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British Food Journal Volume 53 Issue 11 1951

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 November 1951



Food manufacturers, as well as Food and Drugs Authorities, are greatly perturbed at the. immense increase of foreign bodies which find their way into food sold or on sale to the public. In an attempt to analyse these occurrences one feels that a useful purpose would be served if they were subdivided into two main headings. The first, and probably the most common, is the foreign body or article associated in some way with the packing or manufacturing of the article; secondly, that which not only taints the surrounding portion of the food but for which there is decidedly less justification for its presence. The chief offenders in this respect are tobacco and portions of rodent and insect bodies and excrement. An attempt at consumption of a nail or ferrous metal may result in some discomfort or injury to the person concerned, but the majority of people would prefer this risk to the shock of finding that they have eaten half a cockroach or the tail of a mouse. Under the first heading one finds such things as nails, screws, portions of paper and stones found in bread and confectionery. A large proportion of these could be removed by careful sifting of the bulk article, although bulk compound cooking fat, from which articles have been collected, presents many difficulties in this respect. Some manufacturers, in order to reduce the risk to the minimum, have installed magnetic detectors to pick up bits of ferrous metals which may be present. These, however, apart from their expense, have not proved very successful in the case of fats. It is necessary for the manufacturer to keep a constant check on his equipment and storage bins. Screws and nails have been found in bread, and, when taken back to the bakery, they have been found to fit exactly some part of the equipment. In these circumstances it has been obvious that regular maintenance would have prevented most of these unfortunate occurrences. A Court case may not only prove costly but the effects would make themselves felt in the annual turnover. In these cases, such as the more common one of glass being found in milk bottles, the management are entirely dependent upon the human element. Accidents do occur in the most perfect of milk bottling machines. Irrespective of how much one would like to boast that the product is untouched by hand, one cannot dispense with the keen scrutiny that is required, not only in removing heavily contaminated bottles, which may have held paint or other similar substances, from being fed to the machine, but at the other end as they roll off the conveyor. The question of cigarette ends, portions of matches and specks of tobacco brings to the forefront the well debated question of “ Should smoking be allowed in food preparation premises?” The report of the Manufactured Meat Products Working Party, 1950, under the heading “ Use of Tobacco ”, states: “ We consider it undesirable for anyone to smoke or chew tobacco or use snuff while in rooms used for the preparation of meat products or the storage of raw materials or the finished product. The use of tobacco in any form is likely to lead to unhygienic practices and to the contamination of food. We recommend, therefore, that the use of tobacco in rooms used for the preparation or storage of raw material or meat products should be prohibited by regulation.” It will occur to many that, where regulations have been made and the “ No Smoking ” rules strictly enforced, cases still occur of cigarette ends being found in the finished product, as the following case will illustrate. A partly‐used carton of sugar was brought into the office of a Food and Drugs Authority in which was found the stub end of a cigarette, which, from its appearance, had been flung into the manufactured sugar immediately after use, for the smoking end was encrusted with sugar. The matter was taken up with the packers, and it was explained to them that neither the man, wife or son in the household concerned were smokers. In the factory the non‐smoking rule was rigidly enforced, but it was found through the code number on the carton that, at the time, building contractors were working in and around the factory. In the case of a cigarette end in a packet of “ chocolate sweet tobacco ” some amusement was created at getting the real thing in a packet of sweets. It was, however, a serious matter for the firm concerned, who pleaded guilty, and in their defence it was stated that there were more than twenty non‐smoking notices on the premises and the occurrence was inexplicable to them. A perusal of the most recent cases resulting in convictions show that cigarette ends have been found in substances varying from bread, bread‐rolls, almond slices and buns to sweets, and in the majority of cases the non‐smoking rule was strictly enforced; it would, therefore, seem that, having taken every precaution, the manufacturers are compelled to regard this as one of the hazards to be encountered in the trade. It is felt that in the second group of foreign bodies, rodent and insect bodies and excrement are by far the most serious. The contamination of food by such filth is invariably indicative of the state of the premises where the food was prepared or sold. The public must be protected from such filth and the grave risk of food infection which exists where insects or rodent infestations occur in food preparation or storage premises. Confirmation of this can be found in an analysis of the cases published in this Journal. These illustrate clearly that, where action has been taken with regard to the premises in this respect, attention was initially directed by contaminated food being sold. Even with old premises there is no excuse for infestation by insects such as cockroaches, flies or rodents. Modern residual insecticides, if used selectively, will not only control but eradicate the former. The Local Authority Pests Operators, or the specific rodent exterminating firms, will deal quite effectively with the latter, although some constructive rat‐proofing may have to be carried out in addition. It will be seen from the brief outline given above that many difficulties exist in dealing with the problem of foreign bodies in food, and manufacturers who take the fullest precautions have the sympathy of the Food and Drugs officials when single occurrences spoil an otherwise excellent record. Few take action in such cases, realising the fallibility of the human element. Unfortunately many convictions still occur in this sphere which could have been avoided by attention to hygienic practices, strict supervision and the education of workers employed.


(1951), "British Food Journal Volume 53 Issue 11 1951", British Food Journal, Vol. 53 No. 11, pp. 101-110.




Copyright © 1951, MCB UP Limited

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