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LONDON'S FOOD SUPPLY. Extraordinary Revelations.—Poison and Filth as Food. PART I. The canned meat trade has been the main topic by the newspapers of late. It has been treated by them as a new problem, a danger that has only been recently discovered through the medium of a sensational novel. To our authorities in London, however, it has been a very live problem for many years past, and the report published by our compatriot, Dr. Dan L. Thomas, Medical Officer of Health for the Borough of Stepney, last week, discloses an extraordinary state of affairs in relation to this trade and our food supply in general. During the last five years," states Dr. Thomas, "an average of over one ton of tinned food has been destroyed daily," and as this only refers to one district in London the figures for Z, the whole, of the Metropolis—admitting that p each district is inspected as the Stepney district is-must be enormous. When we consider that it is only latterly that systematic inspection has been carried out one asks in wonder what became of this enormous quantity previous to such an examination ? There are 97 wharves within this borough 0 where food stuffs are landed, and the amount of food seized and condemned every year proves that a sharp eye is kept by Dr. Thomas and his staff on such supplies. During the year 1904, he reports that 735 tons of food stuff were destroyed, and though the amount diminished considerably last year it is not safe to predict that unscrupulous trades- men have entirely fled from the field. With canned goods a common sign that the stuff is decomposed is when the tins become blown," but that alone is not the only indica- tion that the contents have become unfit for use, as Dr. Thomas conclusively proves. All blown' or bulging tins," he writes, "indicate that the contents are decomposed and unfit for human consumption. The longer the food has been decomposing, the greater will be the amount of gas that has accumulated, and consequently more bulging of the ends of the tins. It is not an uncommon occurrence to see the tins actually burst from the pressure of the gas inside. When tins are blown to any degree, it is palpable to all that the goods are unsale- able. Even if they were sold in this condition, no one would partake of the content*, which smell abominably immediately the tins are opened. At one time, there was a fairly common practice of pricking tins that were only slightly blown, thus liberating the gas and after- wards re-soldering the holes. The tins were then cleaned and fresh labels were pasted on which covered the pricked holes in the tins. The bulging of the tins disappeared and they assumed their original shape and form. When I was Medical Officer of Health to the Lime- house Board of Works, I instituted proceedings it, February, 1899, against a large wholesale dealer, who practised this dodge. The case lasted several days, and a great deal of interest Was taken in it by the press. The methods adopted for pricking and re-soldering the tins were therefore well ventilated. The dealer was sent to prison for five months with hard labour. I am glad to state that since this case, I have found no evidence whatever of such fraudulent Method of dealing with blown tins so as to niake them appear as if the contents were sound. Sometimes the contents of the tins may be in an advanced stage of putrefaction, although the tlns show no signs of bulging. When this is the case, the condition of the contents can only be ascertained by opening the tin. This is due to the fact that the food had become decomposed Previous to its being canned. Antiseptics were added to prevent any further decomposition. As no decomposition has actually taken place after canning, no gas has been evolved, and therefore the tins have not become blown although the meat itself is tainted. This pro- bably occurs oftener in tinned tongue than with any other kind of potted meat. "There is another factor that causes the tinned food to be dangerous, although the meat itself 0 e appears perfectly wholesome, and there is no sign of decomposition. This occurs when the canning is old, and some of the tin or lead, which is used to solder the lid, has been dis- solved. During the last few years I have frequently analysed the contents of old tins which contain such large quantities of tin, with small quanti- ties of lead, as to be positively dangerous. There is no sign of bulging of the tins, and when they are opened, the contents appear wholesome and taste as well as any fresh cooked meat. It is sometimes very difficult to persuade the owners to surrender such goods, and it is only when I absolutely refuse to allow them to be removed, and I threaten to have them taken' to the Police Court to be condemned by the magistrate." Then the report goes on to show that from many analysed specimens he had discovered as much as 2*97 grains of tin in every pound of food. After an elaborate disceurse on the foreign canned meat defects, he sums up the subject as follows (1) Decomposed food will, as a rule in time, cause bulging of the tins. (2) Experienced men only can detect the presence of putrefaction of the contents, when the gas is not sufficient to cause bulging. (3) Blown tins are apparent to all, and when opened, the contents are offensive. (4) Tin or lead may be present in such quantities as to be injurious to health, though the meat itself may appear to be quite whole- some. Their presence can only be detected by chemical examination. (5) Diseased meat may have been used. No practical examination will detect the presence of such diseased meat, once it has been tinned. A bacteriological examination of a few tins out of each consignment would not be a guarantee of the condition of the contents of the remainder. The report is not less condemnatory of our own meat trading system. He complains of the inefficiency of the regulations in relation to the slaughterhouses within his borough, and condemns the habit of hanging the meat in dusty and dirty surroundings, adding greatly to its chances of becoming infected. Sausage making should also be carried out under proper supervision, as under the present system it is an easy method of disposing of diseased or bad meat when spices and garlich are added to disguise its offensive smell. A lurid picture is drawn of the tripe dressers' shops within this borough, and we should think that the present lax system will immediately be remedied. He reports There are six tripe dressers' shops in the borough. Two of these boil cats' meat in the same room in which human food is boiled, and afterwards sell it in the same shop in which human food is sold. "In July, 1901, proceedings were taken against a tripe dresser for having diseased livers, tripe, &c., deposited on the premises for the purpose of being prepared for human food. He was fined £ 20. He had three shops; cats' meat as well as human food were indiscrimin- ately mixed in the boiling rooms, as well as in the shop. His defence was, that the diseased stuff would only be used for cats' meat, and not for human food. As diseased livers were found in the same tub as good healthy ones, his defence was not accepted by the magistrate. Soon after his conviction, the three shops were closed. "The basement of the premises of another tripe dresser was in a filthy state. In this base- ment on June 12th of this year there were nearly two tons of meat—fresh and pickled- consisting of sheep's heads, tripe, livers, brawn, &c. The boilers are also in the basement. The water closet is situated in this room with- out any partition or wall surrounding it. When I entered the basement, I detected a foul sewer smell, which was due to the fact that the drains were exposed and one of the pipes was broken. The owner not only stored his own meat here, but accommodated a neighbouring butcher as well. The basement was most unsuitable to store human food of any kind, and I gave instructions that the meat should be at once removed. On going to another part of the basement, I found sixty ox tails which were evidently put on one side and not intended for human consumption at the time of my visit. The tripe dresser informed me that he had bought them about four hours previously at the meat market from representatives of the American Beef Trust." [MILK NEXT WEEK.]