The work of Dr. Hassall on behalf of The Lancet, briefly summarised in a previous essay, received great publicity in the lay Press between 1852 and 1855. The Times and The Quarterly Review gave the subject special prominence. The last named journal, in a review of Dr. Hassall's book in 1855, said: “The precision with which he is enabled to state the result of his labours leaves no appeal… We have now shown enough to convince the public that the grossest fraud reigns throughout the British public commissariat. It remains to be seen whether the Government is able and willing to stay this gigantic evil and national dishonour.” In fact, in the same year, a House of Commons Committee sat to take evidence and reported to the effect that adulteration was widely prevalent, the public health endangered, fraud committed on the whole community, public morality tainted and the high commercial character of the country seriously lowered. Nevertheless, five years were allowed to lapse before the first adulteration Act reached the statute‐book in 1860. This was a weak and inefficient measure and was found to be useless. Very few prosecutions, if any, were instituted. Twelve years later, in 1872, an amending Act was passed. The High Court decided that this Act required sellers of food to know whether what they sold was pure or adulterated. Many traders were convicted, with the result that manufacturers and shopkeepers agitated and obtained the appointment of yet another Parliamentary Committee—on whose advice the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1875, was passed. This Act, which had the exceptionally long life of more than fifty years, contained many protective provisions for dealers in food, which, although to some extent no more than fair, did operate in such a way as to limit severely the efforts of local authorities to protect the public. One of the recommendations made in The Lancet has never yet been adopted by Parliament in relation to the sale of adulterated food—namely, that the names and addresses of all vendors of samples found unsatisfactory should be systematically published. Another recommendation was not adopted until the first Labelling of Food Order was made seventy years later, in 1944, requiring the disclosure on many packed foods of their composition.
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