|From the New York City’s Jewish Daily News, July 12, 1926.|
“Zeit Gezunt!” says the headline. “Be Healthy!”
This quarter-page ad for the “Natural Health Food Store” comes from the July 1926 Jewish Daily News, a favorite among Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants on New York’s crowded lower East Side back then, almost 90 years ago. But the ad could have come from any health food store, then or now. People have always wanted to eat well, eat healthy, eat smart. But back then, long before claims were checked by any government agency like the US Food and Drug Administration, the chance of being fooled by smooth-talking nonsense was much greater.
“Eat Natually Healthy Food!” this ad says — using phonetic Hebrew letters to spell out English words like “naturally” or “specialty” or “rhumitism,” words with no Yiddish equivalent that immigrants barely understood. Still, they sounded wonderful, just like the handsome, bare-chested young man in the drawing and the gorgeous-looking plate of grapes, bananas, pears and apples in his hand.
For just $3, the Natural Health Food Store offered you a wonderful meal that, among other things, would cure diabetes, stomach flu, kidney disease, and over-eating. How did you know? Because they said so. And perhaps hopefully because nobody who ate there got sick before walking out.
People today may complain that government regulators sometimes are too strict or intrusive in demanding honest disclosures about what we eat. Sometimes too much information causes confusion or can be misleading, or there are honest diisagreements about the underlying science. But don’t forget the big picture. Given the choice, I’d still rather have an FDA and all the other government watchdogs, with all their faults, then none at all.
But that’s just me. (And a well-earned thanks to my colleague Dick Siegel of OFWLAW for his help in deciphering the Yiddish.)