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GOING BACK TO BUSINESS PRACTICES
A more pointed illustration of how the administration of the food law is gradually being transferred to manufacturers of food products is found in a circular issued by the Department of Agriculture of September 302 1927, in regard to the floating of oysters. The title of this remarkable contribution is "New Jersey Oyster InduAtry Adopts Plan to Improve Oysters."
The "improvement" in oysters is to introduce into them certain quantities of water which the old regulations in regard to oysters forbade. It calls attention to the fact that- the New Jersey shippers of oysters are dissatisfied with governmental rulings respecting excessive quantities of added water. Different regulations permitting the addition of water have been unanimously adopted by the New Jersq dealers. This action on the part of the New Jersey dealers was taken as a result of an old ruling of the Department of Agriculture for preventing shipment into interstate commerce of oysters floated in water less salty than that in which they were grown. The circular says:
"It developed that the aims of the oystermen and of the department were in harmony, namely, the production of the best oysters possible for the market in accordance with good commercial practices, and in which are incorporated no greater quantities of added water than are necessary, it being recognized that in the commercial cleansing of oysters for the market a small amount of water is necessarily incorporated. * * *
"The desire of the oystermen to place on the market only oysters of the highest grade is shown by their proposal to arrange for scientific investigations of the habits and characteristics of the oyster, with a view to obtaining the knowledge necessary to a final determination of the best procedure to insure the best oysters for the market, and desirable methods for obtaining the cleanest oysters with a minimum amount of added water."
Here is a great industry which had been saved from practical destruction by the original ruling of the Department that no water of any kind should be added to oysters in shipment or otherwise, and that the ice which kept them cold in shipment should be placed on the outside of water-tight tin boxes in which the oysters were carried. It is not true that any washing of oysters is necessary in preparing them for market. The only purpose of the washing is to introduce additional quantities of water which will make the oysters swell and look bigger and fatter than they are.
This is a complete surrendering to the industry of the task of making rules and regulations for conducting this industry, not in the interest of the consumer but in the interest of the producer. It marks an entire reversa in ese matters. The Food and Drugs Act was based on commercial practices which were detrimental and injurious to the consuming public. If the oyster industry is permitted to make its own regulations and its own scientific investigations there is no reason to doubt that all other industries will in the near future be accorded the same privilege.
A few years ago I was waiting to buy a ticket from New York to Boston. When the man in front of me bought his ticket and turned around, he recognized me and asked: "Are you Dr. Wiley?" I said I was. He said: "A few years ago I was the president of the Long Island Oyster Association. We regarded you as the arch-enemy of our industry when under your direction the ruling was issued that we should not add water to oysters that we shipped, nor place ice in contact with the oysters that we shipped. We considered you a devil incarnate. Now we know that decision was the salvation of our industry and I want to take your hand and congratulate you on doing the greatest service to the oyster industry that could possibly have been done. We are selling a dozen times as many oysters now in a perfect condition as they come from the water as we did at the time of your ruling.