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What’s Cooking Wednesday–Exploding Ketchup!

Contaminated Ketchup, 1909 (ARC 5710028)

These records are featured in our new “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit which opens this Friday! To celebrate the opening, the Foundation for the National Archives is giving away a free copy of the exhibit catalog. Leave a comment below telling us what food you like to put ketchup on, and the Foundation will randomly choose a winner next Wednesday!

Long before the 1981 congressional debate over whether ketchup was a vegetable or before my grandfather was using it to help make his WWII military rations palatable, ketchup was dangerous.

Ketchup could explode.

Early ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. These fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers, so benzoate of soda was added a preservative.

However, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, meant that ketchup—and its rotting, explosive tomato ingredients—was now regulated. In the image above 1909, the company making “Squire Tomato Catsup” was prosecuted and fined $50 for making ketchup from “Decomposed Material.”

In another case (image below), “Elk Pride Tomato Catsup” was found to have yeasts, bacteria, and mold filaments in samples of its products when tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The shipment was condemned for destruction when it was found to be “adulturated in violation of the Food and Drugs Act . . . because it consisted in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed vegetable substance.”

Benzoate of soda is no longer added to ketchup. Henry Heinz created a clean factory where he was able to make ketchup with ripe tomatoes instead of fermenting (and explosive) tomatoes, eliminating the need for benzoate of sod.

Contaminated Ketchup (ARC 5710028)


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Comment from Lil
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I’m on a low-salt diet, so I have to steer clear of
Ketchup, darn.

Comment from Eric
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm

My son has a shirt that says, “I put ketchup on my ketchup!”

Ketchup with macaroni and cheese is delicious!

Comment from Francoise Laskar
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

In fact I must be a real European, I never use ketchup ! but my kids love it on almost everything and over all on grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
As a foodstylist I would love to attend your exhibition! Unfortunately Washington is too far from Brussels,Belgium!

Comment from Ardis E. Parshall
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Fried potatoes and onions, baby!

Comment from Jennidy
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Interesting! I found a recipe for ketchup from a 1860’s diary and tried making it with last year’s bounty of tomatoes. It was pretty awful to begin, but got better with time.
I like (modern) ketchup on hash browns.

Comment from Michelle
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Pringles Potato Chips!

Comment from Peggy Ann Brown
Time June 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Ketchup on anything with burger — burgers (natch), meatloaf, meat balls, etc. Looking forward to the exhibit AND America Eats Tavern!

Comment from Terri
Time June 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I don’t use a lot of ketchup, but when I do, I put it on my scrambled eggs.

Comment from Bryan Gibb
Time June 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

At Wendy’s I like to dip one end of a fry in ketchup and the other end in my frosty – its dinner and dessert in one!

Comment from Tara McLoughlin
Time June 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I usually put ketchup on things that are good for me, but taste bad if they are unadorned (like broccoli or brussels sprouts).

Comment from John Whittemore
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Ketchup on burgers and hotdogs, and just the right amount for my turkey meatloaf recipe.

Comment from Kevin Fitzpatrick
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Ketchup, it’s what’s for dinner… it simply goes well on anything!

Comment from Alisa Cunningham
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

i like ketchup on my fish sticks and on
meatloaf :)

Comment from Steve Glazner
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Even though I now love mustard and relish toppings for hot dogs, when I was a kid it was ketchup all the way. Also on burgers and meatloaf.

Comment from rachel
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

A favorite from childhood: fish sticks dipped in ketchup!

Comment from Patty Campanelli
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I dip grilled cheese in ketchup!

Comment from Susanna Gardner
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I do enjoy it on a juicy burger

Comment from Shawna Landers
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

My family uses ketchup on everything but my favorite is chicken!! YUMMY!

Comment from Natalia
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Pizza and ketchup!!!

Comment from Laura Meyer
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

will only buy Heinz…ketchup is a must on scrambled eggs and navy bean soup

Comment from Laura Greathouse
Time June 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I love to put ketchup on meatloaf.

Comment from Emily
Time June 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Ketchup + Emily = Love Forever. I eat french fries just so I can have an excuse for the ketchup!

Comment from Adrienne
Time June 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I’m was raised in Chicago, a no-ketchup hot dog city. I learned to eschew ketchup on everything as a result. My burger? Mayo, maybe even a little mustard, please!

Comment from Curtis Long
Time June 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I have never liked tartar sauce, so I always use ketchup on my fried fish. Grosses my wife and daughter out!!! Love it!!

Comment from Siobhan Dugan
Time June 8, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Hotdogs! French fries!

Comment from Jeremy!
Time June 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Sometimes I enjoy apple pie with some good ketchup! Even better is banana ketchup.

Comment from Natalie
Time June 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Hot dogs, burgers, meatloaf, and the occasional french fry… I’m a traditionalist!

Comment from L. Kinne
Time June 8, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Ketchup goes best with good old (American) french fries!!!

Comment from crystal
Time June 9, 2011 at 7:34 am

I use it to make sloppy Joe sauce from scratch or on French fries w/pepper mixed in.

Comment from Andrew
Time June 9, 2011 at 9:22 am

I love to put cold ketchup on scrambled eggs right after they come out of the hot pan.

Comment from Gloria
Time June 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Ketchup can be very dangerous – for my diet, the carpet stains, the dribble down the chin onto the shirt – But what’s a good all-American hamburger and fries without a little danger??

Comment from Andrea
Time June 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Fried baloney and cheese sandwiches. Yummy!

Comment from Danielle
Time June 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Ketchup on grilled burgers, grilled hot dogs, grilled sausages… maybe anything off the grill?!

Comment from Emily
Time June 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Ketchup is actually good on baked macaroni and cheese, only baked though!

Comment from Alexis Hill
Time June 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm

I like to put ketchup on burgers and fries.