What Is the Pure Food and Drug Act?

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The Pure Food and Drug Act provided for the federal inspection of meat and made it illegal to manufacture, transport or sell adulterated food products or poisonous medicines. It is a federal law passed on June 30, 1906.

The Pure Food and Drug Act initially tried make sure drugs were labeled correctly. Drugs, such as those containing cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, morphine and heroin, were not illegal as long as they were labeled with content and dosage information. After the labeling requirement was enacted, it is estimated there was a 33 percent decrease in the sales of patent medicine that contained opiates. Labeling efforts were followed by a push to outlaw drugs that were seen as dangerous or those that may have been safe but not effective.

The act helped pave the way for the government to create the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, it is often viewed as the founding date for the agency. A much more comprehensive law, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, largely replaced the Pure Food and Drug Act.

Today, drug policy reform advocates believe the Pure Food and Drug Act could act as a basis for the re-legalization of drugs that are currently prohibited by law.