Federal Meat Inspection Act

The Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (FMIA) is an American law that makes it a crime to adulterate or misbrand meat and meat products being sold as food, and ensures that meat and meat products are slaughtered and processed under strictly regulated sanitary conditions.[1] These requirements also apply to imported meat products, which must be inspected under equivalent foreign standards. USDA inspection of poultry was added by the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act authorizes the FDA to provide inspection services for all livestock and poultry species not listed in the FMIA or PPIA, including venison and buffalo. The Agricultural Marketing Act authorizes the USDA to offer voluntary, fee-for-service inspection services for these same species.

Federal Meat Inspection Act
Long titleAn Act making appropriations for the Department of Agriculture for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eight.
Acronyms (colloquial)FMIA
NicknamesAgricultural Department Appropriations (1906)
Enacted bythe 59th United States Congress
EffectiveMarch 5, 1906
Public lawPub.L. 59–242
Statutes at Large34 Stat. 1256
Titles amended21 U.S.C.: Food and Drugs
U.S.C. sections created21 U.S.C. ch. 12 § 601 et seq.
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 24815 by James Wolcott Wadsworth (RNY) on January 23, 1907
  • Passed the House on February 14, 1907 (Passed)
  • Passed the Senate on February 18, 1907 (47-9) with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on March 2, 1907 (138-115)
  • Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 4, 1907
Major amendments
Wholesome Meat Act of 1967

Historical motivation for enactment

The original 1906 Act authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to inspect and condemn any meat product found unfit for human consumption.[1] Unlike previous laws ordering meat inspections, which were enforced to assure European nations from banning pork trade, this law was strongly motivated to protect the American diet. All labels on any type of food had to be accurate (although not all ingredients were provided on the label). Even though all harmful food was banned, many warnings were still provided on the container. The law was partly a response to the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, an exposé of the Chicago meat packing industry, as well as to other Progressive Era muckraking publications of the day.[2] While Sinclair's dramatized account was intended to bring attention to the terrible working conditions in Chicago, the public was more horrified by the prospect of bad meat.[3]

The book's assertions were confirmed in the Neill-Reynolds report, commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.[4] Roosevelt was suspicious of Sinclair's socialist attitude and conclusions in The Jungle, so he sent labor commissioner Charles P. Neill and social worker James Bronson Reynolds, men whose honesty and reliability he trusted, to Chicago to make surprise visits to meat packing facilities.

Despite betrayal of the secret to the meat packers, who worked three shifts a day for three weeks to thwart the inspection, Neill and Reynolds were still revolted by the conditions at the factories and at the lack of concern by plant managers (though neither had much experience in the field). Following their report, Roosevelt became a supporter of regulation of the meat packing industry, and, on June 30, signed the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.[5]


The FMIA mandated the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection of meat processing plants that conducted business across state lines.[6] The Pure Food and Drug Act, enacted on June 30 in 1906, also gave the government broad jurisdiction over food in interstate commerce.[7]

The four primary requirements of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 were:

  1. Mandatory inspection of livestock before slaughter (cattle, sheep, goats, equines, and swine);
  2. Mandatory postmortem inspection of every carcass;
  3. Sanitary standards established for slaughterhouses and meat processing plants; and
  4. Authorized U.S. Department of Agriculture ongoing monitoring and inspection of slaughter and processing operations.

After 1906, many additional laws that further standardized the meat industry and its inspection were passed.

Preemption of state law

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in National Meat Assn. v. Harris, that the FMIA preempts a California law regulating the treatment of non-ambulatory livestock.[8]

Amendments to 1907 Act

Chronological legislation relative to U.S. Congressional revisions concerning the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

Date of Enactment Public Law Number U.S. Statute Citation U.S. Legislative Bill U.S. Presidential Administration
June 29, 1938 P.L. 75-776 52 Stat. 1235 H.R. 8047 Franklin D. Roosevelt
June 10, 1942 P.L. 77-602 56 Stat. 351 H.J.Res. 315 Franklin D. Roosevelt
June 5, 1948 P.L. 80-610 62 Stat. 344 S. 2256 Harry S. Truman
December 15, 1967 P.L. 90-201 81 Stat. 584 H.R. 12144 Lyndon B. Johnson
July 18, 1970 P.L. 91-342 84 Stat. 438 S. 3592 Richard M. Nixon
October 10, 1978 P.L. 95-445 92 Stat. 1069 S. 3092 Jimmy Carter
October 17, 1984 P.L. 98-487 98 Stat. 2264 H.R. 5223 Ronald W. Reagan
December 7, 1989 P.L. 101-205 103 Stat. 1829 H.R. 2134 George H.W. Bush

See also


  1. "Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 ~ P.L. 59-382" (PDF). 34 Stat. 669 ~ House Bill 18537. Legis★Works. June 30, 1906.
  2. David Greenberg. How Teddy Roosevelt Invented Spin: He used public opinion, the press, leaks to Congress, and Upton Sinclair to reform unconscionable industries, like the meatpackers., The Atlantic Monthly, 2016
  3. Powell, Jim. "Bully Boy" Crown Forum Publishing Group. 2006. p.166
  4. Gerhard Peters; John T. Woolley. "Theodore Roosevelt: "Special Message," June 4, 1906". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  5. Powell, Jim. "Bully Boy" Crown Forum Publishing Group. 2006. p.167
  6. 34 Stat. 674 (amended by Pub. L. No. 59-242, 34 Stat. 1260 (1967)) (codified at 21 U.S.C. §§ 601 et seq.).
  7. Pub. L. No. 59-384, 34 Stat. 768 (1906), (codified at 21 U.S.C. §§ 1-15) (1934) (repealed in 1938 by 21 U.S.C. § 392(a)).
  8. National Meat Association v. Harris. SCOTUSblog (2012-01-23). Retrieved on 2014-01-14.

Further reading

  • Coppin, Clayton and Jack High. The Politics of Purity: Harvey Washington Wiley and the Origins of Federal Food Policy (University of Michigan Press, 1999).
  • Goodwin, Lorine S. The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914 (McFarland, 1999).
  • Law, Marc. "History of Food and Drug Regulation in the United States". EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. 2004. online
  • Law, Marc T. "The Origins of State Pure Food Regulation." Journal of Economic History 63#4 (2003): 1103-1130.
  • Libecap, Gary D. "The rise of the Chicago packers and the origins of meat inspection and antitrust." Economic Inquiry 30.2 (1992): 242-262. Emphasizes the role of the big packers and passage of the law that protected them against unsanitary local packing houses.
  • Young, James H. Pure Food: Securing the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (Princeton University Press. 1986).
  • Young, James Harvey. "The Pig that Fell into the Privy: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and the meat inspection amendments of 1906." Bulletin of the History of Medicine Vol. 59, no.4 (Winter 1985): 467-80.
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