Referring to the importance of the public health services in this country, Sir Kingsley Wood, M.P., in a recent speech observed that the result of the recent General Election afforded an unprecedented opportunity for the steady development during the next five years, and possibly ten, of the public health services of the country, not by means of stunts, but by science and statecraft. Prevention must be their great watchword. The great triumphs of public health were due in no small degree to the work of the general practitioner. To him came the great host of patients with what were called “trivial ailments,” which, in fact, did so much to incapacitate us as a nation. People little realised, for instance, what the “common cold” cost the State. One of the greatest needs in health matters of the immediate future was research. We were still in the dark as to the causes of measles, of influenza, of rheumatism, and of cancer. We had yet to learn the relationship of certain foods and particular diseases. The Health Ministry was concerned with the important question of pure food. We needed not only cheap food but clean food, which was vital to a healthy and vigorous race. There were two great objects to be achieved. We must continue to improve our food values. It was true that in 1920 out of nearly half a million deaths those of fourteen men and two women were directly attributed to “starvation.” but the evils of malnutrition could not be so narrowly limited. Clean and wholesome food was an effective weapon against disease and premature death. There was, it was gratifying to note, a considerable rise in the standard of national nutrition, and this had been an important and favourable factor in the decline of mortality from tuberculosis. But the consumer must more and more be safeguarded against contaminated, adulterated, and disease‐producing food. Civilisation had urbanised man, it had taken him away from his natural base—the soil—and thus from the prime source of his food supply. It brought him from lone distances, and while giving him a greater abundance it had robbed his food of much of its freshness and vitality. To‐day we often chose our food more by reading advertisements than in trusting to our natural tastes. We loved to see some of our vegetables very green, and accordingly they were canned and coloured for us. Dirty and dusty milk, and careless handling of meat and bread, “doctored” butter, and the boron preserved sausage, the boracised egg, the mixture of sugar, artificial flavouring, and benzoic acid, sometimes called ginger beer, were not the best illustrations of our advance in national health conditions. It was quite possible to imagine a reasonable meal which might contain 20 or even more grains of boric acid besides other preservatives. In these respects Great Britain was behind the standard of many other countries. There was a general movement in various parts of the civilised world in the direction of limiting and controlling the admixture of chemical preservatives and colouring matter with foodstuffs. He was glad to say that it had the support in this country of the great majority of the traders, who were equally anxious to see a pure food supply. The best firms and the shopkeepers of the country strongly desired it. Mr. Neville Chamberlain had the matter well in hand, and already certain regulations were being framed on the basis of the recommendation of an Expert Committee which had recently enquired into the whole subject. These regulations would first be published, in order that persons interested might, if they desired, submit recommendations to the Ministry. Certain of the recommendations of the Committee could not be effected without legislation, but it was proposed to undertake this as soon as pressure on Parliamentary time permitted. The Ministry hoped also to promote a measure consolidating the whole of the law relating to food. He desired to say, in conclusion, that while laws were necessary and regulations were desirable to a large extent, the vital matter of clean food rested with the nation itself. The public had recently been asked by the Ministry to refrain from the common practice of handling meat before purchasing. Fingering meat was, of course, a definitely unhealthy habit. Nobody desired unnecessary regulations, especially Britishers, and they did not want grandmotherly legislation: but in certain elementary matters in connection with our food we must break many old bad habits. Education had done much for improved health and temperance, and he did not doubt it would largely help to achieve the advanre which was so necessary and urgent in connection with attainment of a purer and cleaner food supply.
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