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Strange Country

Sometimes you need to have a glass of wine, cuppa whatever and listen to a good old weird story. Musical score Resting Place by A Cast of Thousands.

Dec 6, 2018

How much formaldehyde would you allow in your glass of milk? What about your meat? Is an ounce of floor shavings too much for your container of nutmeg? Well in the late 19th century, Americans had little choice what maggots or arsenic were tossed into their bags of flour---they just had to take it and likely die. Enter Harvey Washington Wiley, chief chemist of the US Agriculture Department. He didn't think Americans should blindly eat plaster of paris or copper sulfate. He railed against food manufacturers to make their products safer for all. In ep. 70, Strange Country cohosts Beth and Kelly salute his efforts and wish they could be best friends with Deborah Blum the author of the amazing book Poison Squad.

Theme music: Resting Place by A Cast of Thousands.

Cite what you read:

Blum, Deborah. The Poison Squad: One Chemists Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Penguin Press, 2018.

Broderick, Evelyn. “What Happens If Borax Is Ingested?” Healthfully, 22 Oct. 2018,

“Calorie Counts on Chain Restaurant Menus Become Mandatory on Monday, Result of 15-Year-Long Campaign.” Trans Fat | Center for Science in the Public Interest,

Castrodale, Jelisa. “Pizza Chains Fight Calorie Labeling, Citing Endless Combinations of Toppings.” Munchies, VICE, 11 Apr. 2017,

"Copper Sulfate General Fact Sheet." National Pesticide Information Center, NPIC, Nov. 2012,

James, Susan Donaldson. “Kraft Agrees to Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 31 Oct. 2013,

"Potassium Nitrate." Wikipedia, Wikipedia,

“Salicylic Acid Topical : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing.” WebMD, WebMD,

Schlosser, Eric. “The Man Who Pioneered Food Safety.” The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2018,