Regulations which have for their object the correct labelling of pre‐packed foodstuffs have been drawn up and issued by the Ministry of Food from time to time as the need for such regulations became evident. Every manufacturer of such foods has without doubt made himself acquainted with these regulations, as well as those whose duty it may become to investigate the nature, substance and quality of any sample of such foodstuffs as may be submitted to him. In spite of this a few general observations may, we think, be of interest to readers. The Ministry of Food was not established primarily either for purposes of historical research or record. Its purposes are more immediate and practical, still the future student of social conditions of these times may in cursorily perusing these regulations and in the assumed absence of other evidence wonder how we managed to survive in health and pocket. However, a “little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” The misdeeds of the few tend to bring discredit on the many. The regulations have been drawn as much to help the honest manufacturer faced with illegal competition as to discomfort those who by wilful misdescription have endeavoured to raise the practice of adulteration and misdescription of food‐stuffs to the status of a fine art for their own benefit. Conditions created by the war and its after effects are still acutely felt, and are likely to be for a long time to come, in the form of scarcity of many ordinary food‐stuffs and enhanced prices for all. In addition to this, but not exclusively due to the after‐effects of war, increasingly large quantities of pre‐packed and in some cases highly processed foods have been put on the home market. Pre‐packed food is officially described as food made up in advance ready for retail sale in a wrapper or container. The weight or measure must be correct under penalty. Obviously over the counter sales under these conditions demand at least that the legend on the packet label shall be a true statement of its contents. The printing on the labels must also be legible and conspicuous. But, after all, these give little protection to the purchaser, who, by the nature of such a transaction, cannot examine the contents of the packet on the spot. Records of legal action taken under the Food and Drugs Act for the exposure for sale of foods which analytical examination has shown to be of questionable quality are of everyday occurrence, and such foods must in many cases, when sold in packet form, have been misdescribed or incorrectly labelled. These, however, call for no particular notice here. Attention may be recalled to a statement in the main order, No. 1447, 1944, that forbids claims of a general nature as to vitamin or mineral content of a food being made on wrapper, container, or unattached label except for certain vitamins and for calcium, iodine, iron, and phosphorus enumerated in Schedule 1 and 2. No claim shall be made for these either on label or by advertisement unless the amount of these in milligrams per oz. or fluid oz. be stated. It is certain that if many of the articles whose questionable nature has made them the subject of prosecutions under the Food and Drugs Act had been correctly labelled no one in his senses would have thought of buying them. It is, unfortunately, no less certain that a prosecution also suggests successful sale in possibly hundreds of instances. The term food is defined in the main Order as any article used as food or drink for human consumption, and any substance used in the composition or preparation of food, also any flavouring, sweetening matter or condiment, or any colouring matter for use in food. An article shall not be deemed not to be a food by reason only that it is also capable of being used as a medicine. The labelling provisions of the Labelling of Food (No. 2) Order is now amended by an Order, No. 1550 of 1945, so that “sweets,” including British wines and spirituous liquors containing not more than 40 per cent. of proof spirit, are brought within the field of operation of the main Order. In the case of liquors, other than spirits, with a fruit basis, and rhubarb is included in such fruit bases, the nature of these bases must be “appropriately designated” with a specific name in clear block letters not less than one‐eighth inch high with the minimum alcohol content expressed as “per cent. by volume” or “per cent. proof spirit.” This amending Order, in so far as it relates to retail trade, comes into force on April 1st, 1946. It may be added that if a liquor, other than spirits, is not made wholly or in part from fruit, the fact must be stated, together with the alcohol content. The same condition applies in the case of spirits. Unless a liquor, so far as its fruit content goes, is not derived exclusively from grapes, it must not be described as “wine.” If a fruit other than grape has been used the word wine on the label must be preceded by a word, specifying the name of the fruit used, in identical lettering. It is to be hoped that the new regulation briefly referred to above will do something towards clarifying the conditions relating to the sale of alcoholic liquors. The Ministry has stated its willingness to give the trade all possible help in the labelling of alcoholic liquors, of which there now seems to be a very large number of varieties. We may, however, remark that men can no more be made moral by regulations than by Acts of Parliament. It follows, therefore, that when the interests of legitimate trade have been dealt with the misdoings of a residuum will still demand attention. It is likely that as conditions gradually tend to become normal some of the wrong doers may conclude that the game will not present such alluring prospects of immediate gain, but for all that there will still be some who will continue to gamble on the chances of non‐discovery. It seems to us that if people of their own free will choose to place themselves on a level with the common thief they should, if convicted, be treated as such, and that penalties should be not merely a fine, which in many cases they write off as a bad debt, but, as the man in the street has already made a liberal contribution to the finances of these gentlemen, the man in the street would also not be unwilling to give him a holiday free of charge as an acknowledgment of his activities.
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