The Attorney‐General has informed the House of Commons that good progress has been made with the preparation of a Bill for consolidating the Food and Drugs Acts. Such a measure is badly needed—for a variety of reasons. First, there are the wholesale amendments made already by the Food and Drugs (Milk, Dairies and Artificial Cream) Act, 1950. Then there is the intensified muddle of the powers and duties of several Government Departments—namely, the Ministries of Food, of Health, of Agriculture and of Housing and Local Government. Further, much of the emergency legislation now in force—including some Food Standard Orders made under temporary powers—cries aloud to be made permanent. And, in addition, various doubtful questions under the existing law might well be resolved. In theory, consolidation Bills are not expected to bring about substantial amendments if these deal with matters of controversy. In practice, such amendments are sometimes made. This was the case when the Food and Drugs Bill of 1938—which was meant to be a consolidating statute—was before the Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons. For example, a great change was then made, in the teeth of strong opposition, concerning the qualifications of a local authority to become a Food and Drugs Authority. It will not be surprising if the new Bill alters the existing law with respect to the powers of such Authorities to enforce statutory provisions of their own volition—without having to receive the formal consent of a Ministry. In the matter of food standards, while some may be included in an Act of Parliament, many others must obviously continue to be dealt with by statutory instruments. However much the Government may wish to abolish food rationing and control, it is clear that meat, bacon, butter and cheese must for some time remain rationed—and that some Department must continue to have powers to restrict and regulate the sale and composition of foods in short supply, as circumstances may from time to time render such regulation necessary and variable in its scope. Examples which will occur to everyone are sausages and other products containing meat; cream; ice‐cream and other products containing cream; eggs and articles containing them; with the ever‐present possibility of further control of milk and its products at certain seasons of the year. Among the doubtful points to be cleared up is one concerning the definition of meat. “ Meat ” in various statutes has widely different meanings. Recently, the Divisional Court has decided that in the Transport Act, 1947, which has a definition that “meat” means carcases (etc.) of animals, the definition does not cover fish. The Lord Chief Justice was careful to indicate that the Court was not deciding that “whalemeat” was outside the scope of the definition, and added that in the Transport Act “meat” might perhaps include rabbits, poultry and game. There are various decisions on record under other statutes. Thus meat was held in 1905 to be “ any kind of solid food”. In 1915, a Court held that ice‐cream may be meat, and in 1916 another Court ruled that ice‐cream is not meat. Still another difficult question presents itself under S. 14 of the Food and Drugs Act 1938, which requires the registration of premises under for the preparation or manufacture of potted, pickled or preserved food intended for sale, and lays down that “the preparation of meat or fish by any process of cooking shall be deemed to be the preservation thereof ”. Who can say whether for the purpose of this Section bacon is meat? A shopkeeper may find himself in possession of ham or bacon which shows signs of losing its sweetness. So he decides to boil it and sell it as cooked, in order to avoid waste of good food. Is it an offence if his premises are not registered under the Section? I have my own view on this, but do not express it because the whole thing is so doubtful and open to argument. Analysts' fees may perhaps come under consideration. If a private purchaser requires the public analyst to provide a certificate concerning an article said to contain various proportions of several vitamins, must the maximum fee remain at one guinea, as laid down in S. 69 (3) of the Food and Drugs Act? This can hardly be justified, in view of the recent announcement in the “ London Gazette ” that the fee of the Government Chemist for analysing referred samples under the Act is now raised to four guineas. There is hardly any limit to the amount of tidying‐up which might with advantage be tackled in a Food and Drugs Consolidation Bill.
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