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British Food Journal Volume 49 Issue 11 1947

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 November 1947



The two islands of Trinidad and Tobago were made one administrative unit in the year 1889. The total area is something under two thousand square miles— that of an ordinary English county. The climate is tropical and healthy, the soil extremely fertile. With the exception of the asphalt of La Brea the population is mainly concerned with the forest products and with the care of and development of the sugar and cocoa plantations. The population is mixed—East Indians; people of negro stock, and a small proportion of people of European descent. With a population exhibiting widely different cultural levels the authorities responsible for public health are confronted with correspondingly complex administrative problems. The Government Chemical Department is occupied not only with the administration proper to such a department, but acts in an advisory capacity when matters relating to plantation or local manufactured products are brought to its notice. It is satisfactory to learn of the “notable developments which have taken place in the Department in recent years.” The extent of this development may be partly judged by the estimates, which in 1945 amounted to about twenty‐nine thousand dollars, to those for 1946: these were some forty‐three thousand dollars. This increase led to the enlarging of the Departmental buildings, the purchasing of special apparatus—where this came from is not stated, but if from this country its source of origin is suggested by “the extreme slowness of delivery,” and this it seems is, or let us hope was, delaying the benefits expected from the increase in expenditure. The library, too, was enlarged. Nor are the activities of the Department limited to Trinidad alone. Reference is made to the submission of samples from various islands in the British West Indies. In a word, the Chemical Department is in close and constant touch with all social and industrial developments in the island, and the hope is expressed, and it will no doubt be justified, that the laboratory will stand comparison with any laboratory of its kind and size in the Empire. With regard to the work of the Department, it seems that 5,193 samples were examinend and reported on during the year. Of these, 4,776 were official. The bulk of the work relates to Customs (1,509 samples) and Police (2,577 samples). Among the samples submitted by the police for examination by the Department were nine cases of suspected ground glass in foodstuffs, and 255 of viscera and other articles for poison. The Port of Spain City Council submitted 407 samples of potable water. It is observed that the capital city “appears for the first time as an appreciable source of work.” Only five samples were submitted in each of the two previous years. The result of the analyses showed that the samples submitted were uniformly satisfactory from a chemical point of view. The Customs examination of 146 samples were mainly for the purpose of determining the alcohol content of medical preparations and essences. The Excise examinations for duty purposes—1,314 samples in all—were almost exclusively concerned with samples of rum, bitters, brandy, and so forth. These were all of local manufacture, and they constitute an important item in local manufacture. Angostura and other bitters are too well known to require more than passing mention. The Preventive branch had to consider twelve cases for the possession of prepared opium. Eight prosecutions were successful, and fines, amounting to $925, were inflicted. As remarked above, all the major sources of water supply of the city are now examined each month. Other sources of water supply outside the city are now also subject to examination under the supervision of the Medical Services. The Colonial Secretary, to whom this report was submitted for the information of the Governor of the Colony, had informed the Town Clerk of the Port of Spain in June, 1945, that the Chemist's Department was in a position to carry out analyses of foodstuffs and drugs submitted by the City Council. In spite of this, the amount of work done for the City Council had not been on the scale that was anticipated, for up to the end of the year 1946 no samples of the kind had been sent in for purposes of analysis. On the other hand, we notice that 1,753 food samples were examined in 1946, as against 1,394 in 1945, but these were from areas outside the area under the control of the Port of Spain Authorities, but no drug samples were submitted, nor, it seems, have any been submitted under the Food and Drug Ordinance (chap. 12, No. 3) for several years! We are, therefore, not surprised to read that “it is impossible to say to what extent (if any) these important articles are sold in an adulterated or unsatisfactory condition.” It is true that adulteration of foodstuffs— nobody can say anything about drugs—would seem to be on the decrease as the percentage figure for 1944 was 10·8, that for 1945 was 9·3, and for 1946, 7. The figures, however, refer to foodstuffs in general. If, however, we turn to figures that relate to the purity of the domestic milk supply, we find that they tell in some respects a different tale. Out of the 1,753 samples sent in for analysis 454 were milk samples. Of these, 118, or 25·9 per cent., were reported against. It is true that the figure just given is less than that of the two preceding years—1944, 37·3 per cent., and 1945, 29·5 per cent.—but the chief chemist, writing with a full knowledge of the circumstances and making, no doubt, full allowance for administrative difficulties, calls the 1946 figure “outstandingly bad,” and this percentage of adulteration still does not tell the whole tale. It seems that the larger dairies are not to blame, but “it must be a matter for continued concern that one‐quarter of the milk sold by the smaller retailers is adulterated,” for they number among their customers those “who can least afford the nutritional loss involved.” The figures, it will be noted, show a decrease, and this, it is observed, is due to “greater vigilance” on the part of the police and “other competent authorities.” In the unadulterated samples the average fat content was 3·9 per cent., and of solids not fat 8·6 per cent., so there seems to be nothing wrong with the livestock as far as these figures go, but the average figures for the adulterated samples were 3·2 per cent. of fat and 7·6 per cent. of solids not fat. Of the 118 samples reported against, 69 were deficient in solids not fat, 17 in fat content, 32 were deficient in both. The standards laid down by law for the composition of milk are 8·5 per cent. solids not fat, and 3 per cent. fat. Fines amounting to $2,460 were imposed. It was pointed out that a remedy for the present state of things is to take more samples at more frequent intervals. This has been done, but the percentage of adulteration is still abnormally high. Increased vigilance by the police, who are, it appears, the sampling officers, is certainly demanded. The percentage of adulteration for other foodstuffs is very low. It calls for no special comment.


(1947), "British Food Journal Volume 49 Issue 11 1947", British Food Journal, Vol. 49 No. 11, pp. 101-110.




Copyright © 1947, MCB UP Limited

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