The Report of the Food Investigation Board (the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research) for the year 1934 is, as were its predecessors, a document of first‐rate interest and importance. The Board was established in 1917, and under its terms of reference it has “ to submit an annual programme of research and an annual report.” The revised terms of reference clearly indicate the wide interests, both scientific and industrial, with which the Board is concerned. Its duties are “ to advise generally on the conduct of research on the properties and behaviour of foodstuffs on the scientific problems, including physical and engineering problems, involved in their storage and transport.” The duties of the Board are obviously as far reaching as they could well be. By no means the least interesting feature of these reports taken as a whole is the close connection they show to exist between the laboratory and the market place. This fact alone—which emerges quite naturally as the work which has been done, or is being done, or that which it is proposed to do, is described — gives to these reports a claim on public interest which is almost unique in the annals of Government publications. The people of this country are, whether they generally realise it or not, more affected in their daily life by problems connected with the transport and preservation of foodstuffs than those of any other country. We are far from being self‐supporting. Half the meat we eat comes from overseas. Argentina supplies us with a very large proportion of our chilled beef. Australia and New Zealand have plenty of cattle that would furnish us with good beef, but the difficulty has been to ship it in a chilled as distinct from a frozen state to these shores, On the 18th July, 1933, a first consignment of chilled beef from New Zealand reached the London market. This beef had been stowed on board in an atmosphere containing 10 per cent. of carbon dioxide. It arrived in good condition. This preliminary consignment of chilled beef from the antipodes is very rightly referred to by the Board as “ an event which may well prove historic.” In 1934 four thousand four hundred tons of meat in gas (CO2) storage were sent from Australia and from New Zealand to this country. Thus a new and important chapter in Imperial economic relations has been opened, not inferior in importance to the original introduction of cold transport and of cold storage some fifty years ago. “ Given careful handling the use of gas storage eliminates mould and bacterial slime.” Slime is a thick growth of organisms of the Achromobacter group. It appears more quickly on meat which has a high initial bacterial count at the time of shipment, and the truth of this statement is borne out by the figures given in the Report. Achromobacter growth is inhibited at 0° C in the presence of carbon dioxide ; while Proteus and aerobacter are not thus inhibited, but their optima is 37° C. So that a low temperature and at atmosphere containing 10 per cent. of carbon dioxide suffices to eliminate these troublesome groups of micro organisms from meat during transport. The term “ careful handling ” may perhaps be extended to include good sanitary conditions in the slaughter houses. The Report for 1932 dwells on the need for a plentiful supply of hot water. The older method somewhat neglected this essential, and one bucket of water sufficed for several carcases. A bacterial count of the bacterial content of water which had been used for this purpose showed that with an insufficient supply of water the number of organisms per cubic centimetre varied from two to twenty‐five millions, with five thousand B. coli per ten cubic centimetres. With an abundant supply of water the corresponding figures were fifteen thousand and five ! As the life of meat in store depends on its freedom from bacteria the need for extreme cleanliness in the treatment of meat before it leaves the slaughter house need not be insisted on. The matter has of course received adequate attention in Australia and in New Zealand where beef is being prepared for shipment under the new conditions. Other problems still remain to be considered such as the best methods of stowage to prevent chafing ; degree of humidity in the hold during transport ; air circulation to ensure uniformity in the atmosphere of the hold ; and the maintenance of the correct temperature. If these conditions are complied with the “ bloom,” that is, the natural appearance of the meat, is retained. Otherwise the oxidation of hæmoglobin to methæmoglobin ensues and the “ bloom ” of the meat is lost. “ Bloom,” it is stated, does not affect the nutritive value of the meat, but the absence of “ bloom ” would presumably affect the price of the meat on the wholesale market as it ceases to be a factor when the meat has been cut up into joints. The successful transport of a cargo of chilled beef from Australia and New Zealand therefore depends on its being landed not only in a wholesome condition, but also in a condition that will enable it to compete on at least equal terms with its foreign competitors. This evidently implies the close and effective co‐operation of everybody concerned from the stockbreeder in Australia or in New Zealand to the retailer in London.
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