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British Food Journal Volume 35 Issue 12 1933

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 December 1933



At the invitation of Miss Olga Nethersole, founder and honorary organiser of the People's League of Health, a number of medical and science councillors and official members of the League met at luncheon at Claridge's Hotel, London, on October 18th, to welcome the members of the newly appointed Veterinary Council. The speeches which followed dealt with the campaign of the League for a safe milk supply, and the part which veterinary science, in conjunction with the other interested professions, might play in attaining the desired end.—Prof. T. J. Mackie, D.P.H., of the Department of Bacteriology, Edinburgh University, said that the formation of the new Veterinary Council was a significant event in the history of the League. It emphasised the absolute necessity of enlisting the co‐operation of the veterinary profession in the campaign for human health. If we were to guard our own health we must pay due respect to the health of our domestic animals, and particularly those from which we received our essential foods, such as milk. It was common knowledge to both the medical and the veterinary profession that our milk supplies, collectively speaking, were not safe, and that, in fact, they might carry a constant menace to the public health. Milk‐borne tuberculosis dominated the whole question of our milk supplies. It must be remembered, however, that tuberculosis was only one of the milk‐borne infections. There were others such as diphtheria, enteric fever, scarlet fever, and undulant fever. Yet there was distinct apathy, and sometimes antipathy, to the simple measures that would regulate this state of affairs. The League were to be congratulated on having performed a valuable public service in their critical survey of the question of bovine tuberculosis, and bringing out in fair relief the essential facts in regard to tuberculosis of animal origin in human beings. Some of the facts in the report could not be too often and strongly repeated. In England and Wales, for instance, it had been shown that every year the bovine type of tuberculosis bacillus caused at least 4,000 new cases of human tuberculosis and at least 2,000 deaths. And seven per cent. of the ordinary samples of vended milk contained this organism. He could speak feelingly, for in Scotland they had rather more than their share of tuberculosis of the bovine type in the human subject. When one reflected on all that had been done in various ways for the improvement of public health, it seemed almost incredible that food was being sold daily with a seven per cent. and sometimes a 14 per cent. chance of it containing a germ capable of producing a crippling or even fatal disease without any warning to the public. If tuberculosis were not an insidious disease, but an explosive epidemic, even if its incidence were not so high, these conditions would not have been tolerated so long as they had been. The veterinary profession recommended the eradication of disease from herds as the fundamental remedy. It was the fundamental remedy, but even the highest grade tubercle‐free milk might carry a very dangerous infection, and, in any case, he did not think the objects which the veterinary profession had at heart, and with which he sympathised, and compulsory or universal pasteurisation on the other hand, were mutually exclusive. He did not see that pasteurisation would set back the clock of progress against the eradication of tuberculosis in the herds. The problem was an urgent one. The eradication of the disease from dairy cattle must proceed slowly and against difficult obstacles, and they could not wait. It was estimated that, if the eradication of tuberculosis were continued at the present rate in this country, it would be 400 years before we reached the stage that had been reached in America. Even if it were expedited, it must remain a relatively slow process. He could not understand those individuals who were content to tolerate the continuance of bovine tuberculosis in the human being in the hope that some day a raw tubercle‐free milk might be universal. Our agricultural and public health organisations were doing the people an injustice in their tacit sanction of the ordinary raw market milk. If they were not prepared to countenance compulsory pasteurisation, at least in the large communities, the only alternative was an official designation of that milk, which would make it clear to the public that it was not free from potential danger. He sometimes wondered what would be the effect of such an official designation if there were displayed in the retail milk shops an official notice stating to the public that such milk was not free from diseases dangerous to human subjects, and that they were warned not to use it without previous sterilisation. He was sure that if that were done the problem would very soon solve itself. Some Local Authorities were pressing hard for powers of compulsory pasteurisation. He thought the League might very well carry on the campaign by educating public opinion and influencing Parliament to that end. If the Government Departments were not willing to move in the matter and take action, then the public must be informed in the clearest possible terms what the position was. The League, in tackling the milk problem by its own methods, had a magnificent opportunity of making a great contribution to the important cause for which it stood.—Professor J. Basil Buxton, of the Institute of Animal Pathology at Cambridge University, said that pasteurisation could not by any means dispense with the necessity for clean milk. They must produce clean milk, however much or however little they might cook it or otherwise treat it afterwards.—Professor Gaiger, President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said that they had an enormous job in front of them if they were going to make our milk free from the germ of bovine tuberculosis.—Sir Leonard Hill said that if we could get the people on the right diet we should enormously diminish the amount of disease. Of all the foods milk was one of the most important, and we ought to make the supply safe. Pasteurisation should be made compulsory at once.—Major D. S. Rabagliati, Chief Veterinary Inspector to the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire, told the gathering of the important work carried out by his Local Authority, who were the pioneers in the veterinary inspection of cows. He maintained that even if there were compulsory pasteurisation that was no reason why they should not have a clean supply of milk.


(1933), "British Food Journal Volume 35 Issue 12 1933", British Food Journal, Vol. 35 No. 12, pp. 111-120.




Copyright © 1933, MCB UP Limited

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