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British Food Journal Volume 1 Issue 9 1899

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 September 1899



In a previous article we have called attention to the danger of eating tinned and bottled vegetables which have been coloured by the addition of salts of copper and we have urged upon the public that no such preparations should be purchased without an adequate guarantee that they are free from copper compounds. Copper poisoning, however, is not the only danger to which consumers of preserved foods are liable. Judging from the reports of cases of irritant poisoning which appear with somewhat alarming frequency in the daily press, and from the information which we have been at pains to obtain, there can be no question that the occurrence of a large number of these cases is to be attributed to the ingestion of tinned foods which has been improperly prepared or kept. It is not to be supposed that the numerous cases of illness which have been ascribed to the use of tinned foods were all cases of metallic poisoning brought about by the action of the contents of the tins upon the metal and solder of the latter. The evidence available does not show that a majority of the cases could be put down to this cause alone; but it must be admitted that the evidence is in most instances of an unsatisfactory and inconclusive character. It has become a somewhat too common custom to put forward the view that so‐called “ptomaine” poisoning is the cause of the mischief; and this upon very insufficient evidence. While there is no doubt that the presence in tinned goods of some poisonous products of decomposition or organic change very frequently gives rise to dangerous illness, so little is known of the chemical nature and of the physiological effects of “ptomaines” that to obtain conclusive evidence is in all cases most difficult, and in many, if not in most, quite impossible. A study of the subject leads to the conclusion that both ptomaine poisoning and metallic poisoning—also of an obscure kind—have, either separately or in conjunction, produced the effects from time to time reported. In view of the many outbreaks of illness, and especially, of course, of the deaths which have been attributed to the eating of bad tinned foods it is of the utmost importance that some more stringent control than that which can be said to exist at present should be exercised over the preparation and sale of tinned goods. In Holland some two or three years ago, in consequence partly of the fact that, after eating tinned food, about seventy soldiers were attacked by severe illness at the Dutch manœuvres, the attention of the Government was drawn to the matter by Drs. VAN HAMEL ROOS and HARMENS, who advocated the use of enamel for coating tins. It appears that an enamel of special manufacture is now extensively used in Holland by the manfacturers of the better qualities of tinned food, and that the use of such enamelled tins is insisted upon for naval and military stores. This is a course which might with great advantage be followed in this country. While absolute safety may not be attainable, adequate steps should be taken to prevent the use of damaged, inferior or improper materials, to enforce cleanliness, and to ensure the adoption of some better system of canning.


(1899), "British Food Journal Volume 1 Issue 9 1899", British Food Journal, Vol. 1 No. 9, pp. 253-283.




Copyright © 1899, MCB UP Limited

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