Before federal food safety regulations really existed in the U.S., one man made it his duty to prove that food additives were harmful to human health — and he did so in a rather unconventional way.
At the turn of the 20th century, Harvey Wiley, Chief Chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, started inviting people into the basement of his office building for extraordinarily well-prepared meals. The meals were free and prepared by a top chef, often with locally-sourced ingredients. The catch? All the dishes were laced with poison.