During the past few years the British Food Journal has reported a great many prosecutions under the Food and Drugs Act in respect of “ foreign bodies ” in food. Examples have been cigarette ends and pieces of metal or wood in bread, rat dirt and mouse dirt in cereals, nails or small pieces of metal in sausages, splinters of glass in milk, and a host of similar instances. Some of the prosecutions have been for selling food unfit for human consumption, but many have been for selling food not of the substance demanded. I confess that I have always had some doubt whether a loaf is entirely unfit for human use merely because it contains a clean piece of metal quite easily seen and removed. Still, justices never seem to have any difficulty in convicting the vendor under one Section or another. The older readers of the British Food Journal will remember that until the Act of 1938 came into force it was impossible to institute proceedings under the “ prejudice to the purchaser ” Section unless there was a Public Analyst's certificate. I laboured for many years to get this restriction eliminated. First, I was able to persuade my colleagues on the Departmental Committee on the Composition and Description of Food (which reported in 1934) to make a recommendation in that direction, although it was rather doubtful whether it fell within the terms of reference. Then, contrary to the strong representations of the Society of Public Analysts, but with the approval of the Ministry of Health, I persuaded the Joint Committee of Lords and Commons on the Bill of 1938 to enact that a Sampling Officer should be entitled at his discretion to submit or not to submit a sample for analysis. What I had in mind was this: first, that it was sheer waste of time and money to consult an Analyst when an offence could be quite effectively proved without an analysis. Secondly, a wide range of cases in which what was sold was not of the nature demanded could be better proved by an Inspector or by trade evidence than by analysis in a chemical laboratory. Examples particularly in my mind were the substitution of haddock for hake, witches for lemon soles, sheep's liver for calves' liver, the sale of foreign produce as home‐grown, the sale of apples, plums and other fruit of different kinds from those under whose names they were sold, the sale of margarine for butter when the facts were admitted by the vendor, the improper description of wines which could better be proved by skilled tasters than by analysts, and, of course, though to a minor extent, the inclusion of foreign bodies such as those mentioned above. I had always felt that the public needed vastly better protection than could be given by chemical analysis alone, and that the scope of the Act was quite unduly restricted. But I do not pretend that I anticipated such a spate of prosecutions in respect of the accidental and careless admission of foreign bodies in loaves and the rest. One evident cause for this is that the public, through their association with the local Food Office, have become enforcement conscious. In the old days a normal purchaser of a loaf containing a piece of wood did not dream of taking more drastic action than remonstrating with the baker. Now, everyone's first instinct is to repair to the Food Office or the Town Hall with official complaint. Now that I am on the shelf and no longer concerned either with enforcing the Food and Drugs Act or with defending those charged with offences, I find it interesting to contrast present‐day practice with that of forty odd years ago.
CitationDownload as .RIS
MCB UP Ltd
Copyright © 1950, MCB UP Limited