British Food Journal Volume 48 Issue 9 1946

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Publication date: 1 September 1946


This report is drawn up by the Director‐General of Health and Medical Services for State of Queensland and presented by him to the Minister for Health and Home Affairs of the State. The report is a record of conscientious and efficient public service by a depleted staff working under great difficulties; over a wide stretch of territory; hampered by shortage of labour and materials for repair or construction. In addition to this was the concentration of large bodies of troops in areas by no means primarily designed for their accommodation. It may be remarked that the huge area now called Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859. Its area is 670,000 square miles. Length from north to south 1,300–1,400 miles and from east to west at the widest about 1,000 miles. The greater part lies in the tropics. The east coast and for some distance inland is a trade wind and monsoon belt. With this region the report is mainly concerned. The rainfall diminishes towards west and south. The temperature of the State is by no means excessive. In general the climate is a good one. It is in favour of the public health authorities. On January 1st, 1945, the estimated population was in round figures just over a million, including Brisbane with 384,370. There is closer settlement in the east and along the east coast. Ports, mining and manufactures have developed urban areas so that in addition to Brisbane we have sub‐offices such as Cairns, Toowomba, Townsville, and Rockhampton. Owing to war conditions already referred to, it was not possible without much difficulty for the head quarters staff to carry out sanitary surveys in country areas. It is noted that the limited staff available “carried out all duties assigned to them in the same competent and efficient manner” as before. Rockhampton states that there was only one officer available for a district with a population of 40,000; Cairns that 50 towns were visited with a total of 113 separate visits and a distance of 6,334 miles being traversed. These figures give some idea of the demands made on the sanitary officers. The inspections in one area included anti‐malaria drainage, 39 inspections; malaria investi‐gation, 9; mosquito infestation, 10; swamps, 2; rat infestation, 73; food premises, 77; milk premises, 28; food factories, 129. It will be noticed that much attention is given to the danger of mosquito infestation, with the attendant risk of malaria. In 1943 the Government offered a 50 per cent. subsidy to local authorities for carrying out approved mosquito eradication measures, and though the response was not as great as was expected, the expenditure by those local authorities who, at the time of making this report, had availed themselves of the scheme runs into many thousands of pounds. This was mainly for drainage works, but in addition to this there was spraying and the appointment of additional inspectors. Taking one or two instances, Brisbane expended £173,375; Rockhampton £8,918; Charleville £4,000. It is stated “in Toowomba and to a lesser degree in the other large towns [in the area] the townspeople have become mosquito conscious” and will readily report the presence of even a few mosquitoes. On the other hand in country districts the attitude seems to be that mosquitoes have always been present and will always be present, so “Why worry?” A good instance of bucolic fatalism. After the rains it is obvious that unless water be run off from or sprayed in town puddles and from patches of swampy ground nearby these places become breeding grounds for the nuisance. In the 1944–5 period 696 cases of malaria were notified. Many of these were possibly recurrent attacks among Service and ex‐Service men. Still, the “utmost vigilance” is necessary. The rat nuisance and danger is common to every port in the world. Apart from the fouling and destruction of food and house infestation there is the graver menace of plague. This risk in Queensland most happily seems to be slight, as out of 113,000 examinations of rat bodies and spleen smears no instance of Pasteurella pestis was detected, but again “Vigilance” is the watchword. Poisoning (several kinds of poisons are used), gassing, trapping and hunting are all good within their limits, but rat proofing, removal of harbourages, the use of sanitary rubbish bins, and so forth, are admittedly better, as they strike at the root of the evil. Some seven cities are named where the rat population has not diminished during the last seven years owing to the latter precautions having been more or less neglected. These “starve the rat” and “build out the rat.” Milk claims a large share of attention. The offences are of the kind that we know so well in this country, namely added water and fat deficiency. With regard to added water, some of the figures given range from 19 per cent. to 34 per cent., with, we are glad to note, a correspondingly heavy fine. The Queensland Health Acts prescribe a fine of not less than £1 for each one per centum of added water up to a maximum of £50. It is illegal to carry water on a milk delivery cart when milk is being sold therefrom. Some dishonest vendors had adopted the practice of taking a dip out of a can of water so carried at the instant of delivery to the buyer. It was clearly almost impossible under these circumstances to prosecute successfully a dishonest vendor. Rockhampton states that out of 199 samples of milk officially analysed in the district in the period under review, eleven convictions were obtained for added water, and four for carrying water on the milk delivery van. It is added “Whilst the number of samples of milk which proved to be adulterated with added water was almost twice that of the previous year, it was more than ever apparent that the practice most frequently adopted by offenders is that of carrying water in smaller cans to adulterate the milk when measuring for individual customers.” This evil practice would seem to be widespread, and as its success would seem to depend on delivery from large open containers—an old and almost obsolete method—the remedy is to insist, as far as that be possible having regard to local conditions, that all milk should be pasteurised and sold in bottles. Clearly a person who systematically perpetrates day by day a series of petty frauds on his neighbours is likely to be as careless of their health as he is of their pocket. Pasteurising and bottling are being more widely practised. The periodical examination by the health authorities of milk so treated shows that statutory standards of purity are maintained. Most of the milk sold in Toowomba is pasteurised milk; the same seems to be the case in Townsville, and, as we should expect, in a city such as Brisbane. The game is, or, as we hope, was, an uphill one for milk vendors. Townsville says that local dairymen “still endeavour to carry on under very severe handicaps, such as staff shortages, transport and equipment shortages, and lack of sufficient fodder.” We hope that these drawbacks may by now be referred to in the past tense, for Cairns hopefully stated that “a return to normality is gener ally observable.” During the period under review 2,099 “legal samples” were taken by inspectors in accordance with the provisions of the Health Acts. Of these, 79 85 per cent. passed the standard; 3.95 were adulterated with water; 3.176 were deficient in fat only; 12.44 were below the standard in total solids and/or solids not fat. Of the 2,099 samples taken 1,666 were taken in the “Greater Brisbane Area”; 81.2 per cent. were, it seems, below the standard quality. As the population of the city of Brisbane is about 384,000 it is perhaps not too much to say that 40 per cent. of the total population of the State of Queensland is consuming milk a large proportion of which—about 19 per cent.—is below the standard set by the laws of the State. At Rockhampton 92 out of 135 samples, and at Townsville 28 out of 36, passed the standard. The figures are much the same for seven other towns named and 11 others not named. The results for the whole State is the subject for unfavourable criticism by the Health Department. Proprietary Medicines.—The report states that the prescribing of expensive medicines of this type is a common practice, and that the pharmacist may put the medicine in a different container and usually replaces the proprietary label with his own. “The prescribing of proprietary medicines may maintain the patient's faith in his medical practitioner : it also augments the profit of the pharmacist.” Price fixing has reduced the latter. Homeopathic medicines claim some attention. “As is common with homeopathic medicines those submitted during the year consisted of milk sugar only.” Saccharum lactis seems to be harmless kind of stuff with no particularly marked positive properties. Dose ad lib, says the pharmacopoelig;ia. It is “used for weakly children,” and “diabetics are said to occasionally show slight improvement” by ingesting it. Its normal price is about half‐a‐crown a pound. When, however, it has been “improved ” by the addition of minute traces of the phosphates of calcium, magnesium, and potassium and of calcium fluoride, then made up into tabloid form and sold, the recorded price in one instance had risen to £15 9s. 0d. a pound. The Health Department does not accept an enhanced price to be necessarily a measure of an increase in therapeutic virtues. It observes that“ two hundred tablets of one preparation (a month's course) contained no more mineral substance than one‐third of a teaspoonful of milk,” and after some further remarks to the same purpose, suggests “that in the light of modern therapeutics there would appear to be necessity for health administrations to define their attitude towards homeopathy.” It further quotes responsible medical opinion to the effect that “modern therapeutics has inherited from homeopathy the knowledge of the remarkable power the body possesses of healing itself, if given a chance.” Vitamins. —The grossly exaggerated claims of some food manufacturers and patent medicine manufacturers are referred to. It seems that in 1941 it was suggested to the Queensland Department of Health “that vitamin claims for foods and patent medicines should be re stricted within the known knowledge on the subject or within scientific bounds,” and that the Canadian definition of “vitamin” should be adopted; and that in 1943 the Commonwealth National Health and Medical Research Council recommended that the quantity of each vitamin present in a food should be indicated on the label in units per ounce or pound, and in drugs or medicinal preparations in units per dose. It is perhaps no great exaggeration to say that magic and medicine are still mutually identified in the minds of a sufficient number of people to make the hawking about of what is, in many cases, rubbish, a monetary success. The belief held by such people that what is repeatedly stated must for that and for no other reason be unquestionably true, together with an appeal to their fears and impulses form the psychological basis for success based on the claims made. Thus, it may be said that London, Brisbane, and the aborigines of the Cape York Peninsula are in this respect on much the same level.


(1946), "British Food Journal Volume 48 Issue 9 1946", British Food Journal, Vol. 48 No. 9, pp. 199-208.

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Copyright © 1946, MCB UP Limited

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