The 50th anniversary of a law requiring that drugs be tested for safety before they are sold to the public is prompting the Food and Drug Administration to begin a yearlong campaign Saturday to increase the public's awareness of their efforts on drug safety.

Like other major changes in the agency, the landmark Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was propelled through Congress after a five-year stalemate by a disaster - the death of 107 people, mostly children, who took an untested, poisonous potion called Elixir of Sulfanilamide.

The act was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on June 25, 1938.

In 1962, a strict FDA medical officer, Dr. Frances O. Kelsey, kept the drug thalidomide off the American market, preventing a public health disaster like that in Europe where thousands of deformed babies were born to women who took the sleeping pill.