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British Food Journal Volume 43 Issue 5 1941

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 May 1941


I think that psychologically it is most important that, as long as possible, every effort should be made to maintain the supply of foods enabling dishes of an attractive character to be produced. The morale of the big cities must be maintained, and as a large proportion of the population in these cities takes at least one meal a day in a public eating‐place, and, moreover, as the housewife relies on the pastrycook for an ever increasing proportion of her non‐basic foods, not to mention the basic foods themselves, every effort must be made to maintain producers of foods in such a position that they are able to supply cakes, confectionery, biscuits and so on. And in suggesting this I am being a realist; I have experienced the depression of the “ Berliner ” when it became impossible for this kind of food to be bought except by the very rich or the very powerful. It is, in fact, not sufficient to provide the necessary calories, the necessary vitamins, the necessary “trace” elements, as the Americans have called them; the method of presentation must be studied, for this is of vital importance in the maintenance of good health. From the scientific point of view it is deplorable that six months had to pass before the Ministry of Food appointed a scientific adviser. Dr. Drummond's influence in that capacity should help to straighten out some of the muddles into which the Ministry have apparently been led. It is obvious that our vaunted preparedness did not extend to the realm of food. One important point must be borne in mind, namely, that although the Ministry did not appoint a scientific adviser until February, 1940, they had at their disposal the experts of the Food Investigation Board and of those research associations in food science which I have already mentioned. Possibly, therefore, the Ministry would consider that it was sufficiently well served, and that these bodies would have been able to produce the briefs on which the Minister could plead. But the Food Investigation Board—and I am speaking as an exmember of that body—is essentially equipped for long‐distance research work, and not for the solution of problems of immediate importance. No one has greater respect for the work of fundamental importance which the staff of the Food Investigation Board have produced than I, but except for practical problems concerned with a limited number of food products—beef tendering, bacon curing, fruit preservation—they are not in direct touch with practice. It has been a very sound policy to restrict the activities of their staffs to the solution of problems of fundamental nature, the results of which, when published, would be applied to practical problems by the chemists attached to foods producing firms. I cannot pass from this section without comment on the very admirable statement of certain aspects of the work of the Research Associations clearly expressed by the Director of the Research Associations of British Flour Millers, Dr. Moran, in the journal Milling recently. He gives in a few clear sentences his understanding of the functions of a research association. His words are: “The research association has four clear functions: (1) as a sentinel of progress and development not only in this country but throughout the world; (2) to carry out continuously research which the individual miller—certainly the small miller—could not undertake; (3) to deal with the day‐to‐day problems of members; (4) generally to improve the efficiency of the industry and the quality of its products by the greater application of scientific methods.” The degree to which these functions are realised by any association is an excellent yardstick by which to measure its success. The milling industry of the country is to be congratulated that the director of their research association has such definite ideas, and the country as a whole is to be congratulated that the council of at least one research association in food is sufficiently alive to the importance of their duties to allow such statements as I have quoted to be published. It certainly stimulates interest and confirms the faith which should be placed in science as applied to a basic industry. The food manufacturer has, naturally, been rationed in respect of raw materials, as have been the members of the public. Fats, sugar and meat have been available in decreased quantities, but with the advent of rationing a distinct lessening of wastage of food follows and no real difficulties of shortage have become apparent. The attention of chemists has however, been directed to “ alternatives.” I object to the word “ substitute,” because in the minds of the majority this suggests something inferior. In many cases the alternative is to use something more expensive, something which under normal conditions would not be used. For example, at the moment glucose, more expensive than cane sugar, has taken the place of a portion of the usual sugar; lactose, the sugar of milk, is being used although it costs about twice as much as cane sugar and has a sweetening power far below that of the usual sugar. But sugars are not only used for sweetening, as so many people seem to think. Their presence in a cake or other bakery product has a most important chemical or physicochemical action on the gelatinisation of the starch of the flour, and an adequate amount of sugar is therefore essential if the character of the product is not to be impaired. The use of alternatives is not to be confused with sophistication; the replacement of non‐available constituents must be differentiated from the dressing‐up of one thing to make it look like another. The artificial colouring of a cake with a brown colour and the description of the resultant product as a chocolate cake, is to be condemned, although such a cake may be as nutritious as the cake to which chocolate powder had been added. The caffeine of coffee and tea is of importance in giving a slight feeling of stimulation to the tired worker, and therefore roasted cereals, as supplied in Germany during the last war, and again to‐day, cannot be considered alternatives for coffee, neither can mixture of fruit leaves take the place of tea. It is to the scientist that Germany owes the development of her substitute and alternative foods. These substitutes and alternatives are far better than those Germany had in 1914–18, because very early on she enlisted her chemists, or rather those who had not been expelled, into the service of her Four Year Food Plan. Chemical research in the totalitarian states is in practice Government‐controlled—in practice only because in theory there has been no bar to private investigation—but the Four Year Plan in Germany as applied to food entailed the direction of food investigations by State officials and although not so obvious in Italy, the same thing obtained there for a number of years. The natural outcome is control of food production. An interesting example is to be found in the tomato‐growing districts in Italy. Through the research station at Parma the farmers and the factories dealing with tomatoes are definitely directed. The former are told what seed to plant, how much, how to till their land, how to manure it, when to gather their crops, how much to gather, the quantity to pack as fresh fruit, the quantity to send to the factories to be made into purée.


(1941), "British Food Journal Volume 43 Issue 5 1941", British Food Journal, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 41-50.




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