People feel secure in the idea that their food is packaged and processed under restrictions and secure processes so that their food does not become contaminated in the modern day food industry. Not so long ago, however, the environment of the meat packing industry was a dangerous place to work at. Upton Sinclair's controversial novel The Jungle exposed the horrible conditions of the industry and was influential to the creation of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, changing the way people think about food forever. But how did The Jungle influence the lives of Americans and how does it affect the present day? This novel was so influential but was not originally intended for food safety- rather, for the safety of the workers in the industry. Though it was not successful for its initial purpose, it will be clarified how beneficial the book came to be. To understand the way The Jungle has influenced and is still influencing meat industries, the opinions of different people will be taken into account and the actual text from the novel used to illustrate just how shocking the text was at the time. The importance of the novel can be shown using organizations that are active today and taking a look at what their purpose is and how they work.
Some argue that The Jungle was just a way to shock people and was not entirely truthful, but instead a gross exaggeration of actuality. Many of the people opposed to the validity of the novel would agree that "most of what Sinclair wrote was pure fiction, unconnected to reality" and that it was not "a factual report". The novel was not about food safety but had been written to "dramatize working conditions", and as it is pointed out, the claims about food safety were limited to about twelve pages altogether. Sinclair himself stated that, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Indeed, the novel was not meant for the meat controversy, but what it sparked was awareness of the food situation, albeit ignoring the condition of workers. Critics argue that Sinclair used the novel to promote his political agenda and that this resulted in the lack of respect for the novel from readers. Yet, if people did not respect the novel, why did it prompt the creation of such important acts? The perception of the novel did change over time. At first critics believed it was either socialist propaganda or muckraking, but once the content of the novel affected the overall reading population, the novel influenced even Theodore Roosevelt. Prior to its publication, the majority of the "meat eating, reading public" had no idea of the "atrocities within the industry." Critics also say that the 1906 report from the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Husbandry "refuted the worst of Sinclair's charges point by point" and labeled his claims "not at all characteristic (of the meat packing industry)". They also believe the novel was just a war against capitalism. Though the novel may have just been a form of socialist propaganda, it is significant to the formation of two very important acts; the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
The critics of the novel overlook that it is so influential to food safety, basing the argument on the fact that it is a work of fiction. Sinclair visited the stockyards in Chicago, and this visit provided the materials for the text of The Jungle. He saw the conditions of the workers and used his experience to write a compelling novel. He provides detailed descriptions of the activities that went on in the industry; "There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs." This sort of gruesome imagery was the catalyst for the disgust of his readers, who began to be conscious about what they were eating, focusing on the safety of their food rather than the condition of the workers. Whether the actions of the workers were real or fictionalized for shock, the novel had an astounding affect on many and the effect lasts even today.
Theodore Roosevelt was given The Jungle by Indiana senator Albert Beveridge and was appalled by what he read. He ordered an investigation by the Department of Agriculture and told Labor Commissioner Neill and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Reynolds to go to Chicago to make an investigation. Contrary to some statements, it is said that "they found Sinclair had not exaggerated the actual conditions." Roosevelt met with Sinclair and told him that "radical action must be taken to do away with the efforts of arrogant and selfish greed on the part of the capitalist." On June 30, 1906, the President signed the Pure Food and Drug Act into law. Though Sinclair intended to reveal how poorly the workers were being treated, the audience focused on the revolting details of how their food was being handled. Despite the fact that it was not the reaction Sinclair wanted, it was definitely influential to the present. Initially, the Pure Food and Drug Act required that drugs be accurately labeled, but later attempts were made to ban certain unsafe products. This act also prompted the eventual creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which regulates labeling and nutrition and also assures the safety and security of drugs, food, and cosmetics.
It is clear that The Jungle, although not a literary masterpiece by all means, was important to the safety of the population's food, as well as touching off awareness to the safety of all products. Regardless of the novel's accuracy, the outcome opened the public's eyes to the atrocities of the meat packaging industry, although it was intended to hit "the public's heart" instead of their stomachs. It also inspired "a tremendous growth in investigative journalism." The most significant historical importance of The Jungle, however, was the passing of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. Some people believe that Sinclair's novel was propaganda and did not outline the reality of the meat packing industry, while others believe that the horrendous activities needed to be stopped. While both sides do have valid points, the argument is really focused on the importance of the novel itself. It did change the way food was looked at in America and is still influencing the U.S today.
The Jungle influenced America because it made people realize how their food was being treated. Although the initial purpose of the novel was to expose the poor working conditions, and while it must be noted that this purpose went largely unnoticed, there was a benefit to the disturbing imagery of the book; the safety of the food supply. Today, organizations like the Food and Drug Administration make sure that food is suitable for consumption. It was successful, not because it was a literary masterpiece, but because of its shocking content that helped prompt Theodore Roosevelt into passing the two important food security acts. This is how the novel influenced the past and present day. Although Sinclair missed our hearts, he sure hit our stomachs hard enough to incite Theodore Roosevelt into action.
 Liberty Maven, The Truth About "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair, http://libertymaven.com/2010/06/08/the-truth-about-the-jungle-by-upton-sinclair/9929/ (Dec. 25, 2010).
 Capital Century, 1906: Rumble over "The Jungle", http://www.capitalcentury.com/1906.html (Dec. 25, 2010)
 Richard Wasowski, Sinclair's The Jungle, (Foster City: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 2001) 88-89.
 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (New York: Bantam Books, 1981) 134.
 Theodore Roosevelt , Pure Food and Drug Act, http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/PureFoodDrug.htm (Dec. 26, 2010)
 Meat Inspection Bill Passes the Senate, http://www.mindfully.org/Food/Meat-Inspection-Bill-Beveridge.htm (Dec. 26, 2010)
 Upton Sinclair Biography, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jupton.htm (Dec. 26, 2010)
 US History, Acts, Bills, and Laws, 1906, http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h917.html (Dec. 26, 2010)
 Food and Drug Administration, What We Do, http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/whatwedo/default.htm (Dec. 26, 2010)