In the House of Lords on the 13th November last the Earl of MEATH asked whether it was a fact, as stated in the public Press, that the leaflet of the Board of Agriculture recommending the use of glucose, salicylic acid, and a coal‐tar product known as saccharin, or saxin, as sugar substitutes in jam had been condemned by the Kensington Public Health Committee on the ground of possible danger to health, and whether the Public Analyst told the Committee that glucose was liable to contamination with arsenic, that salicylic acid was a dangerous drug, which should only be administered under medical direction, and that the use of saccharin, except under medical supervision, had been recently prohibited in America, and was entirely prohibited in France in certain commodities, including preserves; and if the facts were as stated, what steps the Government proposed to take to warn the public against the use of these drugs in the preservation of food. The Duke of MARLBOROUGH, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, is reported to have replied that the opinion of expert chemists had been taken on the matters raised in the question. They had reported “that glucose had long been used in the manufacture of jam and for other food purposes, that its value as a food was well recognised, that its manufacture in this country was in the hands of a few firms, and that samples were systematically tested for arsenic at Government Laboratories.” Continuing, his Grace observed that “samples of foreign glucose were also taken for examination on importation. In no case did the arsenic exceed one‐hundredth of a grain per pound of glucose, the point below which the Royal Commission on Arsenical Poisoning had reported that no action should be taken under the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts. Manufacturers exercised great care to secure freedom from arsenic. Further, the Board of Agriculture had suggested that, as glucose was sold for human food, it came within the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, and was subject to public analytical examination. The public was therefore doubly safeguarded. The leaflet did not refer to the use of salicylic acid in jam making, but to its use for sterilising the paper covers on the pots. The Committee of the Local Government Board which was appointed in 1899 to inquire into the use of preservatives in food had placed a limit of one grain of the acid per pound in the case of solids and of one grain per pint in the case of liquids. The amount used for the paper covers of jam pots was not nearly one grain per pound of jam. The use of coal tar for sweetening was not advocated, and was not referred to in the leaflet. It had, however, been suggested that saccharin or saxin could be used in place of cane sugar where cane sugar was not obtainable. Saccharin underwent no change in and was not absorbed by the body. The Department had no precise knowledge of the reasons which had led to the alleged prohibition of the use of saccharin in America and France. It would appear, however, that the prohibition if it existed, was due to fiscal reasons.” After the delivery of this statement the Earl of MEATH is reported to have said it would relieve a great many minds to hear that in the opinion of eminent chemists there was no danger in using the substances in question. He hoped the public would no longer be afraid to use them.
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