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British Food Journal Volume 22 Issue 11 1920

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 November 1920



In his report for the year 1919, Dr. WILLIAM J. HOWARTH, C.B.E., Medical Officer of Health for the City of London, makes some very important observations in regard to the conveyance and handling of meat. He points out that a considerable responsibility rests upon the Sanitary Committee to ensure that the food passing through the City is of a satisfactory character, and the following matters are of interest. Meat is purchased at Smithfield by butchers from all parts of Greater London, and even from districts outside. It is removed from the market either in the purchaser's own carts, or in vans belonging to the numerous carriers who attend the market. From the stalls in the market it is carried to the waiting carts either by the purchasers or by market porters. The meat is either conveyed in trucks which are provided or on the backs and shoulders of these persons. The number of carts in waiting to receive meat is so considerable that during the busier hours they form practically a continuous barricade round the market. The rear parts of the carts are brought up to the edge of the causeway. These vans and carts carry a considerable amount of meat, in the form of quarters or cuts of larger or smaller size and offal. The division of the meat facilitates increased loading. It often happens that the supply arrives at the carts more quickly than it can be packed, and, as a consequence, it is allowed to stand about on the trucks for a longer time than is desirable. During this waiting period the meat is sometimes deposited on the footway. It should be noted that the sectioning of meat results in large areas of muscular tissues being exposed, and as the cut surface is moist, dust readily settles on it with the resulting disadvantages which are common to dust deposition; dust is excessive in dry weather as the streets in the loading‐up areas are fouled by the large number of horses which stand about. As regards the pavement, I need only mention that there is considerable fouling of the surface by blood and particles of fat, etc., which are trodden into a hard layer mixed with street refuse. The further risk of contamination by animals is obvious. Dr. HOWARTH further observes, I have had occasion officially to complain of one more than usually gross instance of piling meat on the ground. In this case the meat was separated from the wet ground by a layer of coarse sacking, the edge of the cover being also practically flush with the sides of the pile. The surroundings were foul. As regards the carts, the general practice is to cover the bottom of the cart with straw. In other cases a kind of sacking is used with or without an under layer of straw, and in exceptional cases white calico or some similar matter is used. Some of the carts do not come to the market in a thoroughly clean condition. They are certainly washed at times but not every day. The straw may be clean but it is not a suitable material on which to place the cut sections of meat. The cloths I have seen used day by day, being washed, in some cases, not oftener than once a week. Blood‐stained cloths should be washed before being used again. White cloths are more desirable, as staining and dirt readily show and this results in greater care being displayed. The procedure during packing is open to criticism. I have often seen, even on wet days, men, whose boots were soiled with road dirt, get into the cart to fill the front part. In doing so they soil the straw or cloth at the rear and on this soiled part meat is afterwards laid. If a white cover were used this would probably be rolled up at the back, whilst the front was being packed, and it would be straightened out as the packing progressed. I have seen a dog in a cart in which uncovered joints of meat were lying, and the dog would have been driven away in the cart if I had not objected. My protest in this and other cases was received badly. This is simply mentioned as an instance of disregard of an obvious precautionary essential. I have seen men stretching over uncovered meat to reach the front of the cart, and in exceptional cases have seen them with their feet on it. I have also noticed, at times, meat soiled with roadway dirt. As regards the transfer of meat from the stalls to the cart, I take exception to the infrequency of change of overalls by the porters, and to meat being carried on a man's head when he is wearing a cap which has done duty for weeks without being washed. Meat is not allowed to be placed on the floor of the stalls inside the market, and practically every trader has slightly raised wooden benches. There are no such facilities outside the market, nor are there any powers to require them to be provided. It seems strange that whilst in the slaughterhouses due regard must be paid to the observance of cleanliness, and in the markets the traders recognise the advantage of cleanliness and order, and further that butchers at their shops encourage brightness and cleanliness as is evidenced by good lighting, clean benches bright brass and steel fittings, and clean‐looking tiles to line the shop, so little regard should be paid to the elementary rules of cleanliness in the interval which elapses between purchase from the wholesale dealer and the reception of the meat at the shop.


(1920), "British Food Journal Volume 22 Issue 11 1920", British Food Journal, Vol. 22 No. 11, pp. 101-110.




Copyright © 1920, MCB UP Limited

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