The Poison Squad


What's all this then?

The Dupes workshopped The Poison Squad at the Off-Center in November of 2012. The show premiered at  Fusebox Festival in April 2013.

So what's it all about?

In 1903 Harvey Wiley, a chemist with the Department of Agriculture, was convinced that the preservatives and dyes added to foods were dangerous. But he needed proof. So Wiley designed a research experiment that would expose healthy adults to high levels of the very chemicals and dyes he was seeking to eliminate from the American diet. He enlisted young men to eat in the basement of the Department of Agriculture- outfitting his makeshift dining room with white tablecloths, waiters and a chef. The men would order, and then chemicals were added to the food. Wiley would observe the men and make notes describing the effects of each meal on his volunteers. One reads: "No. 5 was nauseated and sick during the night of February 1 and vomited all of his dinner. He did not eat breakfast on February 2." Wiley's experiment attracted the attention of the press, who dubbed his team of young volunteers the “Poison Squad." Although some volunteers experienced lasting harm to their health due to the experiments, the notoriety of the Poison Squad furthered Wiley’s cause and was instrumental in helping pass the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

Launching from the story of Dr. Harvey Wiley’s participants and presenting as a vibrant visual gesture, “The Poison Squad” will be an intersection of food, community and public policy.