|FDA History 02
|HISTORY OF A CRIME AGAINST
THE FOOD LAW
CHAPTER II: THE POISON SQUAD
by Harvey W. Wiley, M.D., the very
first commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), then known
as the “US Bureau of Chemistry.”
Vulnuratus, non victus.--Proverb
of the forces of a large state may be carried off, but the
will of even a common man can not
be taken from him."
In the foregoing pages attention
was called to the experiments making on
healthy young men to determine the influence
of preservatives and coloring
matters on health and digestion. The general
method of conducting these
investigations was discussed. Altogether
nearly five years were devoted to these
experimental determinations, beginning
in 1902 and lasting until 1907.
The total number of substances
studied was seven, namely, boric acid and
borax, salicylic acid and salicylates,
benzoic acid and benzoates, sulphur
dioxide and sulphites, formaldehyde, sulphate
of copper, and saltpeter.
Reports of these investigations
were published, with the exception of
sulphate of copper and saltpeter, which
were denied publication. In 1908 further
investigations of this kind were allotted
to the Remsen Board whose activities
will be described in the following pages.
The Bureau of Chemistry was
"grievously wounded but not conquerered"
by this transfer of its activities.
ANOTHER THREATENING STORM
Anyone who has observed the
occurrence of tornados, cyclones, and thunder
storms, especially in the spring, has
noticed their tendency to occur in groups.
This is especially true of any particular
locality and generally of those parts
of our country in which these visitations,
often destructive to life and
property, are common. The storms which
threatened the integrity of the food law
were of this kind. They were different,
however, from the caprices of the
weather in the time of the year they occurred.
The most threatening of them
arose, not in the spring, but in the winter
of 1907. The transfer of authority
to execute the law from the Bureau of
Chemistry to the Board of Food and Drug
Inspection, and from that Board to the
Solicitor, was a very good introduction
to what occurred soon after January 1st,
1907. Even after the Bureau of
Chemistry was deprived of its power of
autonomy, it still retained intact its
function of judging what was a threat
Prior to the enactment of
the food and drugs law it was evident from the
increase in popular interest in this matter
that the enlistment of organized
bodies of men and women interested in
securing this legislation would sooner or
later become effective. It was considered
the part of wisdom to prepare for this
much wished-for consummation. Numerous
attempts had been made before the
Congress of the United States to change
the wording of the proposed bill in such
a way as to eliminate the Bureau of Chemistry
as the active executive
organization of the law when passed. All
of these attempts had been almost
unanimously negatived by the Congress
as often as they were offered. It seemed,
therefore, quite certain that when the
law finally was secured the Bureau of
Chemistry would be retained as its executive
agent. As early as 1902 authority
was obtained from Congress to carry on
feeding experiments on healthy young men.
The language of the law follows:
"To enable the
Secretary of Agriculture to investigate the character of
food preservatives, coloring matters,
and other substances added to foods, to
determine their relation to digestion
and to health, and to establish the
principles which should guide their
The object was to see if
the preservatives and coloring matters added to
foods would have any effect upon the digestion
and health of these young men.
Young men as a rule are more resistant
to effects of this kind than children or
older persons. They represent the maximum
of resistance to deleterious foods.
The deduction from this theory is that
if the young men thus selected showed
signs of injury other citizens of the
country less resistant would be more
seriously injured. Having received authority
from Congress to proceed in this
matter, a small kitchen and dining room
were provided in the basement of the
Bureau and a call issued for volunteers
to join this experimental class. We
asked chiefly employees of the Bureau.
We had no difficulty in securing twelve
healthy young men who volunteered their
services and took an oath to obey all
rules and regulations which should be
prescribed for the experimental dining
table. Their term of enlistment was made
for one year. Up to this time no such
extensive experiment on human beings had
been planned anywhere in the world. It
was not necessary to ask any publicity
to this matter. It was a problem which
interested not only newspaper reporters
and editors, but the public at large.
One reporter who was most constant in
his attendance, and this was the beginning
of his reportorial work, had the happy
faculty of presenting the progress of the
experiment in terms which appealed to
the public imagination. He early
designated this band of devoted young
men as "The Poison Squad." There was
rarely a day in which he did not visit
the experimental table and write some
interesting item in regard thereto. This
cub reporter is now the celebrated
author of the "Post-Scripts" in the Washington
Post, George Rothwell Brown.
The Dining Room of "The Poison Squad"
LENGTH AND PURPOSE OF THE EXPERIMENT
For five years these experiments
continued and investigations of an extensive
character were carried on with the preservatives
which were in most common use.
The chemical and physiological data accumulated
were vast in extent and
presented great difficulties in interpretation.
Following the rule adopted by
the Bureau, every doubtful problem was
resolved in favor of the American
consumer. This appeared the only safe
ethical ground to occupy. Decisions
against the manufacturers who used these
bodies could be reviewed in the courts
when the food law became established,
whereas if these doubtful problems had
been resolved in favor of the manufacturers
the consumer would have had no
redress. Without going into further detail
in regard to these experiments it may
be said that one of the common colors
and all the common preservatives used in
foods were banned from use by a unanimous
verdict against them.
The greater part of these
data was published as parts of Bulletin 84, Bureau
of Chemistry. They comprise: Part I--Boric
Acid and Borax; Part II--Salicylic
Acid and Salicylates; Part III--Sulphurous
Acid and Sulphites; Part IV-Benzoic
Acid and Benzoates; Part V--Formaldehyde;
Part VI--Sulphate of Copper; Part
When the data relating to
benzoic acid were submitted, the Remsen Board had
already been appointed. The Secretary,
about to depart on vacation, sent for
George W. Hill, Editor of the Department,
you like during my absence except that the bulletin on
benzoic acid is not to go to the
Mr. Hill misunderstood his
instructions. He sent the benzoate bulletin to the
public printer with instructions to hurry
it through. When the Secretary
returned the printing was finished. A
reprint of it was promptly denied. The
total number of pages in the parts of
Bulletin 84 which have been published is
DATA REFUSED PUBLICATION
Vigorous protests from
those engaged in adulterating and misbranding foods
were made to the Secretary of Agriculture
against any further publicity in this
direction. As a result of these protests
he refused publication of Parts VI and
VII of Bulletin 84. Part VI contained
a study of the effects on health and
digestion of sulphate of copper added
to our foods. The conclusions drawn by the
Bureau were adverse to its use. The Remsen
Board subsequently made a study of
sulphate of copper and reached a like
decision. The ban on copper was based on
the work of the Remson Board and not on
that of the Bureau, which preceded it by
three years. During this interval the
use of this deleterious product was
The seventh part treated
of the use of saltpeter (sodium nitrite), particularly in meats.
Owing to the well-known results of
the depressing effects of saltpeter on the
gonads, and for other reasons, the
Bureau refused to approve the use of this
coloring agent in cured meats. These
two bulletins still repose in the morgue of
the Department of Agriculture. They
are not, however, deprived of companionship.
In the testimony of the Secretary of Agriculture
before the committee on
expenditures in the Department of Agriculture
(the Moss Committee), it is found
that the following additional manuscripts
prepared by the Bureau of Chemistry
were refused publication, namely, Experiments
Looking to Substitutes for Sulphur
Dioxides in Drying Fruits, by W. D.
Bigelow; Corn Sirup as a Synonym for
Glucose, offered for publication in
1907; Sanitary Conditions of Canneries,
Based on Results of Inspection, by
A. W . Bitting, offered for publication in
1908; Reprint of Part IV of Benzoic
Acid and Benzoates, asked for in 1909;
Medicated Soft Drinks, by L. F. Kebler,
offered in 1909; Drug Legislation in the
United States, by C. H. Greathouse,
offered in 1909; Food Legislation to June
30, 1909, offered in 1910; The Estimation
of Glycerine in Meat Preparations, by
C. F. Cook, offered in March, 1910;
Technical Drug Studies, by L. F. Kebler,
offered in 1910; Experiments on the
Spoilage of Tomato Ketchup, by A. W.
Bitting, offered in 1911; the Influence
of Environment on the Sugar Content of
Cantaloupes, by M. N. Straugh and C.
G. Church, offered in May, 1911; A
Bacteriological Study of Eggs in the
Shell and of Frozen and Desiccated Eggs, by
G. W. Stiles, May, 1911; The Arsenic
Content of Shellac, offered June, 1911.
All of these publications
are in the morgue. They were objected to by parties
using preservatives and coloring matters
articles adulterated with arsenic,
and these protests against publication
were approved and put in force by the
Secretary of Agriculture. In other words,
all the principles which animated the
Inquisition were used by the Department
of Agriculture to prevent any further
dissemination of the studies and conclusions
of the Bureau in regard to the
wholesomeness of our foods. The whole
power of the Department of Agriculture was
enlisted in the service of adulteration
which tended to destroy the health of
the American consumer. On the appointment
of the Remsen Board further
investigations by the Bureau were ordered
to be suspended.
Further information regarding
the activities of the Poison Squad were
presented to the Committee of Interstate
and Foreign Commerce during the final
hearings on the Food and Drug Legislation.
This information has the
distinguishing tone of question and answer
which adds much to its interest and
value. Quotations from those hearings
THE BORAX INVESTIGATION
HEARINGS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON INTERSTATE
AND FOREIGN COMMERCE
DR. WILEY: Now, I want to
introduce the borax bulletin in evidence; not to
have it copied, but simply to have it
as an exhibit, because all of you have
copies in your desks. That will answer
the question which was asked me yesterday
about the kind of work done by these young
men. You gentlemen need only to
glance through this book of 477 pages
to see the amount of labor that has been
put upon this investigation.
MR. TOWNSEND: When did you
begin your investigation of boric acid?
DR. WILEY: In the autumn
MR. TOWNSEND: How long were
you experimenting on that?
DR. WILEY: We were from the
1st of October to the 1st of the following July.
MR. TOWNSEND: About nine
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir.
MR. TOWNSEND: How soon after
that did you make a report?
DR. WILEY: On the 25th of
June, 1904; just about a year after the close of
MR. TOWNSEND: You did not
publish it in 1903?
DR. WILEY: We published a
synopsis--a preliminary report--in 1903.
MR. TOWNSEND: You said yesterday
that you had not had time, as I remember it,
or had not been able--I don't remember
just exactly how you answered it--to
report your investigation of benzoic acid,
which had only occupied three months
and which was completed in the fall, as
I remember it, of 1902.
DR. WILEY: On benzoic acid?
MR. TOWNSEND: Yes; benzoic.
DR. WILEY: The benzoic-acid
investigation was not begun until the spring of
1904, and was completed before November,
MR. TOWNSEND: Are you sure
about that? As I took it down yesterday in a note,
it was begun in the fall of 1902.
DR. WILEY: Then you misunderstood
me; it was not. I was referring to the time
I commenced the first investigation.
MR. TOWNSEND: Then I misunderstood
you. Who assisted you in making those
investigations on borax and benzoic acid?
DR. WILEY: About twenty or
twenty-five men besides the subjects.
MR. TOWNSEND: Were any of
them of national reputation as scientists?
DR. WILEY: Dr. Bigelow, who
is here, is a man of good reputation. He is the
one who collaborated with me in, particular.
The others are chemists in fair
standing, but they are not men of great
reputation in a personal way.
MR. TOWNSEND: Connected with
DR. WILEY: Connected with
the Department of Agriculture here; yes, sir. I
will explain the method of investigation
briefly, because I know you gentlemen
do not care to read this voluminous document.
The young men were selected
mostly from the Department of Agriculture--I
believe the first were all from the Department
of Agriculture. They were young
men who had passed the civil-service examinations,
and therefore came to us with
a good character, as is usual in such
cases. These young men were volunteers. We
explained to them fully the character
of the work that we proposed to do, not
particularly stating what we were going
to give them, or how, but what our
general purpose was, and that was to place
in good wholesome foods certain
quantities, which we were to select ourselves,
of the ordinary preservatives and
coloring matters used in foods, and to
feed them on these foods with such
materials in them.
MR. TOWNSEND: Exclusively
with those materials?
DR. WILEY: Oh, no. I will
explain, and you will understand how we did it.
These men signed a pledge in which they
agreed on their honor to carry out all
the necessary regulations. They signed
a pledge to eat nothing or drink nothing
excepting what we gave them at the table.
They signed a pledge to pursue their
ordinary vocations without any excesses
and to take their ordinary hours of
sleep. They agreed that they would collect
and present to us every particle of
their secreta, so that none of it should
be lost, and to follow out the rules
and regulations necessary to carry out
the conduct of the work.
MR. ESCH: Did you require
any physical examination?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir; we had
a surgeon detailed from the Public Health
Service, who examined all of these men
physically and saw that they had no
disease, and that they had had no disease
within a year, or any sickness of any
MR. TOWNSEND: They were allowed
to live at their homes?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir.
MR. TOWNSEND: How did you
collect their perspiration?
DR. WILEY: Perspiration was
not collected excepting in one case. We collected
perspiration in one case to determine
how much borax was exuded through the
skin, but in no other.
MR. BARTLETT: You had a release
if they died?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir; from
any injury that they might receive.
That was their preliminary
work. The first thing which we did was to
ascertain, by their own choice largely,
the character of good wholesome foods to
be used, absolutely free of adulterants,
a natural diet which would keep their
bodies in a state of equilibrium so that,
neither the question of added weight
or of losing weight--that is to say, in
a fore period, which was a period of
about ten days, the body was weighed every
day, the amount of food which they
ate was weighed, and if they gained a
little we cut it off, and if they lost a
little we added a little to it--so that
by the end of ten days we could get
their normal ration. Meanwhile their excreta
were collected and analyzed, so
that we had a complete check on the normal
metabolic process by which the food
was utilized in the body and the refuse
matter excreted. You will understand
that the only excretions that we got were
the urine and the feces. All of the
others were so small in proportion to
the whole mass that they were neglected;
in fact, it is impossible to get them;
no one has ever attempted it. Then we
began by adding to the food one of the
common preservatives--borax was first. We
had twelve young men, and to six of them
we gave borax in the form of boracic
acid, and to the other six borate of soda,
to see if there was any difference in
the effect of those two forms of borax
attending the metabolic process.
MR. TOWNSEND: Did you explain
that this was a dangerous process?
DR. WILEY: We told them that
they might receive some injury from it.
MR. TOWNSEND: That is the
reason you took a release?
DR. WILEY: We certainly would
not ask the young men to submit to it without
an explanation. We told them, of course,
that there was no danger by poisons,
but that there might be some disturbance
to their systems.
MR. TOWNSEND: You thought
that there was nothing; but you took a release
because there was danger of losing life,
in a sense.
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir; we kept
nothing from them at all.
MR. TOWNSEND: Do you think
that had any effect upon them?
DR. WILEY: We discuss that
in the book. That has been one of the objections
urged against this work, and it would
be urged against any work of the same
MR. CUSHMAN: Is that the
bunch known to the public as the "poison squad"?
DR. WILEY: That is the one.
I suppose it was the most widely advertised
boarding house in the world.
Now, when we had established
their normal diet, then they agreed to eat it
every day whether they wanted it or not,
that was the important part of
the experiment, that the food ingestion
must be constant, otherwise you could
not study the effect of the added substance
MR. TOWNSEND: Do you explain
the effect in your book?
DR. WILEY: That is all explained
in the greatest detail.
Now, of course, they did
that as long as their digestion was not impaired.
When it did become impaired they were
released at once from any further
administration of the drug. That was all
we wanted to do--to get the first
effects, never any more. We did not carry
it to any extreme. Once a man was
undoubtedly affected he was released.
You may ask how we knew how any
disturbance produced was due to borax,
and I answer because we eliminated all
the variables but that one. in the case
of the man who had led the same life,
pursued the same vocation, eaten the same
food, and who did the same things, the
only variable was the preservative; so
that if the variations are those which
would be expected to be produced by such
a variable, we logically traced the
result of those variations to that one
variable, and especially so if when we
withdrew it the disturbance was removed.
Then the symptoms which had ensued
would be removed, and that was additional
proof. Therefore as far as possible we
ruled out every influence excepting the
one which we were controlling. Then we
had what we called "periods" of five days,
so that we studied them in periods of
five days. We called it the first preservative
period, the second preservative
period, and so on, until we had usually
the preservative periods lasting for
about twenty days. That was the usual
rule. That was followed by a period in
which nothing but pure food was given
for ten days, the object being if possible
to restore the man to the normal state.
I will say very frankly that ten days as
a rule was not long enough to do that;
but as they then had a holiday and rested
for some time, it didn't make so much
difference to us.
MR. TOWNSEND: What do you
mean by a holiday?
DR. WILEY: We kept our table
going all the time, but when a man had worked
for about forty days on these experiments
we then allowed forty days' rest, the
same time that we had been working on
MR. BARTLETT: That is, you
discontinued this character of food.
DR. WILEY: We gave him then
nothing but pure food. We did not have to measure
his food or collect his excreta; and he
simply rested and got ready for another
Now, in our first year's
work we only fed six men at a time, so that we had
constant observation--six men on holiday
and six men on observation--but in
subsequent investigations we found it
much more convenient to feed all of the
men at the same time and give them the
holiday at the same time. That appears
from the fact that the chemical work,
so far as analysis of foods is concerned,
is just as great for six men as it is
for twelve, because we did not analyze
each person's food, but the food which
we gave all, so that we knew the
composition of it. Therefore one analysis
would do for a hundred men just as
well as six. But the excreta that were
turned in had to be analyzed
separately--that is, every day, or the
composite for a number of days, whichever
MR. TOWNSEND: When you examined
that excreta: did you examine for any other
substance besides boric acid or benzoic
DR. WILEY: In the digestion
of food the process is of two kinds. We have what
is called metabolized food and nonmetabolized
food, which is found largely in
the feces. Parts of the feces never enter
the system at all; they are the refuse
matter, and therefore we say that they
are.nonmetabolized. We simply wanted to
determine how much protein, how much fat,
how much sugar, etc., had come out in
the feces and had escaped digestion. Then
we examined the urine, which contains
the principal part of the degradation
products of the metabolized food. When the
food enters the system, after the process
of digestion, it has two great
functions, as you gentlemen know. One
is to supply heat and energy. That food is
all burned up and converted into water
and carbon dioxide, just the same as you
burn a piece of coal in the fire and convert
it into carbon dioxide and into
water. And the great mass of food which
we eat is burned in the body and
produces heat and energy. Of course the
water and the carbon dioxide that come
from the lungs and the skin we did not
Then the food which goes
to build the tissues, or enters into the tissue,
pushes out the degradation products in
the same quantity when the body is in
equilibrium, just as you fill a tube full
of marbles, and when you put one
marble in it you will push out another
at the other end. Now, if I feed you on
nitrogen to-day or to-morrow, when I go
to determine the nitrogen in your urine
I do not determine the nitrogen that you
have eaten to-day or yesterday, but if
your body is in equilibrium the amount
of nitrogen pushed out is exactly what
you push in. That is what we call the
balance, and in that way we can determine
whether any substance added to the food
disturbs the metabolic process and
interferes with digestion. And you can
only determine it in that way. The amount
of disturbance is so slight that you will
never notice it and yet so pronounced
that our chemical balance will reveal
MR. BARTLETT: Doctor, I see
in the bill of fare that you give here that some
of the gentlemen took cranberries. What
did you add to the cranberries,
DR. WILEY: No, sir; we took
cranberries without anything. We did not add any
benzoic acid to those. I say that we used
the ordinary foods, a plain ration, so
that each man would eat on the same day
the same number of calories, the same
amount of nitrogen, the same amount of
phosphoric acid, the same amount of
sulphur. We gave an excellent food, the
very best of the retailed canned goods.
I will say that nearly all of our vegetables
are canned vegetables. That shows
our attitude toward canned foods, which
has been said to be very hostile. We
used them because they are more uniform
in character, and when put up by
reputable firms are apt to be better than
the vegetables that you can buy in the
open market. Our canned foods were canned
to order, so that all that we used
during the year were exactly alike. And
so important was that fact in the eyes
of an enterprising advertiser that he
went to one of the firms that sold us
these goods--we didn't buy all from one
firm--and wanted them to pay him
hundreds of dollars to write articles
saying that we were using his canned
foods. Of course, we promptly refused
to allow his name to be used.
MR. LOVERING: Did these young
men know when they were eating pure food or
not, and in what proportion?
DR. WILEY: They did not know
what it was, necessarily, or how much. That was
our business. All they knew was the fact
that they were using something.
MR. MANN: For a long time
the daily papers published what they were being fed
DR. WILEY: You can not always
rely upon newspaper accounts of scientific
MR. MANN: I suppose the young
men read the accounts, and if you did not tell
them exactly what they were being fed
they might have thought they were being
fed on something else.
MR. RYAN: This so-called
"poison squad" was selected from employees of the
DR. WILEY: Almost altogether
from the Department of Agriculture. We had a few
from the other departments, however, and
a few from a medical school.
MR. RYAN: Did they receive
additional compensation for entering into this?
DR. WILEY: Not those that
were in our Department. Those that came from the
outside were paid $5 a month in addition
to the other. We had to give them some
compensation; they could not serve in
the Department under other circumstances,
because it was illegal. We gave them a
mere nominal sum so as to make their
employment legal. We would not take anybody
who was not in the Department in
MR. BARTLETT: Did you use
real butter or oleomargarine?
DR. WILEY: The butter was
made to order, and contained neither salt nor
coloring matter--pure butter.
MR. ESCH: How about milk?
DR. WILDY: The milk came
from dairies inspected by the District authorities
and by myself.
MR. ESCH: Did you at any
time adulterate the milk?
Dim. WILEY: We sometimes
put the preservative we used in the milk.
MR. BARTLETT: Formaldehyde?
DR. WILEY: Formaldehyde we
did constantly, and borax part of the time.
MR. ESCH: How did the health
of these men continue; have you any statistics
DR. WILEY: That is all here;
everything is recorded in full.
MR. CUSHMAN: Can you tell,
in a general way, some of the symptoms, or would
that be interrupting the effect of your
DR. WILEY: If you would like
a résumé of the borax matter, I will give that
in a few words. I will take the experiment
where we gave a minimum quantity,
such as you would ordinarily get if you
ate meat and butter containing one-half
of 1 per cent of borax, in the ordinary
quantities of meat and butter and other
preserved foods which a healthy man would
eat. With the ordinary quantities of
butter and meat preserved with borax there
would be consumed about 7-1/2 grains
of borax per day by each individual; and
so we fed that for sixty days in
succession, beginning with the preliminary
period of ten days, then following
sixty days in which we gave the borax.
MR. MANN: How much borax?
DR. WILEY: Seven and one-half
grains a day. That was given in two doses. Part
of the time in one dose, and part of the
time we divided it and gave 3-3/4
grains at one time and 3-3/4 grains at
MR. TOWNSEND: How did you
DR. WILEY: In butter and
in milk and in capsules. We tried all methods.
MR. BARTLETT: Did you give
any tomato catsup with any of these meats?
DR. WILEY: I don't think
Now, I want to say this,
because I regard it as important. For fifteen or
twenty days, or even longer in some cases,
no visible effects were produced in
what you would call "symptoms. " The young
men had normal appetites and
performed their work without any discomfort,
and had no complaints. After that
time they began to eat their ration with
some little discomfort. They were under
obligation to do it, but they often said:
"I wish you could let this go; I don't
want it." Their appetites began to fail.
At the end every one of their appetites
was very badly affected, and some of them
were unable any longer to eat the full
amount. Of course we never required anything
that was impossible. They developed
persistent headaches in most cases, followed
by general depression and debility.
It was extremely well marked in every
MR. KENNEDY: Did they get
nauseated and want to refuse the food with the
DR. WILEY: They were occasionally
nauseated. We had every variety of food
that anybody commonly eats. We varied
their menu every day.
MR. KENNEDY: Did the boys
seem to get tired of it; did they want to refuse
DR. WILEY: That is the reason
we had to resort to capsules, because the very
moment he found it in the milk or in the
butter he didn't want to use the
butter. I would say that this is all set
out in here. We were led to the use of
capsules because of the objections to
which you refer. It may be all wrong, but
that, of course, is a matter for you gentlemen
MR. ADA MSON: When they took
the food, did it have some effect on the
DR. WILEY: It had a worse
effect in the food when they knew it was in the
food, because it became repugnant to them.
MR. KENNEDY: Don't you think
this repugnance is nature's own method of
correcting these things I I remember that
out in our town two fellows made a
wager with another fellow that he could
not eat a quail a day for thirty days in
succession. He did it, but it made him
sick. That was because there was nothing
wrong with the quail, but he was taking
it too consistently.
DR. WILEY: There is a great
difference between a quail and borax; the latter
is a drug.
MR. KENNEDY: A man's life
was imperiled by his trying to win that bet; he
became very sick.
DR. WILEY: I will answer
that by saying that it is the universal experience
of physicians that the drug habit grows;
the more drug you take the more you
need to produce the effect, and the less
its effect; so that it is just the
opposite to the effect that you mention.
MR. TOWNSEND: Did you try
the same experiment with benzoic acid?
DR. WILEY: Not for so long
a time, but a shorter length of time.
MR. TOWNSEND: But on the
DR. WILEY: The same plan.
That will be fully brought out in the publication.
MR. WANGER: Was there, at
the end of the period of the administration of
these preservatives, an immediate relief
and restoration of the appetite, or was
that a slow process?
DR. WILEY: Unfortunately
the effects in some cases were very much prolonged.
Some of the young men--the experiments
ended in July, or in June, the end of the
year--and some of the young men complained
even through the summer, and it was
late in the autumn before they recovered
their full normal appetites.
MR. WANGER: That would furnish
a strong presumption that it was not the
mental idea connected with the daily use
of the preservatives that caused the
loss of appetite.
DR. WILEY: It might be that
the mental attitude was a strong factor, but when
you get used to a thing after three or
four days the mental attitude becomes
less important. And I got a beautiful
illustration of that in our own
investigation, because I realized that
a very reasonable objection is made
against experiments of this kind, against
all pharmacological experiments, by
reason of the mental attitude of the patient,
and I give full credit to the
objection in the book, which you will
see. I discuss that fully and frankly, and
give value to the objections.
But this strange thing happened
when we came to salicylic acid. We had an
almost new set of young men. We had a
few that had come over from the borax
period, but one year of this kind of life
is as much as a young man wants. They
enlisted for a year. So we had a new list.
They must have had the same attitude
toward salicylic acid that the first set
had toward borax, and yet when we began
to feed them salicylic acid there was
an immediate improvement in the appetite;
most of the young men seemed better, wanted
more to eat, and it had exactly the
opposite effect that borax had. Now, if
it had been mental attitude in both
cases the effect upon these men would
have been the same. But we had the
opposite effect. So I think that is the
most happy proof. It came instantly,
unexpectedly; we were not looking for
it. The effect of the mental attitude,
which must be considered, does not have
the great importance that has been
ascribed to it.
MR. TOWNSEND: These men made
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir.
MR. TOWNSEND: How do you
explain the effect of a drug--the fact that the
constant use of it inures a person to
DR. WILEY: I think that is
easily explained. As you get used to the effect of
a drug you never improve in health. The
man who forms the opium habit takes more
and more of the drug, but his health goes
down all the time. You can tolerate
more of the drug, but your health is going
all the time, and it takes more of
the drug to produce a given effect.
MR. MANN: You say that in
the experiments with borax the effects continued
some time after the feeding of the borax
to the young men, so that there is a
cumulative effect of borax upon the system?
DR. WILEY: I referred to
that yesterday, and I will restate it. Professor
Rost, of the imperial board of health
of Berlin, whose work I have here,
criticized our work because we said that
practically all of the borax was
eradicated from the body after ten days.
He contends that a lot of it remains in
there for a longer time and comes out
in the waste material a little at a time
for weeks and months, so that his testimony
is very much more in favor of the
cumulative effects of those substances
than our own.
MR. TOWNSEND: Have you tested
DR. WILEY: We have made some
tests on that during this last winter, but I
have not as yet collated and studied the
MR. MANN: Does your report
show that in your opinion the use of borax has a
deleterious effect upon the organs of
DR. WILEY: Of course you
understand, Mr. Mann, the tests that we have made
are not the same as those made upon animals
fed for pharmacological experiments,
because after a given time the animals
are killed and their organs are examined,
and the changes in the cells are studied
by the microscope. We were precluded
from doing that.
MR. MANN: Is that your conclusion?
DR. WILEY: My conclusion
is that the cells must have been injured, but I had
no demonstration of it, because I could
not kill the young men and examine the
MR. MANN: Your judgment was
that the borax was excreted from the body; it did
not remain, but that the effects did remain?
How else could the effect remain
excepting in some way affecting the organs
of the body?
DR. WILEY: I think it must
have affected the organs of the body. I think that
is conclusive proof of it.
MR. ADAMSON: Is the process
of resolving these foods into their original
elements so difficult that scientists
cannot furnish the people any practical
method of safely separating preservatives
from food when they get ready to use
DR. WILEY: It is quite impractical
to separate the whole of any preservatives
from food, though it probably can be done.
MR. MANN: Does it make any
difference how borax is administered, whether
administered by itself or administered
in connection with foods, and is there a
difference in the effect between the administration
of a preservative in milk or
in some kind of solid food, for instance?
DR. WILEY: The ideal way
to administer substances of this kind would be in
solution in the food. But that has such
practical difficulties that in almost
all pharmacological experiments like these
which have been performed by the
thousand in the world, the method which
we finally adopted as the best has been
adopted--that is, the introduction of
the substance into the stomach in the form
of capsules, where nature quickly mixes
it entirely up with the contents of the
MR. MANN: Do not some scientists
think that there is a difference in effect
whether it is administered in one food
DR. WILEY: That is the objection
I have seen in scientific publications and
in the public press urged against our
work by Mr. H. H. Langdon, who has written
a great many letters condemnatory of the
work. Mr. Langdon, as I have learned,
is employed by the borax company to do
this work. He has called attention to
that point in the public press.
Many poetic descriptions
of the poison squad were published, among the best
of which are the following by S. W. Gillilan
and Lew Dockstader:
THE SONG OF THE POISON SQUAD
(Respectfully Dedicated to the Department
By S. W. GILLILAN
0 we're the merriest herd of hulks
that ever the
world has seen;
We don't shy off from your rough
on rats or even
from Paris green:
We're on the hunt for a toxic dope
to kill, sans fail.
But 'tis a tricky, elusive thing
knows we are
on its trail;
For all the things that could kill
in many a gruesome wad,
And still we're gaining a pound
for we are the
On Prussic acid we break our fast;
we lunch on a
We dine with a matchhead consomme,
Corrosive sublimate tones us up
While tyro-toxicon condiments
as mountain air.
Thus all the "deadlies" we double-dare
to put us beneath
We're death-immunes and we're proud
Hooray for the
As Sung by Lew Dockstader--
in His Minstrel Company
Washington, D. C., week of October 4,
If ever you should visit the Smithsonian
Look out that Professor Wiley doesn't
make you a recruit.
He's got a lot of fellows there
that tell him how they feel,
They take a batch of poison every
time they eat a meal.
For breakfast they get cyanide
of liver, coffin shaped,
For dinner, undertaker's pie, all
trimmed with crepe;
For supper, arsenic fritters, fried
in appetizing shade,
And late at night they get a prussic
They may get over it, but they'll
never look the same.
That kind of a bill of fare would
drive most men insane.
Next week he'll give them moth
a LA Newburgh,
or else plain.
They may get over it, but they'll
never look the same.