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NEW HAVEN – Ces étiquettes que l’on trouve sur l’emballage des produits alimentaires énonçant la liste de leurs ingrédients et de leurs valeurs nutritionnelles trouvent leur origine dans un scandale international et dans les efforts des gouvernements pour gérer de manière constructive l’indignation de l’opinion publique qui s’en est suivie.

Le scandale a éclaté avec la publication en 1906 du roman de Upton Sinclair The Jungle (La jungle, ndt), un bestseller relatant les expériences d’une famille d’immigrants Lithuaniens travaillant dans l’industrie américaine de la viande. La réponse de l’opinion publique aux descriptions des conditions d’insalubrité dans cette industrie fut si forte que le Congrès américain promulguât cette même année le Pure Food and Drug Act – la première loi à exiger que la liste des ingrédients soit apposée sur les étiquettes des emballages de produits alimentaires.

Selon le Manchester Guardian, « la peur de la jungle » s’était répandue en Grande Bretagne dès 1910 relancée par « des publications moins scrupuleuses [sic] de ce pays », avec des déclarations « diffamatoires » et « racoleuses » au sujet des industries agro-alimentaires. Ces allégations étaient peut-être vraies mais elles ont finalement permis la promulgation de meilleures lois sur l’étiquetage des aliments en Grande Bretagne aussi.

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