Though FDA can trace its origins back to the creation of the Agricultural Division in the Patent Office in 1848, its origins as a federal consumer protection agency began with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act. This law was the culmination of about 100 bills over a quarter-century that aimed to rein in long-standing, serious abuses in the consumer product marketplace.
Federal public health protection was vigorously advocated by Harvey Washington Wiley, who at the time was chief chemist of the Bureau of Chemistry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FDA’s predecessor. The 1906 Act was passed thanks to his efforts and in response to the public outrage at the shockingly unhygienic conditions in the Chicago stockyards that were described in Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle."
Eventually, the position of chief chemist of the Bureau of Chemistry evolved into that of the commissioner of food and drugs.