Food poisoning and food legislation

Food poisoning and food legislation


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Vol.XLV. MARCH, 1982.

PUBLIC H E A L T H , the Official Organ o[ the Society of Medical Olficers of Health, is prepared to receive a certain number of approved advertisements. Application should be made to the Executive Secretary of the Society, at 1, Upper Montague Street, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. Subscription price 31s. 6d. per annum, post free in advance. Single Copies, 2s. 6d. post free.

Contents. EDITORIAL--


Food Poisoning a n d Food L e g i s l a t i o n . . . . . . T h e Glasgow School Child ......... A t m o s p h e r i c Pollution in 1930-31 ...... D i p h t h e r i a : Its D i s t r i b u t i o n a n d P r e v e n t i o n . . . D r . Partane K i n l o c h . . . . . . . . . . . .

161 162 163 164 164

SPECIAL ARTICLES-Pre-Bacteriological Views on Infectious Diseases. By E. W . GOODALL, O.B.e., M.D., f o r m e r l y Medical S u p e r i n t e n d e n t , N o r t h - W e s t e r n F e v e r Hospital, Metropolitafl A s y l u m s Board ... T h e Royal Sanitary I n s t i t u t e . . . . . . . . . . . . Ut


(Being C o m m e n t s , apropos a n d otherwise, o n S u n d r y M a t t e r s ) . . . . . . . . .





SOCIETY OF MEDICAL OFFICERS OF HEALTH-Notice : M a r c h Council M e e t i n g ...... Ordinary Meeting . . . . . . . . . . . . The Metropolitan Branch ......... The Yorkshire Branch . . . . . . . . . . . . Tile Midland Branch . . . . . . . . . . . . North Western Branch . . . . . . . . . . . . T h e C o u n t y District G r o u p ......... T h e H o m e Counties B r a n c h . . . . . : ... T h e M a t e r n i t y a n d Child Welfare G r o u p .,. T h e D e n t a l Officers' G r o u p ......... Yorkshire S u b - G r o u p . . . . . . . . . . . . T h e M a t e r n i t y a n d Child Welfare G r o u p ... T h e F e v e r Hospital Medical Service G r o u p ...

184 184 184 ~t85 185 186 187 187 187 189 190 191 191



T h e Classification o f Blindness. By G . G. ~rRAY, M.D;, CH.B., D.P.H., A s s i s t a n t Medical Officer of H e a l t h , L a n c a s h i r e . . . . . . . . . . . .


An American Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Those Teeth of Yours . . . . . . . . . . . . Bottle F e e d i n g o f I n f a n t s ......... In the Annual Reports . . . . . . . . . . . .

192 192 192

Editorial. Food Poisoning and Food Legislation. ACH year in his report as Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, Sir George Newman devotes a considerable a m o u n t of s p a c e to the discussion of food poisoning, and year by year over a number o f years has directed t h e attention of the Minister to outbreaks greater or less in extent. In some instances the fact that the source of the poison has not been discovered is noted; in a considerable number, laowever, it is shown that the attacks or, as frequently happens, the deaths followed the consumption of an article of food purchased ready cooked or prepared for the table. In order to. facilitate the investigation of cases and outbreaks and to assist local authorities and their officers to discover the cause of the poisonings, the Ministry has arranged for the services of a bacteriologist to be at disposal, and to have


full and authoritative reports submitted. Apart, however, from this and the issue of the Public Health (Meat) Regulations, 1925, which, by the way, do not apply to foods of the class apparently particularly liable to be associated with poisoning, the Minister has taken no active step to provide on a nationwide basis for the protection of the people against a danger which would appear to be eminently preventable, and that is often associated with very serious and tragic consequences. Throughout the country, in fact, except in a few of the larger and more progressive areas, no legislative provision has been made for ensuring that the attention of persons engaged in the preparation, etc., of food articles shall be drawn to the need for speciM precautions and the carrying out of the work in suitable premises under clean and sanitary conditions. In order to secure the



powers necessary to obtain the improvement in, and the additional safety of, the fo.od supply aimed at, the local authorities have been forced into considerable expenditure and inconvenience. T h e y have to incur also considerable odium and to face serious opposition on the part of persons engaged in the business of food production and distributio.n, who. pretend a fear of health auth,orities and their officers, talk of oppression and persecutio.n, and refuse to, recognise that better results, so far as t~e consumer is concerned, will certainly be obtained by the trades and the authorities working together than by each .operating separately and often in opposition. Througho.ut all the eo.ntests undertaken by the individual autliorities to secure the-powers necessary for the protection of their communities, the Minister and the Ministry of Health appear to have played a more or tess quiescent part. No specific statement has. been made on the subject or indication given that legislation affecting the country as a whole was contemplated. This is all the more strange having regard to the existence of a special food depai:tment to the Ministry and, as already noted, to the prominence given in the annual reports of the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry to. matters affecting the relation of food to. health and disease. T h a t it is strange, and improper also apparently, that legislation, of this kind is regarded as suitable for promotion piecemeal and by local authorities instead of by ttie national ~overnment, appears to liave struck the food trade organisations also. These l~odies--o.r certain of them, since their n~umbers are legion--are engaged at the moment in raising an outcry against one of the local government authorities with a bill before Parliament, and claiming that inequalities in administratio.n occur o r - m a y occur wth increased expense to and interference with tra~le; are clamouring either fo.r no action at all or, alternatively , for a government measure. In the municipal public health service tl{ere are haany who have year after year proclaimed the necessity for an Act of Parliament operative throughout the country , dealing with the subject of cleanliness and safety of food. In 1925 the Society of Medical Officers of Health, in conjunction with the Royal Sanitary Institute, set ~p a special committee to consider the matter. In a report issued by this. body under the title " Clean Food," the need for action was



abundantly shown. A demand for legislation made at the same time has up to the present remained unheard. T h o u g h it is open to applaud those authorities who have promoted or are promoting local Acts of Parliament, the hope is now nourished, however, that important and powerful trade organisations having registered a claim, government will be more inclined to listen and to produce a piece of legislation much more important in the interests of the health o.f the people as a whole than any passed for many a day.

The Glasgow School Child. school medical report for tlm T H:Eyearannual ended July, 1931, by Dr. George Arbuckle Brown, Deputy Medical Officer of Health for the Education Health Service in Glasgow, is noteworthy for several reasons. In the first place it may be noted that it deals with the work done .during the first complete year since the transfer of the functions of the education authority to the corporation, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929. Secondly, it contains evidence of real improvement in the physical condition of the school children of Glasgow', and as the views are based on the results of the examination of as m a n y as 58,565 school children, they are of some importance. T h e y add weight certainly to the statement of Dr. Macgregdr, Medical Officer of Health for the City, who., in an introduction to the report, calls attention particularly' to impro~cements in relation to height and weight that have taken place during recent years. Admitting that such improvements have been general throughout the country since the war, D r . Macgregor notes that in the Glasgow data there are two points to. be observed--(a) the larger the house the better become the average heights and weights of tee children; and (b)..a .decided improvement among those who belong to the poorer classes. In the case of children 0f 9 and 13 years of age from one-apartment houses, in 1931 average heights and weights exceed those of the children of 1907 who came from two- and three-apartment houses. It is significant .Of the influence of modern school life'that the entrants do not show quite so much relative improverrlent. Another quite obvious change for the better wh!ch' is'gradually taking place is-the reduction in the incidence of rickets. .The experience of twenty years from 1910 to 1981 is