It’s 1959 and Ruth Desmond, the gurney-climbing, cook-from-scratch co-founder of the Federation of Homemakers was prowling the halls of the FDA, about to earn her “peanut butter grandma” namesake. She stumbled upon this unassuming, but ultimately history-changing memo. It was four little paragraphs, a proposal to regulate one of the most popular foods in the country.
The government was trying to answer an existential question: how many additives can you put into a jar of peanut butter before it’s not peanut butter anymore? Trying to answer it kicked off a years-long battle that upended the, uh, peanut butter industrial complex. And honestly? Battles like this are how a lot of regulations get made in this country.