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British Food Journal Volume 54 Issue 5 1952

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 May 1952

Abstract

A review of the cases in which samples of food have been taken for analysis under Orders made under the Defence Regulations by the Ministry of Food gives rise to great concern, not only amongst the officers of Food and Drugs Authorities but amongst the trades concerned. A Food and Drugs Authority taking samples for analysis under Section 3 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, is generally required, should a contravention be shown by the Analyst's report, to take action within 28 days. Thus, in normal cases of contravention, justice is done expeditiously once the resolution of the Local Authority has been obtained. In this way, representative selections of food and drugs averaging three per thousand of the population is obtained throughout the year in accordance with the duties imposed on the Authority. Where, however, the Ministry of Food lay down standards under powers contained in the Defence Regulations, action for contravention of those standards cannot be taken by a Food and Drugs Authority but only by the Ministry. Thus, if milk does not reach the requisite standard of 3 per cent milk fat, a Local Authority can immediately take action, as the standard is fixed by the Food and Drugs Act, but, in the case of Channel Island milk for which the standard of 4 per cent is fixed under the Defence Regulations, Local Authorities are precluded from taking any action as this is the prerogative of the Ministry. In practice this means that, in the case of sausages, a Local Authority can prosecute for what they consider to be a deficiency in meat content without the approval of the Ministry of Food, but they cannot quote the standard laid down by them, except perhaps by submitting to the magistrates that this is the commercial standard. The Bench would then have to consider whether they should accept this commercial standard. The position which subsequently often occurs is that, whilst a set standard exists, only the Ministry can quote it. Any Local Authority so doing under Section 3 is likely to have its case dismissed. The Divisional Court case of Thomas Robinson & Sons Ltd. versus Allardice, 1944, illustrates this point. In that case, proceedings had been brought under Section 3 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, for the sale of food not of the nature or not of the substance or not of the quality demanded by the purchaser, in that it did not consist of a particular product defined by an Order made under the Defence Regulations 55. In this case Lawrence J said: “We find reliance, placed upon an alleged breach of the Starch Food Powders (Control) Order, 1941. That has nothing whatever to do with the Food and Drugs Act, and may well have been sumptuary legislation for the conservation of wheat; therefore it is obvious that the justices on their own showing took into consideration something irrelevant.” In consequence, it would appear that the object of the Order must be considered before deciding that it is within the scope of a Food and Drugs Authority's duty to proceed for a breach thereof. It seems that, where a temporary standard has been fixed to meet a crisis or a seasonal situation, the Local Authority has no power to rely upon such a standard when prosecuting under Section 3 of the Food and Drugs Act. Presumably, therefore, failure to comply with the standards laid down in these Orders and Regulations cannot be made the subject of a prosecution by a Food and Drugs Authority under Section 3. It is difficult to justify this complexity of procedure. In a recent case, sausages were found to be deficient in meat, the analysis revealing that 36 per cent meat was present instead of the minimum 50 per cent. A striking feature of this case, however, was the long delay before the case reached the Courts. The Chairman of the Bench stated that he felt the Ministry of Food should have brought the case before the Court sooner, since some five months had elapsed since the offence had been discovered. As the Defence pointed out, if the Ministry of Food attached such importance to the case, why was there some five months delay between the results of the tests on the sausages being received and the case being brought into Court. The time limit under the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, does not apply to procedure under these Regulations.—Recently, a Sampling Officer of a Local Authority purchased some sausages and the Analyst's report revealed a considerable difference between the meat content and the standard laid down under the Regulations. The facts were reported to the Ministry in case they wished to take action. Several weeks later, without any notification to the Food and Drugs Authority, an Enforcement Officer of the Ministry of Food, who had not previously been concerned with the case, called at the shop, informing the butcher of the offence and questioning him as to his action and methods. Both Food and Drugs Sampling Officers and members of the trade will appreciate the exasperation that follows such a visit. After approximately nine weeks from the sample being taken, the tradesman in question was still unaware of the action proposed by the Ministry. Such delay, with the power and resources that the Ministry of Food have at their disposal, is most difficult to justify. It creates a great deal of friction between the trade and the Sampling Officer and brings yet another official into the picture, the necessity for whose presence it is very difficult to understand. Apart from the unnecessary overlapping of the samples that may be taken, the visits of two officers possibly to the same premises for the same purpose does entail a wa§{e of manpower and causes much irritation. Is it not time that Food and Drugs Authorities on whom the onus rests for 99 per cent of sampling of food and drugs were permitted by statute to prosecute for contravention of standards laid down under the Defence Regulations?

Citation

(1952), "British Food Journal Volume 54 Issue 5 1952", British Food Journal, Vol. 54 No. 5, pp. 41-50. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb011483

Publisher

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MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 1952, MCB UP Limited