1921 Hebe Advertisement

Advertisement for Hebe
Source: The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (Revised Edition, 1921)

Hebe sounds wonderful in the advertisement, but it actually was very controversial. Hebe was similar to evaporated milk – but was a mixture of skim evaporated milk and coconut fat. It was less expensive than regular evaporated milk. Hebe was a “filled milk” which means that the milk was reconstituted with fats other than dairy fats.

A hundred years ago Hebe was seen as a threat to the dairy industry. According to MySA:

Congress passed a law in 1923 (H.R. 8086 or 67 P.L. 513) banning its shipment: “It is hereby declared that filled milk, as herein defined, is an adulterated article of food, injurious to the public health, and its sale constitutes a fraud upon the public. It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture within any Territory or possession, or within the District of Columbia, or to ship or deliver for shipment in interstate or foreign commerce, any filled milk.”  Infant formula — under certain rules — was allowed.

Any violation of the law was punishable by “a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both…”.

And that was the end of Hebe.


15 thoughts on “1921 Hebe Advertisement

  1. I sure find this interesting! Coconut fat, which I think is the same as coconut oil( might be wrong though) 😀 coconut oil is consider very good for you. I’m not sure if I agree on Hebe being good in Mashed potatoes,or dressings if it had a coconut taste. It is wonderful to use coconut oil in cake.😋

  2. Back then at least if they being the operative word wasn’t sure then it didn’t happen not so today when palms are greased..ever the cynic I am …Although nowadays if people want to know what they are eating…its easy if they took the time to do some research… the internet is a wonderful tool

  3. So interesting! And if it were available today I would surely try it. I love coconut in any form….in fact I just had coconut oil as a butter substitute at breakfast.

  4. This is fascinating, Sheryl. Today seems like a good research day now! Seriously, I think it shows the same thing as now: if the dairy industry felt ‘threatened’ someone lobbied congress to ban it.

  5. I suppose the adulteration of milk with chalk at the turn of the century was part of the bigger picture… I bet HEBE is now available as a different brand.

  6. When I was in college (long after Hebe) there was “something” in the dairy case in the supermarket called “Imitation Milk,” and I think it had coconut in it, thought it might have had some dairy ingredients, too… I am embarrassed to say that I used to buy it!! Because it was cheaper than real milk, and good enough to put on cereal. This was way before the emergence of healthier non-dairy “milks.”

  7. I looked up the congressional hearings from 1921 prior to the passing of the 1923 law. It was most fascinating to read the conversations. If anyone has watched any recent congressional hearings, nothing much has changed. They brought in expert witnesses who could testify about issues on both sides, but as far as I could tell from the one I read, they ignored the evidence and did what they wanted to. And now today, coconut full fat milk is used in all kinds of substitutions and cookery.

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