lots of other things feel modern about this too, like the way companies use research findings to build brand and attack their competitors.

From Sam Lin-Sommer:

Fermentation also sped up a more dangerous process: Occasionally, bottles of fermenting ketchup would explode. In 1895, the New York Sun reported, “A bottle of catsup exploded on the dinner table of a family at Michigan City, Indiana, recently, and the force knocked all of the dishes off the table.” A 1903 headline in the Saint Paul Globe read, “BOTTLE OF CATSUP EXPLODES IN HER HANDS: Twelve Year Old Emma Setley Is Badly Cut By Flying Glass.”

To protect customers and their bottom lines, ketchup companies embraced chemical preservatives. Smith cites turn-of-the-century studies in California, Connecticut, and Kentucky that found that the majority of commercial ketchup samples contained some form of antiseptic.

Then, in 1883, a man named Dr. Harvey Wiley became chief of the Division of Chemistry of the United States Department of Agriculture, where he fought preservatives with the religious zeal of a man raised evangelical in rural Indiana. Born in 1844 in a log farmhouse, he spent his childhood tending to his family’s crops, then earned chemistry and medical degrees before shifting the Division of Chemistry’s focus to the food-safety problems that plagued the nation.

For the next two decades, he proposed countless Congressional bills on food safety, each of which was killed. But in 1904 he formed “The Poison (Read more...)