Early Accomplishments of the Agency
The newly-created Department of Consumer Protection was built in 1959 upon the foundation of the former Food and Drug Commission. Its administration was formed by Commissioner Attilio Frassinelli and Deputy Commissioner Francis Gersz, who had previously served as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, respectively, of the predecessor agency.
The Department's first annual report included 37 full-time employees and a recurring operating budget of $204,528. By all accounts, there was more than enough to be done. A national cranberry scare just before Thanksgiving required food inspectors to sample all brands for the presence of a dangerous herbicide. False advertisements for weight reducing preparations included one which looked like a lipstick. The claim was that the product, when rubbed into the nose, would reduce the appetite.
In 1962, the Uniform Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was broadened to include additives, colorings and pesticides. The Department enforced those new provisions and simultaneously began licensing itinerant vendors, targeting false and misleading advertising, and implementing the Humane Slaughter Act. Food inspectors began overseeing the sanitary operation of frozen dessert units, checking hamburger for sulfites and remaining on 24-hour call in case of food truck accidents.
When the drug thalidomide was found to be the cause of thousands of birth defects in Europe, state inspectors moved quickly to embargo samples of the drug in the state. Warnings also went out about two new drug problems: sniffing model airplane glue and eating morning glory seeds, both of which would cause hallucinations. A water repellent, X-23, caused some alarm; it was found to explode at the smallest spark. Agents seized 1,764 gallons of the hazardous product and turned it over to the Food and Drug Administration.
The post-war baby boom affected consumers in a big way. More people created demand for more products. A single family home with a television, swimming pool and two cars in the garage was the emerging American dream, and entire industries grew from that aspiration. With a growing trend toward commercialism, it fell to the Department of Consumer Protection to see that the marketplace remained hazard-free, honest and fair.
A Connecticut automobile dealer in 1964 advertised a used car for "1,395 bananas." One deter-mined woman took him at his word and demanded the deal as offered. When the dealer refused, she complained to the Department, and eventually got her car. The dealer got the bananas, which were later donated to charity. Around the same time, consumers complained to the Department that a certain Connecticut butcher was short-weighting his meats. The store's scale was checked and found to be accurate. But when the Deputy Commissioner paid a visit to the butcher’s shop, he noticed the man always leaned over the scale when weighing meat before a sale. Eventually, a 6-ounce lead fishing weight that the butcher had hidden in his necktie was discovered to be "tipping the scales" in his favor. Recognizing a local need, in 1965 the Department launched a Frauds Division to address marketplace trickery and protect buyers from unfair business practices.
As suburban living grew in scope and popularity, neighborhoods were abuzz with door to-door salespersons pitching everything from encyclopedias and brushes to vacuum cleaners and beauty products.
Connecticut worked to protect consumers from being swept away by in-home sales pitches. In 1967, a Home Solicitation Sales Act was passed to give consumers the right to cancel contracts signed in their home (with some exceptions) within the first 72 hours of signing.
Several food issues required swift attention and action, including beverages found with undeclared preservatives and sweeteners, "butter pretzels" with no butter, pistachio nuts with undeclared artificial color and 72,000 cans of evaporated milk that were fire-damaged and had to be removed from sale.
The General Assembly authorized the Department to study the adequacy of the state’s meat inspection laws in light of a new federal Meat Inspection Act in 1967. The following year, a brand new Weights and Measures Laboratory made Connecticut one of only ten states to have a full-spectrum measurement center capable of serving the state’s government, commerce and industry, along with its educational and research institutions. The Department was able to perform tests and calibrations for Connecticut’s flourishing manufacturing sector, lending vital support to the nation’s economy, and its defense and space programs.
In 1969, the agency started implementing a new law requiring consumer education in economics, financing, family budgeting and deceptive trade practices. Staff made more than 200 public education appearances and brought an informational display to the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts for the first time. The Drug Division embargoed a device being promoted to customers as a means of stimulating circulation and putting more oxygen in their blood, while Weights and Measures began enforcing the new Fair Packaging law. A new Teletype-alert network provided two-way, immediate communication between the agency’s food and drug staff and federal and out-of-state organizations. Last but not least, Connecticut passed a law banning lead paint in homes, in direct response to a growing awareness of lead paint poisoning, an illness affecting numbers of children who lived in homes with lead paint.