Kallet and Schlink Publish Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Arthur Kallet and Frederick John Schlink’s 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs shocked Americans by accusing well-known food, drug, and cosmetic companies of gross irresponsibility in producing and marketing their products. The public outcry led to stricter regulation and increased powers for the FDA.

Summary of Event

In 1933, Arthur Kallet and Frederick John Schlink collaborated to publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics, a shocking book in which the authors alleged that many of the best-known U.S. consumer products of the day were either useless or dangerous. Products they warned against included such heavily advertised brands as Listerine, Pepsodent, Kellogg’s All-Bran, Crisco, Lifebuoy, Bromo-Seltzer, Mercurochrome, Absorbine Jr., and Ex-Lax, as well as a number of others that were household names but have since been forgotten. The public was astonished to learn that in the modern American marketplace, as in ancient Rome, it was still a matter of buyer beware. [kw]Kallet and Schlink Publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs (1933) [kw]Schlink Publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, Kallet and (1933) [kw]Publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, Kallet and Schlink (1933) [kw]100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, Kallet and Schlink Publish (1933) 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs (Kallet and Schlink)[One Hundred Million Guinea Pigs] Consumer protection [g]United States;1933: Kallet and Schlink Publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs[08210] [c]Publishing and journalism;1933: Kallet and Schlink Publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs[08210] [c]Trade and commerce;1933: Kallet and Schlink Publish 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs[08210] Kallet, Arthur Schlink, Frederick John Wiley, Harvey W.

Kallet and Schlink warned that Ex-Lax, probably the best-known laxative of the time, could produce laxative dependency and had killed a child who ate a whole box because the drug tasted like chocolate candy. In the case of Kellogg’s All-Bran, a cereal commonly believed to be effective in relieving constipation, the authors charged that harsh bran ingested in large quantities on a daily basis could cause serious damage to the intestines and even lead to death from cancer.

Kallet and Schlink knew they were leaving themselves and their publisher open to libel suits from the makers of the products they named. Nevertheless, these two crusaders accused some of the biggest business firms in the country of gross negligence in marketing their products. They explained their charges in detail, and their words had the ring of authority. For example, they charged that Crisco, the best-known vegetable shortening of its kind, was dangerous because, although the normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees, part of the fats in most vegetable shortenings became liquefied only at higher temperatures. This meant that a fatty residue would remain in the intestines of consumers for several days, causing indigestion and even more serious stomach disorders over time.

Kallet and Schlink also charged that the cleaning agent in Pepsodent toothpaste contained “large sharp angular particles” that were dangerous to tooth enamel. “Of the thousands of drugs, medicines and other preparations cluttering the shelves of every large drug store,” wrote Kallet and Schlink, “hundreds are potentially poisonous or injurious.” They also charged that many well-known medications and antiseptics, though not actually dangerous, were vastly overrated in their advertising.

Americans had never seen such a wholesale indictment. Kallet and Schlink called Americans “guinea pigs” because the food, drug, and cosmetic industries were experimenting on them just as if they were laboratory animals. The authors had nothing but contempt for the officials of the Food and Drug Administration Food and Drug Administration, U.S. (FDA), with the exception of the courageous Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, who had been forced to step down as head of that government agency because he had been too outspoken and too zealous in prosecuting offenders. Kallet and Schlink called for American consumers to take positive action. They recommended boycotting offending firms, especially those that opposed stricter legislation or were members of trade associations that opposed corrective measures. Kallet and Schlink suggested that consumers demand immediate dismissal of government officials who made rulings that showed a lack of sensitivity to the public interest. In particular, they asked their readers to keep in constant contact with their representatives, senators, and state legislators on matters related to foods, drugs, and cosmetics.

Another way consumers could be effective, according to Kallet and Schlink, was in writing letters to newspapers and magazines in which they criticized publishers for accepting advertising from known violators of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) They suggested that readers could act more effectively by joining consumer-advocate organizations, and they praised American women’s clubs for taking a leading role in matters related to the protection of their families. Kallet and Schlink also pointed out that lawyers could be utilized in cases of fraud or negligence, reminding readers that they could initiate civil suits for monetary compensation and criminal suits threatening violators with fines and imprisonment.

Kallet and Schlink called for consumers to demand radical changes in government supervision of the food, drug, and cosmetic industries. These changes would include licensing and bonding, on-site federal supervision of manufacturing plants, and drastic penalties for malpractice. They suggested that the burden of proof for compliance with regulations should be placed on the manufacturer and not on the FDA. They called for truthful and complete labeling and for the abolition of the advertising of “mystery ingredients” and “secret formulas.” Their anger did not fail to transmit itself to their readers. They talked about padlocking firms that did not rate close to perfection in sanitation and observed that the FDA had “no right of entry into plants manufacturing foods and drugs, nor any right to supervise or to stop processes, even if an inspector should see rat poison being added to canned soup before his very eyes.”

It is not surprising that 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs raised a storm of controversy. It was the most shocking book to be published in the United States since The Jungle, Jungle, The (Sinclair, U.) Upton Sinclair’s horrifying 1906 novel about the meatpacking industry. Many prestigious magazines and newspapers published caustic reviews of Kallet and Schlink’s call to arms and charged the authors with recklessness, gross exaggeration, incompetence, and opportunism. A review of the book in The Nation called it “intemperate, misleading, and potentially pernicious.” Newspapers and magazines, which were by and large heavily dependent on advertising for their existence, tended to reflect the probusiness sentiments of their owners. Kallet and Schlink charged that offenses against the public interest were often known but were ignored by the “venal press.” When firms were penalized under the Pure Food and Drug Act or committed offenses that resulted in lawsuits, they alleged, such news was often overlooked or buried in the back pages, along with the weather news and the high school batting averages.


Kallet and Schlink’s work had a strong effect on the American public because the book was written in nontechnical language and referred to products used by millions of people every day. The book’s impact was comparable to that of The Jungle; like Sinclair’s novel, it led to an outcry for strict government intervention. In fact, 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs has been credited with being largely responsible for the enactment of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. The accusations in the book implied the need for stricter government control of business—and more government control was exactly what big business interests did not want. It was, however, exactly what the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration did want, and 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs helped to turn the sympathies of many American voters in favor of greater bureaucratic control at the national level.

Kallet and Schlink’s best seller appeared at a time when the United States was undergoing a dramatic social and political transformation. The year 1933 marked the beginning of Roosevelt’s presidency and the introduction of his New Deal program, which proposed to revolutionize the influence of government in the lives of Americans. Roosevelt was to be elected president for four consecutive terms; during his lengthy administration, the federal government assumed unprecedented regulatory powers. Roosevelt’s popularity can be seen as a reaction against the adulation of big-business tycoons that had dissipated with the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it.

Kallet and Schlink called on American consumers to pressure the federal government to exercise far greater control over the manufacture and sale of potentially dangerous products. They also suggested that the federal government take much stronger control over advertising. Advertising Advertising;regulation would prove to be a sensitive area, given the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” It nevertheless became common practice for the government to force advertisers to stop making unprovable claims.

Moreover, 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs gave lawyers the notion that considerable money might be made in civil actions under what insurance companies term “product liability.” As the public at large had been alerted to the hidden dangers in familiar household products, many lawyers reasoned, it would be easier to persuade jurors to award generous damages to claimants. The triple threat of stricter government control, civil lawsuits, and mass boycotting by an outraged public motivated manufacturers to become more responsible about the food, drugs, and cosmetics they marketed and to become more circumspect about the claims they made in their advertisements. The fact that Americans now buy food, drugs, and cosmetics with greater confidence than they did in the 1930’s is largely a result of the efforts of such individuals as Wiley, Sinclair, and Kallet and Schlink.

In the long term, 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs was important because it helped change American consciousness. The book helped turn the American people against the idea that unrestricted competition inevitably leads to a better way of life for everyone, undermined Americans’ naïve adulation of business tycoons, whose private lives were chronicled in the society pages, and persuaded Americans to think in terms of government regulation. This increase in consumer consciousness affected the public’s general voting habits as well: By making Americans suspicious of big business, the book indirectly helped the Roosevelt administration enact legislative reforms, including reforms that had little to do with consumer goods. 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs (Kallet and Schlink)[One Hundred Million Guinea Pigs] Consumer protection

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, Oscar Edward. The Health of a Nation: Harvey W. Wiley and the Fight for Pure Food. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958. Biography of the courageous crusader for pure food and drug legislation. Wiley was singled out for special praise by Kallet and Schlink.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chase, Stuart, and F. J. Schlink. Your Money’s Worth: A Study in the Waste of the Consumer’s Dollar. New York: Macmillan, 1927. Schlink collaborated with Stuart Chase to write this best-selling exposé of the sharp practices of certain American businessmen. The authors compare the value of products to their actual costs and suggest ways that consumers can protect themselves from unethical practices.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fuller, John G. 200,000,000 Guinea Pigs: New Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York: Putnam, 1972. This excellent book, written in the same spirit as Kallet and Schlink’s landmark and published nearly forty years later, was intended to show that there were still many abuses by the food, drug, and cosmetic industries and that the FDA still needed improvement.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goodwin, Lorine Swainston. The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999. A study of the precursors of Kallet and Schlink and the important work done to educate consumers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kallet, Arthur. Counterfeit: Not Your Money but What It Buys. New York: Vanguard Press, 1935. Discusses the ways in which manufacturers and retailers deceive the public. Contains many illustrations of popular products and copies of their advertisements. Calls for fundamental change in the U.S. economic system.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“New Food Labels: At Last, You Can Trust Them—Most of the Time.” Consumer Reports 59 (July, 1994): 437-438. An article about the new food labels mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consumer Reports, founded in 1936, accepts no advertising and strives to remain impartial in its evaluation of products and services.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Newman, Kathy M. Radio Active: Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935-1947. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. A focused study of the effects on radio of the increased consumer consciousness brought about in part by the publication of 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs. Discusses the use of radio as a tool of consumer activism, as well as the grassroots battle to regulate radio advertising. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wiley, Harvey Washington. The History of a Crime Against the Food Law. 1929. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1976. Wiley’s best-known publication. Provided strong evidence for Kallet and Schlink to use in 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs.

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration Is Established

Consumers Union of the United States Emerges

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

Categories: History