Westfield — "The Pure Food Town"

by Professor Lewis B. Allyn

Westfeld, The Pure Food Town

Above:  Insert: Lewis B. Allyn originator of the Campaign

This remarkable document, herewith reproduced was the first food agreement of Westfield grocers with the Board of Health. The chemical laboratory at the right was located at the Westfield State Normal School, where the famous Pure Food Movement originated.

Prior to the year 1904, the general public had heard or read little concerning adulterated foods. A considerable portion of the package and bulk foods at this time was grossly adulterated, particularly those products which were in interstate commerce, since there was no Federal law to control the situation. Massachusetts, however, had a law which aimed to control products in this state, but comparatively few knew of it.

In 1903, Lewis B. Allyn became the head of the Department of Chemistry in the Westfield State Normal School, and in his endeavors to make the chemistry courses of that institution of the greatest possible value to the students, he gave a course in food analysis, particularly along the lines of detection of the common adulterants of foods and drugs, of which there were many.

In 1904, a lollypop craze struck Westfield, and an epidemic of sore mouths resulted. It is quite possible that the constant sucking of these concoctions by children irritated the mucous membrane of the mouth. Analysis of these brilliant, though debased, confections in the laboratory of the State Normal School showed large amounts of sulfurous acid in all of them. Some were flavored with various ethers to represent strawberry, raspberry, and the like. All of them contained dirt. All of them small quantities of arsenic. From them poisonous coal tar dyes were extracted sufficient to color a rug. Many of the students in the chemistry class wore brilliant bows in their hair and neckties colored with the dyes taken from the confections so greedily consumed by little children.

The matter was called to the attention of William M. Porter, agent of the Board of Health, who immediately caused the sale of the confections to cease.

Thousands of food products of all classes were analyzed at the laboratory of the State Normal School under Professor Allyn's directions, and the public press throughout the country teemed with articles concerning his work on foods.

In 1906, Professor Allyn became a member of the local Board of Health, which position he continuously held until 1919.

This initial reform conducted by the Westfield Board of Health and the far-reaching results obtained, led to further research.

In 1906, The Federal Food and Drugs Act was passed, rendering it a misdemeanor to practice certain forms of food deception.

In 1910, the Board of Health, consisting of Luther H. Belas; A. T. Schoomnaker, M.D.; L.B. Allyn, chemist; and William Porter, agent, saw the necessity of enlightening the local public as to what constituted adulterated and impure food.

As soon as the leading grocers understood the aim and scope of the Westfield movement, they signed the remarkable document which is herewith reproduced.

The Board then framed and unanimously adopted the now world famous Westfield Standard, which is admitted by the leading authorities to be the most concise and all-embracing standard, dealing with the purity of food products.

The Westfield Standard for Food Products

Foods shall not contain Alum, Benzoic acid or its salts, Boric acid or its salts, Copper, Formaldehyde, Formic acid or its salts, Hydrofluoric acid or its salts, Sulfurous acid or its salts, Saccharine, nor any other non-condimental preservative.

Foods shall not be colored with Coal Tar Dyes now with poisonous Vegetable Colors, nor be contaminated with inert filler, nor shall any substance be taken therefrom or added thereto so as to injuriously affect their quality, strength or purity.

Foods shall be packed and sold under sanitary conditions and package goods shall bear no DISHONEST LABEL, nor labels bearing any EXTRAVAGANT or OBSCURE statements.

Up to the year 1912, the annual reports of the Board of Health contained considerable information concerning adulterated and misbranded food products. "For heavens sake," wrote a local housekeeper, "don't tell us anything more about impure foods. My family are all too scared to eat anything but boiled eggs and potatoes; tell us what we can safely buy." Scores of requests of similar import came to the attention of the Westfield Board of Health.


In January, 1912, The Westfield Board of Health published the first list of pure food products ever compiled. This was knows as the Westfield Pure Food Book. It was intended for local use only, and was freely given to the citizens of the town. From time to time additions were made to it. This book has gone through four editions, with a world-wide circulation.

Copies of the first list naturally became known through the activities of the press, and "Collier's Weekly," under the direction of Norman Hapgood and Professor Allyn, instituted a nation-wide reform movement for better food products based upon Westfield Standard. This campaign for Pure Foods was later enlarged and carried on by the McClure publications.

The Westfield Standard has had a cogent influence upon city, state, and federal legislation and offers powerful incentive for the manufacture and sale of pure food products. No food reform movement has ever been given such wide publicity. Millions of dollars have been spent in advertising it, while thousands of columns off unpurchasable editorial space have been devoted to its merits and to Westfield, no universally known as the "Pure Food Town."

A short time after the Great Westfield Pure Food Movement started, a local man and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. M. B. Nelson of Orange street, started to put on the market a marmalade. This was the first pure food from the Pure Food Town. "Best yet" marmalade has created a world-wide demand.

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