ADULTERATION (from Lat. adulterare, to defile or falsify), the act of debasing a commercial commodity with the object of passing it off as or under the name of a pure or genuine commodity for illegitimate profit, or the substitution of an inferior article for a superior one, to the detriment of the purchaser. Although the term is mainly used in connexion with the falsification of articles of food, drink or drugs, and is so dealt with in this article, the practice of adulteration extends to almost all manufactured products and even to unmanufactured natural substances, and (as was once suggested by John Bright) is an almost inseparable—though none the less reprehensible—phase of keen trade competition. In its crudest forms as old as commerce itself, it has progressed with the growth of knowledge and of science, and is, in its most modern developments, almost a branch—and that not the least vigorous one—of applied science. From the mere concealment of a piece of metal or a stone in a loaf of bread or in a lump of butter, a bullet in a musk bag or in a piece of opium, it has developed into the use of aniline dyes, of antiseptic chemicals, of synthetic sweetening agents in foods, the manufacture of butter from cocoa-nuts, of lard from cotton-seed and of pepper from olive stones. Its growth and development has necessitated the employment of multitudes of scientific officers charged with its detection and the passing of numerous laws for its repression and punishment. While for all common forms of fraud the common law is in most cases considered strong enough, special laws against the adulteration of food have been found necessary in all civilized countries. A vigorous branch of chemical literature deals with it; there exist scientific societies specially devoted to its study; laboratories are maintained by governments with staffs of highly trained chemists for its detection; and yet it not only develops and flourishes, but becomes more general, if less virulent and dangerous to health.
There are numerous references to adulteration in the classics. The detection of the base metal by Archimedes in Hiero’s crown, by the light specific gravity of the latter, is a well-known instance. Vitruvius speaks of the adulteration of minium with lime, Dioscorides of that of opium with other plant juices and with gum, Pliny of that of flour with white clay. Both in Rome and in Athens wine was often adulterated with colours and flavouring agents, and inspectors were charged with looking after it.
In England, so far back as the reign of John (1203), a proclamation was made throughout the kingdom, enforcing the legal obligations of assize as regards bread; and in the following reign the statute (51 Hen. III. Stat. 6) entitled “the pillory and tumbrel” was framed for the express purpose of protecting the public from the dishonest dealings of bakers, vintners, brewers, butchers and others. This statute is the first in which the adulteration of human food is specially noticed and prohibited; it seems to have been enforced with more or less rigour until the time of Anne, when it was repealed (1709). According to the Liber Albus it was strictly observed in the days of Edward I., for it states that: “If any default shall be found in the bread of a baker in the city, the first time, let him be drawn upon a hurdle from the Guildhall to his own house through the great street where there be most people assembled, and through the great streets which are most dirty, with the faulty loaf hanging from his neck; if a second time he shall be found committing the same offence, let him be drawn from the Guildhall through the great street of Cheepe in the manner aforesaid to the pillory, and let him be put upon the pillory, and remain there at least one hour in the day; and the third time that such default shall be found, he shall be drawn, and the oven shall be pulled down, and the baker made to foreswear the trade in the city for ever.” The assize of 1634 provides that “if there be any manner of person or persons, which shall by any false wayes or meanes, sell any meale under the kinge’s subjects, either by mixing it deceitfully or sell any musty or corrupted meal, which may be to the hurte and infection of man’s body, or use any false weight, or any deceitful wayes or meanes, and so deceive the subject, for the first offence he shall be grievously punished, the second he shall loose his meale, for the third offence he shall suffer the judgment of the pillory and the fourth time he shall foreswere the town wherein he dwelleth.” Vintners, spicers, grocers, butchers, regrators and others were subject to the like punishment for dishonesty in their commercial dealings—it being thought that the pillory, by appealing to the sense of shame, was far more deterrent of such crimes than fine or imprisonment. In the reign of Edward the Confessor a knavish brewer of the city of Chester was taken round the town in the cart in which the refuse of the privies had been collected. Ale-tasters had to look after the ale and test it by spilling some on to a wooden seat, sitting on the wet place in their leathern breeches, the stickiness of the “residue obtained by evaporation” affording the evidence of purity or otherwise. If sugar had been added the taster adhered to the bench; pure malt beer was not considered to yield an adhesive extract. In 1553, the lord mayor of London ordered a jury of five or six vintners to rack and draw off the suspected wine of another vintner, and to ascertain what drugs or ingredients they found in the said wine or cask to sophisticate the same. At another time eight pipes of wine were ordered to be destroyed because, on racking off, bundles of weeds, pieces of sulphur match, and “a kind of gravel mixture sticking to the casks” had been found.
Similar records have come down from the continental European countries. In 1390 an Augsburg wine-seller was sentenced to be led out of the city with his hands bound and a rope round his neck; in 1400 two others were branded and otherwise severely punished; in 1435 “were the taverner Christian Corper and his wife put in a cask in which he sold false wine, and then exposed in the pillory. The punishment was adjudged because they had roasted pears and put them into new sour wine, in order to sweeten the wine. Some pears were hung round their necks like unto a Paternoster.” In Biebrich on the Rhine, in 1482, a wine-falsifier was condemned to drink six quarts of his own wine; from this he died. In Frankfurt, casks in which false wine had been found were placed with a red flag on the knacker’s cart, “the jailer marched before, the rabble after; and when they came to the river they broke the casks and tumbled the stuff into the stream.” In France successive ordonnances from 1330 to 1672 forbade the mixing of two wines together under the penalty of a fine and the confiscation of the wine.
Modern British Legislation.—In modern times the English parliament has dealt frequently with the subject of food adulteration. In 1725 it was provided that “no dealer in tea or manufacturer or dyer thereof, or pretending so to be, shall counterfeit or adulterate tea, or cause or procure the same to be counterfeited or adulterated, or shall alter, fabricate or manufacture tea with terra-japonica, or with any drug or drugs whatsoever; nor shall mix or cause or procure to be mixed with tea any leaves other than the leaves of tea or other ingredients whatsoever, on pain of forfeiting and losing the tea so counterfeited, adulterated, altered, fabricated, manufactured or mixed, and any other thing or things whatsoever added thereto, or mixed or used therewith, and also the sum of £100.” Six years afterwards, in 1730–1731, a further act was passed prescribing a penalty for “sophisticating” tea; it recites that several ill-disposed persons do frequently dye, fabricate or manufacture very great quantities of sloe leaves, liquorice leaves, and the leaves of tea that have been before used, or the leaves of other trees, shrubs or plants in imitation of tea, and do likewise mix, colour, stain and dye such leaves and likewise tea with terra-japonica, sugar, molasses, clay, logwood, and with other ingredients, and do sell and vend the same as true and real tea, to the prejudice of the health of his majesty’s subjects, the diminution of the revenue and to the ruin of the fair trader. This act provides that for every pound of adulterated tea found in possession of any person, a sum of £10 shall be forfeited. It was followed by one passed in 1766–1767, which increased the penalty to imprisonment for not less than six nor more than twelve months. As regards coffee, an act of 1718 recited that “divers evil-disposed persons have at the time or soon after the roasting of coffee made use of water, grease, butter or such-like materials, whereby the same is rendered unwholesome and greatly increased in weight,” and a penalty of £20 is enacted. In 1803 an act refers to the addition of burnt, scorched or roasted peas, beans or other grains or vegetable substances prepared in imitation of coffee or cocoa, to coffee or cocoa, and fixes the penalty for the offence at £100, but subsequently permission was given to coffee or cocoa dealers also to deal in scorched or roasted corn, peas, beans or parsnips whole and not ground, crushed or powdered, under certain excise restrictions. An act passed in 1816 relating to beer and porter provides that no brewer of or dealer in or retailer of beer “shall receive or have in his possession, or make or mix with any worts or beer, any liquor, extract or other preparation for the purpose of darkening the colour of worts or beer, other than brown malt, ground or unground, or shall have in his possession or use, or mix with any worts or beer any molasses, honey, liquorice, vitriol, quassia, coculus-indiae, grains of paradise, guinea-pepper or opium, or any extracts of these, or any articles or preparation whatsoever for or as a substitute for malt or hops.” Any person contravening was liable to a penalty of £200, and any druggist selling to any brewer or retail dealer any colouring or malt substitute was to be fined £500. It was only in 1847 that brewers were allowed to make for their own use, from sugar, a liquor for darkening the colour of worts or beer and to use it in brewing.
All the laws hitherto referred to were mainly passed in the interest of the inland revenue, and their execution was left entirely in the hands of the revenue officers. It was but natural that they should look primarily after the dutiable articles and not after those that brought no revenue to the state. About the middle of the 19th century many articles, however, paid import duty; butter, for instance, paid 5s. per hundredweight; cheese from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d.; flour or meal of all kinds, 41d.; ginger, 10s.; isinglass, 5s.; and so on. Sensational and doubtless largely exaggerated statements were from time to time published concerning the food supply of the nation. F. C. Accum (1769–1838) by his Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons (1820), and particularly an anonymous writer of a book entitled Deadly Adulteration and Slow Poisoning unmasked, or Disease and Death in the Pot and the Bottle, in which the blood-empoisoning and life-destroying adulterations of wines, spirits, beer, bread, flour, tea, sugar, spices, cheesemongery, pastry, confectionery, medicines, &c., &c., are laid open to the public (1830), roused the public attention. In 1850 a physician, Dr. Arthur H. Hassall, had the happy idea of looking at ground coffee through the microscope. Eminent chemists had previously found great difficulty in establishing any satisfactory chemical distinction between coffee, chicory and other adulterants of coffee; the microscope immediately showed the structural difference of the particles, however small. The results of Hassall’s examinations were embodied in a paper which was read before the Botanical Society of London and was reported in The Times, 1850. A paper on the microscopic examination of sugar, showing the presence in that article of innumerable living mites, followed and attracted much attention. Hassall was in consequence commissioned by Thomas Wakley (1795–1862), the owner of the Lancet, to extend his examination to other articles of food, and for a period of nearly four years reports of the Lancet Analytical Sanitary Commission were regularly published, the names and addresses of hundreds of manufacturers and tradesmen selling adulterated articles being fearlessly given. The responsibility incurred was immense, but the assertions of the journal were so well founded upon fact that they were universally accepted as accurately representing the appalling state of the food supply. As instances may be cited, that of thirty-four samples of coffee only three were pure, chicory being present in thirty-one, roasted corn in twelve, beans and potato flour each in one; of thirty-four samples of chicory, fourteen were adulterated with corn, beans or acorns; of forty-nine samples of bread, every one contained alum; of fifty-six samples of cocoa, only eight were pure; of twenty-six milks, fourteen were adulterated; of twenty-eight cayenne peppers, only four were genuine, thirteen containing red-lead and one vermilion; of upwards of one hundred samples of coloured sugar-confectionery, fifty-nine contained chromate of lead, eleven gamboge, twelve red-lead, six vermilion, nine arsenite of copper and four white-lead.
In consequence of the Lancet’s disclosures a parliamentary committee was appointed in 1855, the labours of which resulted in 1860 in the Adulteration of Food and Drink Act, the first act that dealt generally with the adulteration of food. The first section of this enacted “that every person Act of 1860.who shall sell any article of food or drink with which, to the knowledge of such person, any ingredient or material injurious to the health of persons eating or drinking such article has been mixed, and every person who shall sell as pure or unadulterated any article of food or drink which is adulterated and not pure, shall for every such offence, on summary conviction, pay a penalty not exceeding £5 with costs.” In the case of a second offence the name, place of abode and offence might be published in the newspapers at the offender’s expense. As the act, however, left it optional to the district authorities to appoint analysts or not, and did not provide for the appointment of any officer upon whom should rest the duty of obtaining samples or of prosecuting offenders, it virtually 1872.remained a dead letter till 1872, when the Adulteration of Food and Drugs Act came into force, prescribing a penalty not exceeding £50 for the sale of injurious food and, for a second offence, imprisonment for six months with hard labour. Inspectors were empowered to make purchases of samples to be submitted for analysis, but appointment of analysts was still left optional. The definition of an adulterated article given in that act was essentially that still accepted at the present time, namely, “any article of food or drink or any drug mixed with any other substances, with intent fraudulently to increase its weight or bulk, without declaration of such admixture to any purchaser thereof before delivering the same.” The adoption of the act was sporadic, and, outside London and a few large towns, the number of proceedings against offenders remained exceedingly small. Nevertheless complaints soon arose that it inflicted considerable injury and imposed heavy and undeserved penalties upon some respectable tradesmen, mainly owing to the “want of a clear understanding of what does and does not constitute adulteration,” and in some cases to conflicting decisions and the inexperience of analysts.Again a parliamentary committee was appointed which took a mass of evidence, the outcome of its inquiries being the Sale Of Food and Drugs Act 1875, which is in force at the present day, subject to amendments and additions made at later dates. This act avoided the term “adulteration” 1875.altogether and endeavoured to give a clearer description of punishable offences:—
Section 6. “No person shall sell to the purchaser any article of food or any drug which is not of the nature, substance and quality of the article demanded by the purchaser under a penalty not exceeding £20; provided that an offence shall not be deemed to be committed under this section in the following cases: (1) where any matter or ingredient not injurious to health has been added to the food or drug because the same is required for the production or preparation thereof as an article of commerce, in a state fit for carriage or consumption, and not fraudulently to increase the bulk, weight or measure of the food or drug, or conceal the inferior quality thereof; (2) where the food or drug is a proprietary medicine, or is the subject of a patent in force and is supplied in the state required by the specification of the patent; (3) where the food or drug is compounded as in the act mentioned; (4) where the food or drug is unavoidably mixed with some extraneous matter in the process of collection or preparation.”
Section 8. “No person shall be guilty of any such offence as aforesaid in respect to the sale of an article of food or a drug mixed with any matter or ingredient not injurious to health, and not intended fraudulently to increase its bulk, weight or measure, or conceal its inferior quality, if at the time of delivering such article or drug he shall supply to the person receiving the same a notice, by a label distinctly and legibly written or printed on or with the article or drug, to the effect that the same is mixed.”
The act made the appointment of analysts compulsory upon the city of London, the vestries, county quarter sessions and town councils or boroughs having a separate police establishment. For the protection of the vendor, samples that had been purchased by the inspectors for analysis were to be offered to be divided into three parts, one to be submitted to the analyst, the second to be given to the vendor to be dealt with by him as he might deem fit, and the third to be retained by the inspector: and, at the discretion of the magistrate hearing any summons, to be submitted, in case of dispute, to the commissioners of inland revenue for analysis by the chemical laboratory at Somerset House. The public analyst had to give a certificate, couched in a prescribed form, to the person submitting any sample for analysis, which certificate was to be taken as evidence of the facts therein stated, in order to render the proceedings as inexpensive as practicable. If the defendant in any prosecution could prove to the satisfaction of the court that he had purchased the article under a warranty of genuineness, and that he sold it in the same state as when he purchased it, he was to be discharged from the prosecution, but no provision was made that in that event the giver of the warranty should be proceeded against.
Section 6, quoted above, gave rise to an immense amount of litigation, and already in 1879 it was found necessary to pass an amending act, making it clear that if a purchase was effected by an inspector with the intent to get the purchased article analysed, he was as much “prejudiced” if 1879.obtaining a sophisticated article as a private purchaser who purchased for his own use and consumption. The amending act also dealt in some small measure with a difficulty which immediately after passing the act was found to arise in ascertaining whether any article was “of the nature, substance and quality demanded by the purchaser”—“in determining whether an offence has been committed under section 6 by selling spirits not adulterated otherwise than by the admixture of water, it shall be a good defence to prove that such admixture has not reduced the spirit more than twenty-five degrees under proof for brandy, whisky or rum, or thirty-five under proof for gin.” Almost insuperable difficulties as to the meaning of “nature, substance and quality” subsequently arose as regards every conceivable food material. As its it was obviously impossible for parliament to define every article, to lay down limits of composition within which it might vary, to specify the substances or ingredients that might enter into it, to limit the proportions of the unavoidable impurities that might be contained in it, the duty to do all this was left to the individual analysts. An enormous number of substances had to be analysed until sufficient evidence had been accumulated for the giving of correct opinions or certificates. Endless disputes unavoidably arose, friction with manufacturers and traders, unfortunately also with the referees at the inland revenue, who for many years were altogether out of touch with the analysts. Conflicting decisions come to by various benches of magistrates upon similar cases, allowing of the legal sale of an article in one district which in another had been declared illegal, rendered the position of merchants often unsatisfactory. It was not recognized by parliament until almost a quarter of a century had elapsed that it was not enough to compel local authorities to get samples analysed, but that it was also the duty of parliament to lay down specific and clear instructions that might enable the officers to do their work. This has only been very partially done even at the present time.
A curious condition of things arose out of the definition of “food” given in the act of 1875: “The term food shall include every article used for food or drink by man, other than drugs or water.” It had been the practice of bakers to add alum to the flour from which bread was Difficulties of administration.manufactured, in order to whiten the bread, and to permit the use of damaged and discoloured flour. This practice had been strongly condemned by chemists and physicians, because it rendered the bread indigestible and injurious to health. Shortly after the passing of the Food Act this objectionable practice was stamped out by numerous prosecutions, and alumed bread now no longer occurs. A large trade, however, continued to be carried on in baking powders consisting of alum and sodium bicarbonate. It was naturally thought that, as baking powder is sold with the obvious intention that it may enter into food, the vendors could also be proceeded against. The high court, however, held that, baking powder in itself not being an article of food, its sale could not be an offence under the Food Act. This anomaly was removed by a later act. Under section 6 of the act of 1875 a defendant could be convicted, even if he had no guilty knowledge of the fact that the article he had sold was adulterated. In the repealed Adulteration Act of 1872 the words “to the knowledge of” were inserted, and they were found fatal to obtaining convictions. The general rule of the law is that the master is not criminally responsible for the acts of his servants if they are done without his knowledge or authority, but under the Food Act it was held (Brown v. Foot, 1892, 66 L.T. 649) that a master was liable for the watering of milk by one of his servants, although he had published a warning to them that they would be dismissed if found doing so. Milk might be adulterated during transit on the railway without the knowledge of the owner or receiver, and yet the vendor was liable to conviction.
When it is brought to the knowledge of a purchaser that the article sold to him is not of the nature, substance or quality he demanded, the sale is not to the prejudice of the purchaser. The notice may be given verbally or by a label supplied with the article. A common law notice may also be given. In Sandys v. Small, 1878, 3 Q.B.D. 449, a publican had displayed a placard within the inn to the effect that the spirits sold in his establishment were watered. This was held, as it were, to contract him out of the Food Act. Similarly, in the case of butters that had been adulterated with milk, the vendors, by giving a general notice in the shop, evaded punishment under the act. A notice, is, however, of no avail if given under section 8 of the act, if the admixture has been made for fraudulent purposes. In Liddiart v. Reece, 44 J.P. 233, 1880, an inspector asked for coffee and received a packet with a label describing it as a mixture of coffee and chicory. It was sold at the price of coffee. It turned out to be a mixture containing 40% of chicory. The high court held that this was an excessive quantity, and was added for the purpose of fraudulently increasing the bulk or weight. In another case, however (Otter v. Edgley, 1893, 57 J.P. 457), where an inspector had asked for French coffee and had been supplied with a mixture containing 60% of chicory, the article being labelled as a mixture, the high court held that there was no evidence of fraud, and, in the case of cocoa, a mixture containing as little as 30% of cocoa and 70% of starch and sugar, the label stating it to be a mixture, was held to have been legally sold (Jones v. Jones, 1894, 58 J.P. 653). In this case the label notifying the admixture was hidden by a sheet of opaque white paper, nor had the purchaser's attention been called to it, but the price of the article was much lower than that of pure cocoa.
It is seen from these few instances, taken at random out of scores, that this clause of the act was far from clear and was very variously interpreted at the courts. The warranty clause (clause 25) also gave rise to an immense amount of litigation. In the earlier high court decisions a very narrow interpretation was given to the term “written warranty,” but in later years a wider view prevailed. A general contract to supply a pure article is not a sufficient warranty unless with every delivery there is something to identify the delivery as part of the contract. An invoice containing merely a description of an article as “lard” or “pepper” is not a warranty; but if there be added the words “guaranteed pure” it is a sufficient warranty. A label upon an article is not in itself a warranty, but a label bearing the words “pure” or “unadulterated,” coupled with an invoice which could be identified with the label, together were held to form an effective warranty.
As many thousands of samples were annually submitted by inspectors under the act to the analysts who had been appointed in 237 boroughs and districts, a very large number of cases led to disputes of law or fact, about seventy high court cases being decided within eighteen years of the passing of the act. While these cases related to a variety of different articles and conditions, dairy produce, namely milk and butter, led to the greatest amount of litigation. It may seem to be a simple matter to ascertain whether a vendor of milk supplies his customer with milk of the “nature, substance and quality demanded,” but milk is subject to great variations in composition owing to a large number of circumstances which will be considered below.
Not many years after the passing of the Food Act of 1875 the sale of butter substitutes assumed very large proportions, and so seriously prejudiced dairy-farmers that, as regards these, an act was passed which was not exactly an amendment of the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, although it embodied a good many provisions of that act. It was called the Margarine Act 1887. Margerine Act.It provided that every package of articles made in imitation of butter should be labelled “margarine” in letters 11 inches square. The vendor, however, was protected if he could show a warranty or invoice, whereas in the Sale of Food and Drugs Act he was not protected by invoice merely. Inspectors might take samples of “any butter or substitute purporting to be butter” without going through the form of purchase. The maximum penalty was raised from £20 as provided by the Food Act, to £50 in the case of a first and to £100 in the case of repeated conviction. The Margarine Act is the first statute that makes reference to and sanctions the use of preservatives, concerning which a good deal will have to be said farther on.
In the course of twenty years of administration of the Food Acts so many difficulties had arisen in reference to the various points referred to, that in 1894 a select committee was appointed to inquire into the working of the various acts and to report whether any, and if so what, amendments Select committee, 1894.were desirable. During three sessions the committee sat and took voluminous evidence. They reported that where the acts had been well administered they had been most beneficial in diminishing adulteration offences. Forms of adulteration which were common prior to the passing of the 1875 act, such as the introduction of alum into bread and the colouring of confectionery with poisonous material, had almost entirely disappeared. A close connexion had been shown to exist between the extent of adulteration and the number of articles submitted for analysis under the acts, the proportion of adulterated samples being found to diminish as the number of samples taken relatively to the population increased. Thus, in 1890, in Somersetshire one sample had been analysed for every 379 persons, the percentage of adulterated samples in those taken for analysis being as low as 3.6; in Gloucestershire one to 770 persons with 6.2 of adulteration; in Bedfordshire one to 821 with 7.1; in Derbyshire one to 3164 with 17.1%, and in Oxford one sample to 14,963 inhabitants with no less than 41.7% of adulterated samples. The number of samples of articles annually submitted to analysis, according to the returns obtained by the Local Government Board, steadily increased from the commencement onward. Whereas in 1877, 14,706 samples, and in 1883, 19,648 samples were analysed, in 1904-1905 the number was no less than 84,678, or an average of one sample to 384 inhabitants for the whole country. In the five years 1877-1881 the proportion found adulterated was 16.2%; in the following five years ending with 1886, the percentage was 13.9; in the five years ending 1891, the percentage was 11.7; and in the year 1904 the percentage was only 8.5. The select committee found that wide local differences in the administration of the acts existed, and that in many parts of the country the local authorities had failed to exercise their powers. In one metropolitan district, eight members of the local authority had been convicted of offences under the acts, upon evidence obtained by their own inspector. The result was that the duties of the inspector of the acts were afterwards controlled by a committee of that local authority, who decided the cases in which prosecutions should be undertaken, and the administration of the acts was “little better than a farce.” No power existed to compel local authorities to carry out the acts. The committee came to the conclusion that in many cases the responsibility for the adulteration of articles of food did not rest with the retailer but with the wholesale dealer or manufacturer; that the law punished petty offences and left great ones untouched; that it fined a small retailer and left the wholesale offender scot free. As regards warranty, they thought that the precedent created by the Margarine Act should be followed generally, and that invoices and equivalent documents should have the force of warranties. They found that a considerable proportion of the food imports were adulterated, out of 890 samples of butter taken by the customs in 1895 no less than 106 being impure, and they recommended that in addition to tea, which by section 30 of the act of 1875 was to be systematically analysed by the customs, prior to being passed for distribution, samples of all food imports should be taken and examined by the customs. The committee further found that the penalties imposed under the acts had for the most part been trifling and quite insufficient to serve as deterrents, the profits derived from the sale of adulterated articles being out of proportion great to the insignificant fines imposed, and they recommended that for the second offence the penalty of £5 should be the minimum one, and that in respect to third or subsequent offences imprisonment without the option of a fine might be inflicted. The important question of food standards was considered at great length. The absence of legal standards or definitions of articles of food had occasioned great difficulty in numerous cases, but as no authority was provided by the existing acts that might fix such standards, they recommended the formation of a scientific authority or court of reference composed of representatives of the laboratory of the Inland Revenue, of the Local Government Board, the Board of Agriculture, the General Medical Council, the Institute of Chemistry, the Pharmaceutical Society, of other scientific men and of the trading and manufacturing community, who should have the duty of fixing standards of quality and purity of food to be confirmed by a secretary of state.
The committee’s deliberations and recommendations resulted in the Sale of Food and Drugs Act 1899. This unfortunately was not a comprehensive act superseding the previous acts, but was an additional and amending one, so that at the present time four food acts run parallel and are together in force, rendering the subject from a legal point of view one of extreme complexity. In this act the growing influence of the Board of Agriculture and the desire to assist farmers and dairymen more decisively than previously are clearly Act of 1899.apparent. Section 1 empowers the customs to take samples of consignments of imported articles of food and enjoins them to communicate to the Board of Agriculture the names of the importers of adulterated goods, any article of food to be considered adulterated or impoverished if it has been mixed with any other substance (other than preservative or colouring matter, of such a nature and such a quantity as not to render the article injurious to health), or if any part of it has been abstracted to the detriment of the article. Margarine or cheese containing margarine has to be conspicuously marked as such; condensed, separated or skim milk has to be clearly labelled “machine-skimmed milk” or “skimmed milk,” as the case may be. The next sections give to the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture a roving commission to see that the acts are properly enforced throughout the kingdom so as to apply the acts more equally throughout the country than heretofore, and in default of local authorities carrying out their duties empower the government departments mentioned to execute and enforce the acts at the expense of the local authorities. The importance of a regular and conscientious control of the public food supply by the local authorities was thus for the first time, after forty years of experimental legislation, fully acknowledged. In recognition of the great difficulties experienced for many years by analysts in their endeavour to fix minimum percentages for the fat and other milk constituents, and their inability to do so without statutory powers, the Board of Agriculture is authorized by section 4 to make regulations “for determining what deficiency in any of the normal constituents of genuine milk, cream, butter or cheese, or what addition of extraneous matter or proportion of water” in any of these materials shall raise a presumption, until the contrary is proved, that these articles are not genuine. In pursuance of these powers the Board of Agriculture did in 1901 issue their milk regulations, adopting officially the minima agreed upon by public analysts, and in 1902 the sale of butter regulations, which fixed 16% as the maximum of water that might be contained in butter. It is important to note that the fact of a sample of milk falling short of the standard is not conclusive evidence of adulteration, but it justifies the institution of proceedings and casts the onus of proving that the sample is genuine upon the defendant. The Margarine Act of 1887 was extended to margarine cheese, the obligatory labelling of margarine packages was more precisely regulated, margarine manufacturers and dealers in that article were compelled to keep a register open to inspection by the Board of Agriculture, showing the quantity and designation of each consignment, and power was given to officers of the board to enter at all reasonable times manufactories of margarine and margarine cheese. The amount of butter-fat that might be present in margarine was limited to 10%, while under the Margarine Act of 1887 an unlimited admixture might have been made, provided that the mixture, no matter how large the percentage of butter, was sold as margarine. As is further explained below, the difficulty of distinguishing without chemical aid between pure butter and margarine containing a considerable percentage of butter is very great, and fraudulent sales continued to be common after the passing of the Margarine Act. The labelling section of the Food Act 1875 (§ 8), which had been systematically circumvented, was modified, a label being no longer recognized as distinctly and legibly written or printed, unless it is so written or printed that the notice of mixture given by the label is not obscured by other matter on the label, though labels that had been continuously in use for at least seven years before the commencement of the act were not interfered with. In consequence of the admitted unfairness of asking for a portion of the contents of a properly labelled tin or package and then instituting proceedings because no declaration of admixture had been made, it was enacted that no person shall be required to sell any article exposed for sale in an unopened tin or packet, except in the unopened tin or packet in which it is contained. This removed a grievance which had long been felt both by retailers and manufacturers, and is a provision of growing importance with the continually increasing sale of articles put up in factories. The warranty provisions, which, as before stated, had given rise to much litigation, were more clearly defined. A notice that a defendant would rely for his defence upon a warranty had to be given within seven days of the service of the summons or the defence would not be available, and the warrantor was empowered to appear at the hearing and to give evidence so that no man’s name could, as sometimes previously happened, be dragged into a case without due notice to him. A warranty or invoice given by a person resident outside the United Kingdom was no longer recognized as a defence, unless the defendant could prove that he had taken reasonable steps to ascertain and did in fact believe in the accuracy of the statement contained in the warranty. This prevented collusion between a foreign shipper and an importer; and, lastly, the definition of “food” was widened (in view of the baking-powder decision) so that the term food “shall include every article used for food or drink by man, other than drugs or water, and any article which ordinarily enters into or is used in the composition or preparation of human food, and shall also include flavoring matters and condiments.”
The act of 1899 embodies, with one exception, the most important recommendations of the Food Products Committee, the exception being the omission of instituting a board of reference that might deal with difficulties as they arose, guide analysts and public authorities in fixing limits for articles other than milk and butter, and take up the important questions of preservatives and colouring matters and such like. An occurrence which almost immediately followed the passing of the act showed in the strongest manner the necessity of such guiding board—namely, the outbreak of arsenical poisoning in the Midlands in the latter part of 1900.
In the month of June 1900 there occurred, mainly in the Midlands but also in other parts of England and Wales, an outbreak of an illness variously described as “alcoholism,” “peripheral neuritis” or “multiple neuritis.” This affected about 6000 persons and resulted in about 70 Arsenic
in foods.deaths. It was soon ascertained that the sufferers were all beer drinkers, and several of them were employees of a local brewery, the majority of whom had suffered for some months past. Although suspicion fell early upon beer, some considerable time elapsed before Dr E. S. Reynolds of Manchester discovered arsenic in dangerous proportions in the beer. Steps were immediately taken by brewers and sanitary authorities to ensure that this arsenical beer was withdrawn from sale, and, as a result, the epidemic came speedily to an end. In all instances where this epidemic of sickness had been traced to particular breweries, the latter had been users of brewing sugars-glucose and invert sugar—supplied by a single firm. The quantity of arsenic detected in specimens of these brewing sugars was in some cases very large, amounting to upward of four grains per pound. The implicated brewing sugars were found to have become contaminated by arsenic in course of their manufacture through the use of sulphuric acid, some specimens of which contained as much as 2.6% of arsenic. The acid had been made from highly arsenical iron pyrites, and as the manufacturers of the glucose had not specifically contracted with the acid makers for pure acid, the latter, not knowing for what purpose the acid was to be used, had felt themselves justified in supplying impure acid. A royal commission was appointed in February 1901, with Lord Kelvin as chairman, to inquire into the matter, and an enormous amount of attention was naturally given to it by chemists and medical men. It was soon found that arsenic was very widely disseminated in two classes of food materials, namely, such as had been dried or roasted in gases resulting from the combustion of coal, and such as had been more or less chemically manufactured. All coal contains iron pyrites, and this mineral again is contaminated with arsenic.
When the coal is burned the fumes are arsenical and part of the arsenic condenses and deposits. Malt dried in English malt kilns was found to be almost invariably arsenical, and there cannot be a doubt that English beers had for many years past been thus contaminated. At the present time coal virtually free from arsenic is selected for malting, or Newlands' process, consisting of the admixture with coal of lime which renders the arsenic non-volatile, is adopted, and malt free from all but the merest traces of arsenic is manufactured. Part of the arsenic remains in the coal-ashes and wherever these deposit arsenic can be traced. Sir Edward Frankland had, many years previously, detected arsenic in the London atmosphere. Chicory roasted with coal, steaks and chops grilled over an open fire, thus obtain a minute arsenical dosing. In sugar refineries carbonic acid gas is, at one stage of the process, passed through the liquor for the purpose of precipitating lime or strontia. When this carbonic acid is derived from coal the sugar often shows traces of arsenic. When arsenical malt or sugar infusion is fermented, as in brewing, the yeast precipitates upon itself a considerable proportion of the impurity, thus partly cleaning the beer, but all preparations made from yeast-extracts resemble to some extent meat extracts, with which they are sometimes fraudulently mixed—are thus exposed to arsenical contamination. On the continent of Europe malt is not dried in kilns with direct access of combustion gases but on floors heated from beneath, and continental beers therefore have not been found arsenical. The second class of causes of contamination consists of chemicals. The most important chemical product is sulphuric acid. This used to be made from brimstone or native volcanic sulphur, which is virtually free from arsenic. But since about 1860 sulphuric acid has been more largely made from iron or copper pyrites. Pyrites-acid is always arsenical, but can, by suitable treatment, be easily freed from that impurity. For many purposes acid that has not been purified is employed. In the Leblanc process of manufacture the first step is the conversion of salt into sodium sulphate by sulphuric acid. The hydrochloric acid which is formed carries with it most of the arsenic of the sulphuric acid. Wherever such hydrochloric acid is used it introduces arsenic; thus, in the separation of glycerin from soap lyes, the alkali of the latter is neutralized with hydrochloric acid and glycerin is in consequence frequently highly arsenical. So is the soda produced in the Leblanc process, and every one of the numerous soda salts made from soda is liable to receive its share. All acids liberated from their salts by sulphuric acid, such as phosphoric, tartaric, citric, boracic, may be, and sometimes are, thus contaminated. All superphosphates, made by the action of crude sulphuric acid upon bones or other phosphatic materials, and sulphate of ammonia, made from gas-liquor and acid, that is to say, two of the most important manurial materials, are arsenical, and the poison is thus spread far and wide over meadows and fields, and can be traced in the soil wherever artificial manures have been applied. The crops sometimes take up arsenic to a slight extent, but happily the plant is more selective than man, and no serious amount of poison absorption appears to be possible. The risk of contamination is, of course, much greater with substances which, like glucose, are not further purified by crystallization, but retain whatever impurity is introduced into them. Glucose is not only used in beer, in which by legal enactments it is permitted to be used, but is also substituted for sugar in a number of food products, and is liable to carry into them its contamination. Sugar confectionery, jams and marmalade, honey, and such like, are often admixed with glucose. It is difficult to say in the present state of the law whether such admixture amounts to adulteration. It was clearly made originally for fraudulent purposes, but usage and high court decisions have gradually given the practice an air of respectability. Vinegar of sorts is also made from a glucose liquor produced by the action of sulphuric acid upon maize or other starchy material, and is, in its turn, exposed to arsenic contamination. There is hardly a chemical substance which has directly or indirectly come into contact with sulphuric acid that is not at times arsenical. Thus, while artificial colours, now so much used for the dyeing of food products, are no longer prepared—as was rosaniline (the parent substance of so many aniline dyes) at an early stage of its manufacture—with arsenic acid, yet they are often contaminated indirectly from sulphuric acid. Furthermore, hardly any metal that results from the smelting of any ore with coal is free from arsenic, iron in particular, as employed for pots and pans and implements, being highly arsenical. From the iron the many chemical preparations which contain or are made with the aid of iron salts may be arsenicated. The general presence of arsenic from some of these causes has been known for many years; outbreaks of arsenical poisoning have been due to it at various times, but neglect, forgetfulness and human shortsightedness let the matter go into oblivion, and it is safe to predict, in spite of all attention which has been given to the subject, of the panic which was created by the beer-poisoning outbreak, of the shock and injury caused to manufacturers of many kinds, and of the watchfulness aroused in officers of health and analysts, that as long as the production of food materials or substances that go into food materials is not left to the care of nature, and as long as man adds the products of his ingenuity to our food and drink, so long will “accidents,” like the Manchester poisoning, from time to time recur. We now search for arsenic; some other time it is lead, or antimony, or selenium, that will do the mischief. Man does what he can according to his light, but he sees but a little patch of the sky of knowledge, while the plant or the animal building up its body from the plant has learned by inheritance to avoid the assimilation of matters noxious to it. Strictly speaking, arsenical poisoning does not belong to the subject of adulteration. It is not due to wilfulness but to stupidity, but it affords a lesson which cannot be taken too much to heart, that mankind, by relying too much upon “science” in feeding, is on a path that is fraught with considerable danger.
To safeguard consumers, as far as practicable, the royal commission made important recommendations concerning amendments of the Food Acts; these, as at present interpreted and administered, were reported to be unsatisfactory for the purpose of protecting the consumer against arsenic and other deleterious substances in food. “As a rule public analysts receive samples in order that they may pronounce upon their genuineness or otherwise, knowing nothing of the local circumstances which led to their being taken, of their origin or the reasons for sending them. The term ‘genuine’ in this sense means that the analyst has not detected such objectionable substances as he has considered it necessary to look for in the sample submitted to him. Obviously, the value of the statement that the sample is ‘genuine’ depends upon the extent to which the analyst has means of knowing what are the objectionable substances which it is liable to contain. In present circumstances he has not sufficient information on this point.” It was also pointed out that the application of the Food Acts to prevention of contamination of foods by deleterious substances was materially hindered by want of an official authority with the duty of dealing with the various medical, chemical and technical questions involved, and that the absence of official standards militated against the efficiency of the existing acts. The commission advised that a special officer be appointed by the Local Government Board to obtain by inquiries from various sources, such information as would enable the board to direct the work of local authorities in securing greater purity of food; and they further recommended that the board or court of reference, which had been advised by the Committee on Food Products Adulteration, should be established. Pending the establishment of official standards in respect of arsenic under the Food Acts, they were of opinion that penalties should be imposed upon any vendor of beer or any other liquid food, or of any liquor entering into the composition of food, if that liquid be shown by adequate test to contain one-hundredth of a grain or more of arsenic in the gallon, and with regard to solid food, no matter whether it be consumed habitually in large or small quantities, or whether it be taken by itself (like golden syrup), or mixed with water or other substances (like chicory or yeast extract)—if the substance contain one-hundredth of a grain of arsenic or more to the pound. The board of reference, most urgently needed for the protection of the public and for the guidance of manufacturers and officers, has yet to be created.
While from time immemorial certain articles of food have been preserved by salting, smoking, drying, or by the addition of sugar and in some cases of saltpetre, during the last quarter of the 10th century the use of chemicals acting more powerfully as antiseptics or preservatives extended Preservatives in food.enormously, particularly in England. A very large fraction of the British food supply being obtained from abroad, a proportionately great difficulty exists in obtaining the food in an entirely fresh and untainted condition. While refrigeration and cold-storage has been the chief factor in enabling the meat and other highly perishable foods to be imported, other steps, ensuring preservation of goods that are collected from farmers and brought together at shipping ports, are necessary to prevent decomposition prior to such goods coming into cold store. Thus it is well-nigh impossible to collect butter from farms in Australia or New Zealand far distant from the coast without the addition of some chemical preservative. Heavily salted goods no longer appeal to the modern palate, and, with the progress of specialized labour, the inhabitants, especially of great towns, have become accustomed to resort to manufactured provisions instead of the home-made and home-cooked food. Manufacturers of many articles of preserved food gradually adopted the use of chemical preservatives, and at the present time the practice has become so general that it may be said that practically every person in the United Kingdom who has passed the suckling stage consumes daily more or less food containing chemical preservatives. The Food Act allows of the addition of any ingredient, not injurious to health, if it be required for the production or preparation of the food, or as an article of commerce, in a state fit for carriage. The legality or otherwise of the use of chemical preservatives, therefore, hinges upon their innocuousness. Upon theoretical considerations it is clear that a substance which is capable of acting as an antiseptic must act injuriously upon bacteria, fungi or yeasts, and as the human body is, generally speaking, less resistant to poisons than the low organisms in question, it would seem to follow that antiseptics are bound to affect it injuriously. It is, of course, a question of dose and proportion. It has further been said that all antiseptics possess some sort of medicinal action, and however valuable they may be in disease when administered under the control of a competent physician, they have no business to be given indiscriminately to sick and healthy alike by purveyors of food. The result of a general desire on the part of importers and manufacturers of food materials, of the officers under the Food Act, of the medical profession and of the public, resulted after many years of agitation and complaint and after numerous conflicting magisterial decisions, in the appointment in 1899, by the president of the Local Government Board, of a departmental committee to inquire into the use of preservatives and colouring matters in food, with the reference to report: first, whether the use of such materials or any of them, in certain quantities, is injurious to health, and, if so, in what proportion does their use become injurious, and, second, to what extent and in what amounts are they used at the present time. After the examination of a great number of witnesses a report was issued in 1901. Perhaps the most important conclusion was that the instances of actual harm which were alleged to have occurred from the consumption of articles of food and drink chemically preserved were few in number, and were not at all supported by conclusive evidence. During the period which has elapsed since chemically preserved food has been used, the mortality as a whole has declined, and while this naturally cannot be put to the credit of the preservatives but is largely due to better feeding in consequence of the introduction of cheaper foods, which are rendered possible to some extent by the use of preservatives, it conclusively establishes the fact that no obvious harm has been done to the health of the community. The committee made certain recommendations which are the most authoritative pronouncements upon the subject. They are as follows:—That the use of formaldehyde or formalin, or preparations thereof, in food or drinks, be absolutely prohibited, and that salicylic acid be not used in a greater proportion than one grain per pint in liquid food and one grain per pound in solid food, its presence in all cases to be declared. That the use of any preservatives or colouring matter whatever in milk offered for sale in the United Kingdom be constituted an offence under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act. That the only preservative which it shall be lawful to use in cream be boric acid, or mixtures of boric acid and borax, and in amount not exceeding 0.25% expressed as boric acid, the amount of such preservative to be notified by a label upon the vessel. That the only preservative permitted to be used in butter and margarine be boric acid, or mixtures of boric acid and borax, to be used in proportions not exceeding 0.5% expressed as boric acid. That in the case of all dietetic preparations intended for the use of invalids or infants, chemical preservatives of all kinds be prohibited.
As the most commonly used chemical preservative is boric acid, free or in the form of borax, which is extensively employed in butter, cream, ham, sausages, potted meats, cured fish, and sometimes in jams and preserved fruit, the arguments for and against its employment deserve more detailed Borax.attention. It cannot be looked upon in the light of common adulteration because, in any case, the quantity used is but an inconsiderable fraction, and the cost of it is generally greater than that of the food itself. It is not used to hide any traces of decomposition that may have taken place or to efface its effects. On the other hand, it cannot be said to be “required for the production or preparation” of the articles with which it is mixed, since a fraction at least of similar articles are made without preservative. It enables food to be kept from decomposition, but it also lessens the need for cleanliness and encourages neglect and slovenliness in factories. It has no taste, or only a very slight one, hence does not manifest itself to the consumer in the same way as does common salt, and cannot therefore be avoided by him should he desire to do so. Its preservative action, that is, its potency, is very slight in comparison with most other preservatives; its potential injuriousness to man must be proportionately small. It is practically without interference upon salivary, peptic or tryptic digestion, unless given in large quantities. Experiments made by F. W. Tunnicliffe and R. Rosenheim upon children showed that neither boric acid nor borax, administered in doses of from 15 to 23 grains per diem, exerted any influence upon proteid metabolism or upon the assimilation of phosphatized materials. The fat assimilation was, if anything, improved, and the body weight increased, and the general health and well-being was in no way affected. On the other hand, evidence was adduced that in some cases digestive disturbances, after continuous administration of from 15 to 40 grains, were observable, nausea and vomiting in some, and skin irritation, in one case resulting in complete baldness, in others.Although it is in most cases very difficult to trace any gastric disturbance to any particular article of food or one of its ingredients, so as to exclude all other possible causes of disturbance, a fairly good case has been made out by a number of medical practitioners against boracic acid, taken in an ordinary diet and not for experimental purposes. The most exhaustive investigation which has as yet been made was carried out by Dr H. W. Wiley, chief chemist to the United States department of agriculture. A large number of young men who had offered themselves as subjects for the investigations, were boarded as a special “hygienic table,” but otherwise continued their usual vocations during the whole period of the experiment. They were placed upon their honour to observe the rules and regulations prepared by the department and to use no other food or drink than that provided, water excepted, and any water consumed away from the hygienic table was to be measured and reported. They were to continue their regular habits and not to indulge in any excessive amount of labour or exercise. Weight, temperature and pulse rate were continuously recorded. The periods during which the subjects of the experiment were kept under observation varied from thirty to seventy days, periods of rest being given during which they were permitted to eat moderately at tables other than the experimental one. There was a good and ample diet. The observations were divided into three periods: the fore period, the preservative period and the after period, during the whole of which time the rations of each member were weighed or measured and the excreta collected. Before the “fore” period was commenced a note was made of the quantities of food voluntarily consumed by each of the candidates, and from these the proper amount necessary in each case to maintain a comparatively constant body weight was calculated. When a suitable result was thus arrived at, the same quantity of food was given daily during the “preservative” and “after” periods. The preservative was given in the forms of borax and of boric acid, at first mixed with butter, but subsequently in gelatine capsules. This was found to be necessary from the fact that when the preservative was mixed with the food and concealed in it some of the members of the table evinced dislike of the food with which it was supposed to be incorporated; those who thought that the preservative was in the butter were disposed to find the butter unpalatable, and the same was true with those who thought it might be in the milk or coffee, while, when the preservative was given openly, much less disturbance was created. The preservative was given at first in small doses such as might be consumed in commercial food that had been preserved with borax; gradually the quantities were increased in order to reach the limit of toleration for each individual. All food was weighed, measured and analysed, the same being the case with the excreta. The blood was examined periodically as regards colouring matter and number of corpuscles. Everything was done to keep up the general health of the members and to do away with all unfavourable mental influences due to the circumstances. During the time of the experiment analyses were made of 2550 food samples and 1175 samples each of urine and faeces. The general results were as follows: there was no tendency to excite diarrhoea, and the nitrogen-metabolism was but very little influenced, if anything being slightly decreased. As regards phosphorus the combined results of all observations indicated that the preservative increased the excretion of phosphorus to a small extent, from 97.3% in the “fore” period, to 103.1 in the “preservative” period. The metabolism of fat was uninfluenced; there was an increase of the solid matters in the faeces and a decrease of those in the urine, from which Dr Wiley concluded that the preservatives interfered with the process of digestion and absorption. No influence was exerted on the corpuscles and the haemoglobin of the blood. The effect of boracic acid and borax on the general health varied with the amount administered, quantities not exceeding half a gramme (71 grains) of boracic acid, or its equivalent of borax, producing no immediate effects, but the long-continued administration of such small doses seemed to produce the same results as the use of large doses over a shorter period. There was a tendency to diminish the appetite and to produce a feeling of fulness and uneasiness in the stomach and sometimes actual nausea, also one of fulness in the head manifested as a dull headache which disappeared when the preservative was dropped. The continued administration of large doses, 60 to 75 grains per day, resulted in most cases in loss of appetite, inability to perform work of any kind and general unfitness. In most cases 45 grains per day could be taken for some time, but gradually injurious effects were observed. In some cases 30 and even 15 grains per day appeared to cause illness, but it is acknowledged that these persons may have been suffering from influenza. The administration of 7.5 grains was declared by Dr Wiley to be too much for the normal man to receive regularly, although for a limited period there might be no danger to health. Dr Wiley concludes his report: “It appears, therefore, that both boric acid and borax, when continuously administered in small doses for a long period or when given in large quantities for a short period, create disturbance of appetite, of digestion and of health.”
Dr Wiley’s conclusions were adversely criticized by Dr O. Liebreich, who carefully studied on the spot all the conditions of the experiment and the documents relating to the investigation. He pointed out that the results were so indefinite and the number of persons under control so small that “one case of self-deception or of forgetfulness only would throw into absolute uncertainty the solution of the whole question”; that no lasting injury to health was found in spite of transient disturbances attributed by Dr Liebreich to other causes, and that all persons declared themselves to be in better physical condition after seven months than they had been before. On the whole the balance of evidence seems to be that while no acute injury is likely to result from boron compounds in food, they are liable to produce slighter digestive interferences.
Other chemical substances that are in use for the purpose of preserving food materials may be treated more shortly. Formaldehyde, coming into commerce in the form of a 40% solution under the name of formalin, was for a time largely used in milk. It certainly has very great Formaldehyde.antiseptic properties, as little as 1 part in 50,000 parts checking the growth of organisms in milk for some hours, but as the substance combines with albuminous matters and hardens them to an extraordinary degree, rendering, for instance, gelatine perfectly insoluble in water, it exerts an inhibitory effect on the digestive ferments. It injures salivary, peptic and pancreatic digestion. A set of five kittens fed with milk containing 1 part in 50,000 of formaldehyde for seven weeks were strongly retarded in growth, three ultimately dying, while four control kittens fed on pure milk flourished. In even moderate doses formalin produces severe pains in the abdomen and has caused death. It is now generally recognized as a substance that is admirably adapted for disinfecting a sick-room, but quite improper and unsuitable for food preservation.
Salicylic acid or orthohydroxybenzoic acid is either obtained from oil of winter-green or is made synthetically by Kolbe’s process from phenol and carbonic acid. Artificial salicylic acid generally contains impurities (creasotic acids) which act very injuriously upon health. When Salicyclic acid.pure, salicylic acid employed as a food preservative has never produced decided injurious effects, although administered by itself in fairly strong solution it acts as an irritant to the stomach and kidneys, and sometimes causes skin eruptions. It is a powerful drug in larger doses and requires careful administration, especially as about 60% of the persons to whom it is administered show symptoms known as “salicylism,” namely, deafness, headache, delirium, vomiting, sometimes haemorrhage or heart-failure. It is doubtful whether pure salicyiic acid produces these symptoms. When present in proportion of 1 to 1000 it inhibits the growth of moulds and yeasts. In jams 2 grains per pound and in beverages 7 grains to a gallon are considered by manufacturers to be sufficient for preservative purposes. It is used mainly in articles of food or drink containing sugar, that is to say, in jams and preserved fruit, lime and lemon juices, syrups, cider, British wines and imported lager. Its use in butter, potted meat, milk or cream, in which it was not infrequently met with formerly, is now quite exceptional. It has already been stated that the preservative committee recommended its permissive use in small proportions. To some extent benzoic acid and benzoates have taken the place of salicylic acid and salicylates, partly because salicylic acid can readily be detected analytically, while benzoic acid is not quite easily discoverable. Its antiseptic potency is about equal to that of salicylic acid, and the arguments for or against its use are similar to those relating to the latter.
For the preservation of meat and beer, lime juice and dried fruit, sulphur dioxide (sulphurous acid) and some of the sulphites have long been employed. Sulphuring of hops and disinfection of barrels by burning brimstone matches is an exceedingly old practice. Burning sulphur is well known as a gaseous disinfectant of rooms, bacteria being killed in air containing 1% of the gas. As the taste and smell of sulphurous acid and of sulphites are very pronounced it follows that but small quantities can be added to food or drink. About 1 part in 4000 or 5000 of beer is the usual amount. While, in larger quantities, the sulphites have decided physiological activity and are apt to produce nephritis, there is not any evidence that they have ever caused injurious effects in alcoholic liquors. The excise authorities have tacitly sanctioned their employment in breweries, although the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1885 declares that a brewer of beer shall not add any matter or thing thereto except finings or other matter or thing sanctioned by the commissioners of Inland Revenue, and although sulphites are used in all breweries, the Board of Inland Revenue do neither sanction nor interfere. An antiseptic with a pronounced taste is obviously a safer one in the hands of a non-medical person than one virtually devoid of taste, like boric, salicylic or benzoic acids or their salts.
Sodium fluoride, a salt possessing powerfully antiseptic properties, but also at the same time clearly injurious to health and interfering with salivary and peptic digestion, has been found in butter, imported mainly from Brittany, in quantities quite inadmissible in food under any Other preservatives.circumstances. A few other chemical preservatives are occasionally used. Hydrogen peroxide has been found effective in milk sterilization, and if the substance is pure, no serious objection can be raised against it. Saccharine, and other artificial sweetening agents, having antiseptic properties, are taking the place of sugar in beverages like ginger-beer and lemonade, but the substitution of a trace of a substance that provides sweetness without at the same time giving the substance and food value of sugar is strongly to be deprecated.
The employment of chemical preservative matters in articles intended for human consumption threatens to become a grave danger to health or well-being. Each dealer in food contributes but a little; each one claims that his particular article of food cannot be brought into commerce without preservative, and each condemns the use of these substances by others. There is doubtless something to be said for the practice, but infinitely more against it. It cheapens food by allowing its collection in districts far away, but the chief gainer is not the public as a whole but the manufacturer and the wholesale merchant. Our body has by inheritance acquired habits and needs that are quite foreign to chemical interference. Some day, artificially prepared foods, containing liberal quantities of matters that are not now food ingredients, may conceivably compare with natural food products, but that day is not yet, and meantime it ought to be clearly the duty of the state to see that the evil is checked. The intention which has introduced this form of adulteration may be more or less beneficent, but in practice it is almost wholly evil.
A similar criticism applies to the continually extending use of colouring matter in food. Civilized man requires his food not only to be healthy and tasty. but also attractive in appearance. It is the art of the cook to prepare dishes that please the eye. This is a difficult art, for the various Coloring matter in
food.colouring matters which are naturally present in meat and fish, in fruit, legumes and green vegetables are of a delicate and changeable nature and easily affected or destroyed by cooking. Many years ago some artful, if stupid, cook found that green vegetables like peas or spinach, when cooked in a copper pan, by preference a dirty one, showed a far more brilliant colour than the same vegetables cooked in earthenware or iron. The manufacturer who puts up substances like peas in pots or tins for sale produces the same effect which the cook in her ignorance innocently obtained, by the wilful addition of a substance known to be injurious to health, namely, sulphate of copper. The copper combines with the chlorophyll, forming copper phyllocyanate, which, by reason of its insolubility in the gastric juice, is comparatively innocuous. Preserved peas and beans have been for so many years “coppered” in this manner that it is difficult to induce the public to accept the vegetables when possessed of their natural colour only. Several countries endeavoured to abolish the objectionable practice, but the public pressure has been too great, and to-day the practice is almost universal. In England the amount of copper corresponds to from one to two grains per pound of the vegetable calculated as crystallized copper sulphate. The opinion of the departmental committee was clearly expressed that the practice should be prohibited. No effect has been given to the recommendation.
Milk is naturally almost white with a tint of cream colour. When adulterated with water this tint changes to a bluish one. To hide this tell-tale of a fraud, a yellow colouring matter used to be added by London milkmen. Very gradually this practice, which had its origin in fraud, has extended to all milk sold in London. The consumer, mis-educated into believing milk to be yellow, now requires it to be so. Large dairy companies have endeavoured to wean the public of its error, without success. From milk the practice extended to butter; natural butter is sometimes yellowish, mostly a faint fawn, and sometimes almost white. In agricultural districts this is well known and taken as a matter of course. In big towns, where the connexion of butter and the cow is not well known, the consumer requires butter to be of that colour which he imagines to be butter-colour. Anatto, turmeric, carrot-juice used formerly to be employed for colouring milk, butter and cheese, but of late certain aniline dyes, mostly quite as harmless physiologically as the vegetable dyes just mentioned, are largely being used. The same aniline dyes are also employed in the manufacture of an imitation Demerara sugar from white beet sugar crystals. Aniline dyes are very frequently used by jam-makers; the natural colour of the fruit is apt to suffer in the boiling-pan, and unripe, discoloured or unsound fruit can be made brilliant and enticing by dye. The brilliant colours of cheap sugar confectionery are almost invariably produced by artificial tar-colours. Most members of this class of colouring matters are quite harmless, especially in the small quantities that are required for colouring, but there are a few exceptions, picric acid, dinitrocresol, Martius-yellow, Bismarck brown and one of the tropaeolins being distinctly poisonous. On the whole, the employment of powerful aniline dyes is an advance as compared with the use of the vicious and often highly poisonous mineral colours which Hassall met with so frequently in the middle of the 19th century. Mineral colours, with very few exceptions, are no longer used in food. Oxide of iron or ochre is still very often found in potted meats, fish sauces and chocolates; dioxide of manganese is admixed with cheap chocolates. All lump sugar of commerce is dyed. Naturally it has a yellow tint. Ultramarine is added to it and counteracts the yellowness. In the same way our linen is naturally yellow and only made to look white by the use of the blue-bag.
The same idea underlies both practices, and indeed the use of all colouring matters in manufactured articles, namely, to make them look better than they would otherwise. Within bounds, this is a reasonable and laudable desire, but it also covers many sins—poor materials, bad workmanship, faulty manufacturing and often fraud. Like sugar, flour and rice are sometimes blued to make them look white. All vinegar, most beers, all stout, are artificially coloured with burnt sugar or caramel. The line dividing the legitimate and laudable from the fraudulent and punishable is so thin and difficult to draw that neither the law nor its officers have ventured to draw it, and yet it is a matter which urgently requires regulation at the hands of the state. Practices which, when new, admit of regulation are almost ineradicable when they have become old and possessed of “vested rights”. Recognizing this, the departmental committee, like the royal commission on arsenical poisons, recommended that “means be provided, either by the establishment of a separate court of reference, or by the imposition of more direct obligation on the Local Government Board, to exercise supervision over the use of preservatives and colouring matters in foods and to prepare schedules of such as may be considered inimical to the public health.”
In close connexion with this subject is the occasional occurrence of injurious metallic impurities in food-materials. Tin chloride is used in the West Indies to produce the yellow colour of Demerara sugar. The old processes of sugar-boiling left some of the brown syrup attached to the crystals, giving them both their colour and their delicious aroma; with the introduction of modern processes affording a much greater yield Metallic impurities.of highly refined sugar, white sugar only was the result. The consumer, accustomed to yellow sugar had the colour artificially supplied by the action of the tin compound upon the sugar. At the present time all Demerara sugar, with the exception of that portion that is dyed with aniline dye, has had its colour artificially given it and consequently contains strong traces of tin. Soda-water, lemonade and other artificial aerated liquors are liable to tin or lead contamination, the former proceeding from the tin pipes and vessels, the latter from citric and tartaric acids and cream of tartar used as ingredients, these being crystallized by their manufacturers in leaden pans. Almost all “canned” goods contain more or less tin as a contamination from the tin-plate. While animal foods do not attack the tin to any great extent, their acidity being small, almost all vegetable materials, especially fruits and tomatoes, powerfully corrode the tin covering of the plate, dissolving it and becoming impregnated with tin compounds. It is quite easy to obtain tin-reactions in abundance from every grain of tinned peaches, apples or tomatoes. These tin compounds are by no means innocuous; yet poisoning from tinned vegetable foods is of rare occurrence. On the whole, tin-plate is a very unsuitable material for the storage and preservation of acid goods. Certain enamels, used for glazing earthenware or for coating metal cooking pots, contain lead, which they yield to the food prepared in them. Food materials that have been in contact with galvanized vessels sometimes are contaminated with zinc. Zinc is also not infrequently present in wines.
The effect of the application of the food laws has been entirely beneficial. Not only has the percentage proportion of samples found adulterated largely declined, but the gross forms of adulteration which prevailed in the middle of the 19th century have almost vanished. Plenty of fraud Results of English
Food Acts.still prevails, but poisoning by reckless admixture is of exceedingly rare occurrence. Whilst formerly milk was not infrequently adulterated with an equal bulk of water, few fraudulent milkmen now venture to exceed an addition of 10 or 15%. A bird’s-eye view over the effect is obtained from the following figures for England and Wales:—
|Year.||Number of Samples.||Percentage|
The details of the working of the Food Acts in 1904 in England and Wales are set out in the table on the next page.
United States.—Each separate state has food laws of its own. From the 1st of January 1907 the “American National Pure Food Law,” applicable to the United States generally, came into force, without superseding the State food laws, the only effect of the National Law being the legalization of shipments of any food which complies with the provisions of the National Law into any state from another state, even though the food is adulterated within the meaning of the state law. The law applies to every person in the United States who receives food from another state and offers it for sale in the original unbroken packages in which he receives it, and if it is adulterated or misbranded within the meaning of the National Law he can be punished for having received it and offering it for sale in the original unbroken package to the same extent as the person who shipped it to him can be punished. The mere fact that he is a citizen of a state soiling food within that state will not excuse him; and he will be subject to prosecution to the same extent as he would be if he uttered counterfeit money. Retailers, however, can protect themselves from prosecution when they sell goods in original unbroken packages by procuring a written guarantee, signed by the person from whom they received the goods, such guarantee stating that the goods are not adulterated within the meaning of the National Law. The guarantee must also contain the name and address of the wholesale vendor, but unless the parties signing the guarantee are residents of the United States the guarantee is void. The law affects all foods shipped from one state or district into another and also all foods intended for export to a foreign country. It also affects all food products manufactured or offered for sale in any territory or the District of Columbia, wherever such foods may have been produced. The law does not affect foods manufactured and sold wholly within one state, nor such as have been shipped from another state but not in the original package. While thus the National Food Law is mainly intended to regulate the food traffic between the different states, and leaves to the states freedom to regulate their internal traffic, it must gradually tend to unify the present complicated state food legislation, and it is therefore here more usefully considered than would be the separate state laws.
|Milk . . . . .||36,413||4,031||11.1|
|Butter. . . .||15,124||867||5.7|
|Cheese . . . .||2,176||20||0.9|
|Margarine . . .||1,169||83||7.1|
|Lard . . . . .||2,489||4||0.2|
|Bread. . . .||473||1||0.2|
|Flour . . . . .||476||3||0.6|
|Tea . . . .||486||.||. .|
|Coffee . . . .||2,550||161||6.3|
|Cocoa . . . .||477||42||8.8|
|Sugar. . . .||901||49||5.4|
|Mustard . . . .||812||39||4.8|
|Confectionery and Jam .||1,303||72||5.5|
|Pepper . . . .||2,393||43||1.8|
|Wine . . . . .||308||54||17.5|
|Beer . . . . .||1,065||75||7.0|
|Spirits . . . .||6,938||832||12.0|
|Camphorated Oil .||395||24||6.1|
|Sweet Spirit of Nitre||243||66||27.2|
|Sulphur . . .||131||7||5.3|
|Cream of Tartar||441||88||20.0|
|Glycerine . . .||192||21||10.9|
|Rhubarb preparations .||96||5||5.2|
|Seidlitz Powders .||81||3||3.7|
|Linseed . . .||70||1||1.4|
|Magnesia . . .||48||9||18.8|
|Cod Liver Oil . .||245||7||2.9|
|Iron Pills . . .||16||..||..|
| Compound Liquorice
Powder . . .
|Tincture of Iodine .||23||4||17.4|
|Other Drugs . .||1,124||124||11.0|
|Total Drugs . . .||3,214||365||11.3|
|Ginger . . . .||704||..||..|
|Syrup and Treacle .||183||8||4.4|
|Baking Powder . .||281||11||3.9|
|Vinegar. . .||773||57||7.4|
|Arrowroot . . .||467||3||0.6|
|Oatmeal. . .||359||..||..|
|Sago. . . .||227||14||6.2|
|Olive Oil. . .||306||9||2.9|
|Dripping and Fat .||85||1||1.2|
|Sundries. . . .||2,496||329||13.2|
|Total other Articles .||5,881||432||7.3|
|All Articles. . .||84,678||7,173||8.5|
The definition of adulteration as set forth in sec. 7 is as follows:—“For the purpose of this act an article shall be deemed to be adulterated: In the case of drugs: (1) If, when a drug is sold under or by a name recognized in the United States Pharmacopoeia or National Formulary, it differs from the standard of strength, quality or purity, as determined by the test laid down in the United States Pharmacopoeia or National Formulary official at the time of investigation; provided that no drug defined in the United States Pharmacopoeia or National Formulary shall be deemed to be adulterated under this provision if the standard of strength, quality or purity be plainly stated upon the bottle, box or other container thereof although the standard may differ from that determined by the test laid down in the United States Pharmacopoeia or National Formulary. (2) If its strength or purity fall below the professed standard or quality under which it is sold. In the case of confectionery: If it contains terra alba, barytes, talc, chrome yellow or other mineral substance or poisonous colour or flavour, or other ingredient deleterious or detrimental to health, or any vinous, malt or spirituous liquor or compound or narcotic drug. In the case of food: (1) If any substance has been mixed and packed with it so as to reduce or lower or injuriously affect its quality or strength. (2) If any substance has been substituted wholly or in part for the article. (3) If any valuable constituent of the article has been wholly or in part abstracted. (4) If it be mixed, coloured, powdered, coated or stained in a manner whereby damage or inferiority is concealed. (5) If it contain any added poisonous or other added deleterious ingredient which may render such article injurious to health: provided that when in the preparation of food products for shipment they are preserved by any external application applied in such manner that the preservation is necessarily removed mechanically, or by maceration in water, or otherwise, and directions for removal of said preservations shall be printed on the covering of the package, the provisions of the act shall be construed as applying only when said products are ready for consumption. (6) If it consists in whole or in part of a filthy, decomposed or putrid animal or vegetable substance, or any portion of an animal unfit for food, whether manufactured or not, or if it is the product of a diseased animal or one that has died otherwise than by slaughter. . .”
Whatever vagueness attaches to these definitions is intended to be removed by secs. 3 and 4, which provide that the secretaries of the Treasury, of Agriculture, and of Commerce and Labour “shall make uniform rules and regulations for carrying out the provisions of the act, including the collection and examination of specimens of food and drugs,” which examination “shall be made in the bureau of chemistry of the department of agriculture, or under the direction and supervision of such bureau, for the purpose of determining from such examinations whether such articles are adulterated or misbranded within the meaning of the act.” Contravention of the act is punishable for the first offence by a fine not exceeding 500 dollars or 1 year’s imprisonment or both, and for each subsequent offence by a fine not less than 1000 dollars or 1 year’s imprisonment or both. Under an act of congress, approved March 1903, the bureau of agriculture established standards of purity for food products, “to determine what are regarded as adulterations therein for the guidance of the officials of the various states and of the courts of justice.” The elaborate set of food definitions and standards worked out under the guidance of the chief of the bureau, Dr H. W. Wiley, have also received legal sanction and form a corollary to the National Food Law. For each of the more important articles of food an official definition of its nature and composition has thus been established, of the utmost value to food officers, manufacturers and merchants not only in the United States but throughout the world. A few of these definitions may here find a place:—
“Lard is the rendered fresh fat from slaughtered healthy hogs. Leaf-lard is the lard rendered at moderately high temperatures from the internal fat of the abdomen of the hog, excluding that adherent to the intestines. Standard lard and standard leaflard are lard and leaf-lard respectively, free from rancidity, containing not more than 1% of substances other than fatty acids, not fat, necessarily incorporated therewith in the process of rendering, and standard leaf-lard has an iodine number not greater than 60. Milk is the lacteal secretion obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows, properly fed and kept, excluding that obtained within 10 days before and 5 days after calving. Standard milk is milk containing not less than 12% of total solids and not less than 81% of solids not fat, nor less than 31% of milk-fat. Standard skim-milk is skim-milk containing not less than 91% of milk-solids. Standard condensed milk and standard sweetened condensed milk are condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk respectively, containing no less than 28% of milk-solids, of which not less than one-fourth is milk-fat. Standard milk-fat or butter-fat has a Reichert-Meissl number not less than 24 and a specific gravity at 40°C. not less than 0.905. Standard butter is butter containing not less than 82.5% of butter-fat. Standard whole-milk cheese is cheese containing in the water-free substance not less than 50% of butter-fat. Standard sugar contains at least 99.5% of sucrose. Standard chocolate is chocolate containing not more than 3% of ash insoluble in water, 3.5% of crude fibre, and 9% of starch, nor less than 45% of cocoa-fat.”
Numerous other standards with details too technical for reproduction here have also been fixed.
German Empire.—The law of the 14th of May 1879, largely based upon the English Food and Drugs Act 1875, regulates the trade in food. Each town or district appoints a public analyst, and there is a state laboratory in Berlin directly under the control of the ministry of the interior with advisory functions. The ministry, under the advice of this department, issues from time to time regulations concerning the sale of or details specifying the mode of analysis of various products of food or drink. Both in the United States and in Germany, therefore, the executive officers (public analysts) have some authoritative official department for guidance and information.
Particular Articles Adulterated
We now proceed to consider adulteration as practised during recent years in the more important articles of food.
Milk.—Milk adulteration means in modern times either addition of water, abstraction of cream, or both, or addition of chemical preservative. The old stories of the use of chalk or of sheep's brains are fables. Owing to the wide variation to which milk is naturally subjected in composition, it is exceedingly difficult to establish beyond doubt whether any given sample is in the state in which it came from the cow or has been impoverished. The composition of cow's milk varies with many conditions. (1) The race of the animal: the large cows of the plains yielding a great quantity of poor milk, the smaller cows from hilly districts less amount of rich milk. Hence, milk from Dutch cows compares very unfavourably with that of Jerseys or short-horns. Watery and acid foods like mangolds and brewers’ grains produce a more aqueous milk than do albuminous and fatty foods like oil-cakes. (2) Sudden change of food, of weather and of temperature. (3) Nervous disturbances to which even a cow is subject, as, for instance, at shows, may greatly influence the composition of the milk. The portion obtained at the beginning of a milking is poorer in fat than that yielded towards the end. Morning milk is as a rule poorer in fat than evening milk. Soon after calving the animal gives a richer product than at later periods, both the quantity and the composition declining towards the end of the lactation. The variations due to these different circumstances may be very great, as is seen from the following analyses, fairly representing the maximum, minimum and mean composition of the milk of single cows:—
|Milk Sugar (lactose)||2.11%||6.12%||4.78%|
In market milk such wide variations are not so liable to occur, as the milk from one animal tends to average that from another, but even in the milk from herds of cows the variations may be considerable. The average composition of genuine milk supplied by one of the largest dairy companies in London, as established by the analysis of 120,000 separate samples recorded by Dr P. Vieth, is fat 4.1%, other milk solids (“solids not fat” or “non-fatty solids”) 8.8%, total dissolved matters (total solids) 12.9%, the variations being from 3.6 to 4.6% in the fat and 8.6 to 9.1% in the solids not fat. It is clear that the 4.6% of fat could be reduced, by skimming, to 3.0%, and the 9.1% of solids not fat to 8.5% by addition of water, without bringing the composition of the milk thus adulterated outside that of genuine milk. In reality even wider limits of variation must be reckoned with, because small farmers self the milk of single cows, and this, as shown above, may fluctuate enormously. The Board of Agriculture, in pursuance of the powers conferred upon it by the Food Act 1899, issued in 1901 “The Sale of Milk Regulations,” which provide that where a sample of milk (not being milk sold as skimmed or separated or condensed milk) contains less than 3% of milk-fat, or less than 8.5% of non-fatty solids, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the milk is not genuine. But even in these cases it is open to the vendor to show, if he can, that the deficiency was due to natural causes or to unavoidable circumstances. The courts have held that when deviations are the result of negligence or ignorance the vendor is nevertheless liable to punishment. Thus, when a vendor omits to stir up the contents of a pan so as to prevent the cream from rising to the top, he may be punished, if by such omission the milk becomes altered in composition so as no longer to comply with the regulations; or, when a farmer allows an undue interval between the milkings whereby the composition of the milk may be affected, he may be liable for the consequences. As the limits embodied in the milk regulations were necessarily fixed at figures lower than those which are usually afforded by genuine milk, and as it is a comparatively simple matter to ascertain the percentage of fatty and non-fatty solids, a strong tendency exists to bring down commercial milk to the low limits of the regulations without coming into collision with the law. The fat of milk is its most valuable and most important constituent. The exact determination of the percentage of fat is therefore the chief problem of the milk-analyst. All analyses made prior to the year 1885 are more or less inexact, because a complete separation of the fat from the other milk constituents had not been obtained. In that year M. A. Adams, by the simple and ingenious expedient of spreading a known volume of the milk to be analysed upon a strip of blotting-paper and extracting the paper, together with the dried milk, by a fat solvent, such as ether or benzene, succeeded in completely removing the fat from the other constituents. Since that time simpler and more rapid means have been based upon centrifugal separation of the fat. When a measured quantity of milk is mixed with strong sulphuric acid, which dissolves the casein and other nitrogenous constituents of the milk, but leaves the fat-globules quite untouched, the latter can easily be separated in a centrifugal, in the form of an oil the volume of which can be ascertained in a suitably constructed and graduated glass vessel, and thus the percentage ascertained very rapidly and accurately; such centrifugal contrivances constructed by H. Leffman, N. Gerber and others are now in general use in dairies, and cheese and butter factories. The amount of “total solids” contained in milk, that is to say, of all constituents other than water, is speedily ascertained by evaporating the water from a measured or weighed portion of milk and drying the residue obtained in a water-oven to constant weight. By subtracting from the percentage of total solids that of the fat the amount of “solids not fat” results, and by cautiously burning off the organic substances, the salts or mineral matters are left. When the percentage of “solids not fat” is less than 8.5 a simple proportion sum suffices to show what percentage of water must be present to reduce the “solids not fat” to the amount found. As the added water also reduces proportionately the percentage of mineral matter natural to normal milk (about 0.71 to 0.73%), the determination of the ash affords valuable assistance to the analyst. When the amount of ash is higher than normal, tests must be made for borax, soda or other mineral matters that are often added as preservatives or acid neutralizers. Borax is easily tested for by dissolving the milk ash in a drop or two of dilute hydrochloric acid, moistening a strip of yellow turmeric paper with the solution and drying it, when, in the presence of even very minute quantities of borax, the yellow colouring matter of the turmeric paper will be changed into a brilliant red-brown. Formaldehyde (which in 40% water solution forms the formalin of commerce) in milk affords a bright purple colour when the milk containing it is mixed with sulphuric acid containing a trace of an iron salt.
Condensed milk is milk that has been evaporated under reduced pressure with or without the addition of sugar. Generally one part of condensed milk corresponds to three parts of the original milk. There is no case on record of adulteration of unsweetened condensed milk, but sweetened milk has in the past been frequently prepared either from machine-skimmed or partly skimmed milk and sold as whole-milk. As sweetened condensed milk is largely used by the poorer part of the population for the feeding of infants, and as the fat of milk is, as stated before, its most valuable constituent, this class of fraud was a particularly mischievous one, and led to the inclusion in the Food Act of 1899 of a special proviso that every tin or other receptacle containing condensed, separated or skimmed milk must bear a conspicuous label showing the nature of the contents. As the bulk of condensed milk consumed in England is imported from abroad, the customs authorities now exercise a strict supervision over the imports, and object to the importation of such condensed milk as contains less than 9% of milk-fat. The average composition of sweetened condensed milk may be taken, with slight variations, to be: water 24.6%, fat 11.4%, casein and albumen 10%, milk-sugar 11.7%, cane-sugar 40.3%, mineral matters 2.0%.
Cream.—There are not any regulations nor official standards relating to this article, the value of which depends upon its contents in fat. Good stiff cream obtained by centrifugal skimming may contain as much as 60% of milk-fat, but generally dairymen’s cream has only about 40%. On the other hand, milk that is abnormally rich in fat is in some places sold as cream. Attempts to compel dairymen to work up to any stated minimum of fat have failed, the English courts holding that cream is not an article that has any standard of quality, but varies with the character of the cows from which the milk is obtained and the food on which they are fed. Therefore, as regards the most important portion of cream, the amount of fat, adulteration does not exist unless there is a substitution for the milk-fat by an emulsified foreign fat, but cases of this description are exceedingly rare. On the other hand, such additions of foreign materials, like starch paste or gelatine, which have for object the giving of an appearance of richness to a naturally poor and dilute article, are not uncommon. While formerly the sale of cream was entirely in the hands of milkmen, there has been of late a tendency to regard cream as an article coming within the range of grocery goods. To enable this perishable article to be kept in a grocery store it has to receive an addition of preservative, as a rule boric preservative, in excessive amount. The purchaser may take it that all cream sold by others than milkmen, and much of that even, is thus preserved and should be shunned. The limit of boric preservative that might be permitted, but which is nearly always exceeded, is one-quarter of 1%.
Butter.—Of all articles of food butter has most fully received the attention of the sophisticator, because it is the most costly of the ordinary articles of diet, and because its composition is so intricate and variable that its analysis presents extraordinary difficulties and its nature exceptional and various opportunities for admixture with foreign substances. It is the intention of the producer of butter to separate the fatty portion of the milk as completely as is practicable from the other constituents of the milk without destroying the fat-globules. This can only be done by churning, by which operation the milk-globules are caused more or less to adhere to each other without losing their individual existence. Owing to this subdivision of the fat, and perhaps to the composition of the fat itself, butter is a more digestible fatty article of food than lard or oil. It is not possible by mechanical means to remove the whole of the water and curd of the milk from the butter; indeed “overworking” the butter with the object of removing the water as completely as possible ruins the structure to such an extent as to make the product unmerchantable. In well-made butter there are contained about 85% of pure milk-fat, from 12 to 13% of water, and 2 or 3% of curd and albumen, milk-sugar or its product of transformation—lactic acid,—and phosphates and other milk-salts. In some kinds of butter, Russian for instance, the percentage of water is rather less. Generally, by churning at a low temperature, a drier, at higher temperatures a wetter, butter is obtained. The curd must be got rid of as completely as practicable if the product is to have reasonable keeping properties. To prevent rapid decomposition salt in various quantities is added. Considering that 100 ℔ (10 gallons) of milk yield only from 31 to 4 ℔ of properly made butter, it is obvious that a great inducement exists to increase the yield either by leaving an undue proportion of water or curd, or by adding an excessive quantity of salt. In some parts of Ireland the butter is worked up with warm brine into so-called pickle butter, whereby it becomes both watered and salted in one operation. Until lately, when the English Board of Agriculture fixed a limit of 16 for the percentage of water that may legitimately be present in butter, this kind of debasement could not easily be dealt with, but even now, where a legal water-limit exists, the addition of water either as such, or in the shape of milk or of condensed milk, is very commonly practised, more or less care being taken not to exceed the legalized limit. It is obvious that there is an ample margin of profit for the mixer who starts with Russian butter containing 10% of water and works it up with milk, fresh or condensed, to 16%, all the other milk-constituents, namely, sugar, curd and salt, thus introduced counting as “butter” in the eyes of the law. A very considerable number of butter-factors in London and in other parts of England thus dilute dry butter and consider this a legitimate operation so long as they keep within the legal water-limit. Nay, they may even exceed this, if only they give to their adulterated article a euphonious name, which, while legally notifying the admixture, raises in the mind of the ignorant purchaser the belief that he is purchasing something particularly choice and excellent. “Milk-blended butter,” with as much as 24 or more per cent of water and as little as 68% of fat, is still largely sold to purchasers who think that they are obtaining extra value for their money; several attempts to deal with the scandal by legislature having led to no result. The introduction of water into butter is also practised on a large scale in the United States, where a branch of trade in “renovated” butter has sprung up. In the States a considerable quantity of butter is produced by small farmers, and by the time the product comes into the market the addition of chemical preservatives to prevent decomposition not being permitted—the butter has so much deteriorated in quality that it fetches a very low price. It is bought up by factors, the fat melted out and washed, then again worked up with water and salt, care being generally taken to leave about 16% of water in the product, which finds a ready sale in England. It may here be pointed out that England imports an enormous quantity of butter from the continent of Europe, the colonies, Siberia and America, the imports, less exports, averaging during 1903–1906 no less than 203,300 tons annually, and the total consumption (home produce plus imports) 366,441 tons, the consumption per head of population being 19.2 ℔ per annum. In butter, as in most other articles of food, adulteration with water is the most common, most profitable, and least risky form of fraud. Great fortunes are thus made out of water.
There is an altogether different class of butter adulteration which concerns itself with the substitution of other fatty matters for the whole or part of the really valuable portion of the butterfat. Margarine is the legalized and therefore legitimate butter surrogate, prepared by churning any suitable fat with milk into a cream, solidifying the latter by injection into cold water and working the lumps together, precisely as is done in the case of the churned cream of milk. The substitution of margarine for butter is frequent, in spite of all legal enactments directed against this fraud, the semblance between butter and margarine being so great that a trained palate is necessary to distinguish the two articles. Much more frequent and much more difficult to deal with is the sale of mixtures of butter and of margarine. In order to show the difficulties inherent to this subject, it will be necessary to consider the chemical nature of butter-fat, and to compare it with other fats that may enter into the composition of margarine. Butter-fat is butter freed from water, curd and salt and extraneous matter. Like the greater number of natural fats it consists of a mixture of triglycerides, that is, combinations of glycerin with substances of the nature of acids. These acids, in the case of fats other than butter-fat, are mainly oleic, palmitic and stearic acids. Butter-fat, in addition to these, contains other acids which sharply distinguish it from the vast majority of other fats and, with the exception of cocoa-nut oil, from those substances which are or may be used to mix with butter, by the circumstance that a considerable proportion of its acids, when separated by chemical means from the glycerin, are readily soluble in water, or may be easily volatilized either alone or in a current of steam, whereas the acids separated from the foreign fats are practically both insoluble and non-volatile. This fundamental principle serves at once to distinguish, for example, between butter and margarine, and has been made use of by analysts not only for this purpose but also with a view to determine the relative amounts of butter and margarine in a mixture of these substances. Thus butter-fat contains about 88%, more or less, of “insoluble fatty acids,” while margarine contains about 95.5%; 5 grammes of butter-fat when chemically decomposed yield an amount of volatile fatty acids which requires about 26 cubic centimetres (more or less) of deci-normal alkali solution for neutralization, while margarine requires mostly less than 1 cubic centimetre (Wollny or Reichert-Meissl method). There are other differences between the two kinds of fat: the specific gravity of butter-fat is higher than that of most other fats; its power of refracting a ray of light is less; the “iodine absorption” of butter-fat is smaller than that of many other fatty matters, and so on. But the composition of perfectly genuine butter-fat varies within somewhat wide limits. The milk from a cow fed on good and ample food in warm weather yields a fat that is rich in characteristic butter-constituents, while a poorly fed animal, kept in the open till late in the autumn, when the nights are cold, gives milk exceptionally poor in fat, the differences expressed as “insoluble fatty acids” lying between 86 and 91%, and in volatile acids, expressed as “Wollny” numbers, between 18 and 36. Generally, therefore, summer butter is rich and autumn butter poor in volatile acids, or, geographically, Australian butter is more frequently high, Siberian often exceedingly low in these acids. The food of the animal also may, under certain conditions, yield a notable proportion of its fatty matter to the butter; cows that have, for instance, been fed upon large quantities of cotton-seed cake yield butter in which the cotton-seed oil may be traced, and the same holds good with other fatty foods. All these, and other circumstances, combine to render the detection of small quantities of foreign fats that have been fraudulently added to butter almost a matter of impossibility. This is perfectly well known to unscrupulous butter dealers, and an enormous amount of adulteration is known to be practised. Even small amounts of adulteration could, nevertheless, often be discovered while margarine manufacturers employed considerable proportions of vegetable oils in their products, some of these oils furnishing characteristic chemical reactions allowing of their discovery. Here some firms of margarine manufacturers came to the aid of the butter-mixer and produced margarine containing nothing but animal fat, so-called “neutral” margarine being freely offered for fraudulent purposes. There is one fat besides butter which contains “volatile fatty acids,” namely, cocoa-nut oil. Since means have been found to deprive this fat of its strong cocoa-nut odour and taste, it has largely been used in the adulteration of butter, and margarine containing cocoa-nut oil and other fatty substances has freely been manufactured and sold specially for butter adulteration. The seat of this class of fraud is mainly in Holland. Analysts happily found means to detect this oil when present above 10%, and numerous prosecutions made mixers more careful. Abundant evidence, however, exists showing that the simultaneous addition of water or milk so as to keep the water limit below 16% and that of margarine entirely composed of animal fats below 10% leaves a large margin of profit with a very small chance of detection. For the moment at least analysis has had the worst of it in the battle between honesty and “business methods.”
Margarine itself is a legitimate article of commerce (when sold with due notice to the purchaser), but is frequently adulterated. As regards the fats used in its manufacture there does not exist any legal restriction, and as long as the fat is in a state fit for human consumption the manufacturer can make whatever mixture he pleases. In general there is no reason to think that any bad or disgusting fats are finding their way into the factories, which in most countries are under proper supervision; the old stories about recovered grease from all sorts of offal are quite without foundation. But a considerable percentage of solid paraffin has been met with as an admixture of the fatty part of margarine. As the fatty portion of the article is the only one of value, some manufacturers make great efforts to produce margarine with as small a percentage of fatty matter as possible, either by incorporating excessive amounts of water or of milk—margarines with over 30% of water being met with—or by introducing sugar, glucose, starch, gelatinous matter, in fact anything that is cheaper than fat. The English law imposes a limitation upon the percentage of butter-fat that may be contained in margarine, but at present at least the tendency of manufacturers is all for having as little butter or other valuable fat in margarine as is practicable, and not to err on the other side. For the purpose of facilitating the discovery of margarine when it has been fraudulently added to butter, some countries (Germany, Belgium, Sweden) insist upon the use of from 5 to 10% of sesame oil (from the seed of Sesamum orientale or S. indicum, belonging to the family of Bignoniaceae) in the manufacture of such margarine as is to be consumed within the countries in question. This oil yields a characteristic red colour when it, or any mixture containing it, is shaken with an hydrochloric solution of either sugar or furfurol, and is intended to serve as an “ear-marking” substance. The addition of a little starch or arrowroot, easily discoverable chemically or by the microscope, is also required by Belgium, but in the absence of any international agreement these ear-marking additions are of little practical use. It is, however, interesting to point out that, while complying with the regulations of the governments, margarine manufacturers of the countries named have found an easy way of rendering the regulations quite nugatory: they add methyl-orange, a colouring matter which itself produces a red colour with acid and quite obscures the real colour obtained by the official test for sesame oil.
Cheese may be legitimately made from full-milk, milk that has been enriched by addition of cream, or from milk that has been more or less skimmed. It varies consequently very widely in composition, so-called cream cheese containing not less than 60% of fat; Stilton upwards of 40%; Cheddar about 30%; Dutch, Parmesan and some Swiss and Danish less than 20%. The amount of water varies with the kind and age of the cheese and may be as low as 20 and as high as 60%. Under these circumstances it is impracticable to lay down any hard-and-fast rules as to the composition of cheese. When, however, cheese is made from skimmed milk and the fat is replaced by margarine, as is the case in so-called “filled” or margarine cheeses, the sale of these amounts to an adulteration, unless the presence of the foreign substance is declared. It may at first sight appear strange that the person who robs milk of its most valuable portion, the cream, may prepare a legitimate article of food from the remainder, while he who to that remainder adds something to replace the fat does an illegitimate act, but it must be taken into consideration that the replacement is frequently made with fraudulent intent and that the ordinary purchaser cannot by taste or smell distinguish the adulterated from the genuine article, while there is no difficulty in recognizing skim-milk cheese.
Lard.—Between the years 1880 and 1890 a gigantic fraudulent trade in adulterated lard was carried on from the United States. A great proportion of the American lard imported into England was found to consist of a mixture of more or less real lard with cotton-seed oil and beef-stearine. Cotton-seed oil is one of the cheapest vegetable oils fit for human consumption, beef-stearine the hard residue obtained in the manufacture of oleo-margarine after the more fluid fat has been pressed from the beef fat. These mixtures were made so skilfully by large Chicago manufacturers that for some years they escaped detection. A bill introduced in 1888 into the American Senate to stop this imposture directed general attention to the subject, and energetic measures, taken both in America and in England, quickly put an end to it. From the memorial presented in the United States Senate in support of the bill, it appeared that in about 1887 the annual production of lard in the States was estimated at 600 million pounds, of which more than 35% was adulterated. Compounds were made containing only a small quantity of lard or none at all, yet were sold as “choice refined lard” or under other eulogistic names. Many lard substitutes, chiefly made from cotton-seed oil, are still met with, but are mostly sold in a legitimate manner. From the germ of maize—which must be separated from the starchy portion of the seed before the latter can be manufactured into glucose—the oil (maize-oil) is expressed, and this now is used as a lard adulterant, its detection being far more difficult than that of cotton-seed oil.
Oils.—For very many years all oils were considered to be composed of olein, that is to say, the triglyceride of oleic acid, with small quantities of impurities; chemists, therefore, to distinguish oils of various origin, confined themselves to tests for these impurities, employing so-called colour reactions based upon the change of colour of the oil by various reagents such as sulphuric, nitric or phosphoric acids. These reactions were exceedingly indefinite and unsatisfactory and oil adulteration was prevalent and almost undiscoverable. It has been found, however, that the old ideas concerning the believed uniformity in the nature and constitution of oils were erroneous. Some oils, indeed, do consist of olein, almond oil being a type, others contain a glyceride of an acid which is distinguished from oleic acid by containing one molecule less hydrogen, called linoleic acid. To this class belong cotton-seed and sesame oils. Others again include a glyceride of an acid containing still less hydrogen, linolenic acid (linseed and similar drying oils), and lastly the liver oils are still poorer in hydrogen. These various acids or the oils contained in them combine with various percentages of iodine, oleic acid absorbing the smallest proportion (about 80%); For each oil the iodine absorption is a fairly constant quantity; this number, together with the determination of the amount of caustic alkali needed for complete saponification, the thermal rise with strong sulphuric acid or with bromine, the refraction of light and the specific gravity, now enable the analyst to form a fair idea of the nature of any sample under examination, and, in consequence of this advance in knowledge, adulteration of oils has much declined. The most common adulterant of the more valuable oils, like olive oil, is cotton-seed oil. The oils expressed from the sesame seed or the earth-nut (arachis oil) are also frequently admixed with olive oil. Almond oil is adulterated with the closely allied oils from the peach-kernel or the pine-seed. Deodorized paraffin hydrocarbons also enter sometimes as adulterants into edible oils. There is, however, a marked improvement in the purity of oils generally.
Flour and bread as sold in England are almost invariably genuine. The old forms of adulteration, such as the use of alum for the production of a white but indigestible loaf from bad flour, have disappeared. The only admixture which has been met with during recent years is maize-meal in American produce. This is of inferior food value to wheat-meal.
Sugar in its various forms can hardly be said to be subject to adulteration by the addition of inferior substitutes. One single case of such substitution analogous to the proverbial but probably mythical sanding of sugar occurred between 1880 and 1905 in England, some crushed marble having been found in a consignment of German sugar in a large British establishment. There have, however, been numerous prosecutions for a fraud of another class, namely, the substitution of dyed beetroot sugar for Demerara sugar. Formerly the sugar produced by the old imperfect and wasteful methods of manufacture was more or less yellow or brown from adhering molasses. Sugar, as now obtained, be it from cane or beet, is white; yet the public is so wedded to its customs that white sugar except as lump or castor sugar does not find a ready sale. The manufacturer is obliged to colour his product yellow by artificial means, that is to say, either by the addition of a little aniline dye, harmless in itself, or, as in the West Indies, mostly by the use of a small quantity of chloride of tin, so-called “bloomer.” European refined beet-sugar coloured with aniline dye to distinguish it from Demerara cane sugar is sold under the name of “yellow crystals.” These, although richer in real sugar than Demerara, are without the delicious aroma of cane syrup which belongs to the latter, and are not infrequently fraudulently substituted for Demerara.
Marmalade and Jams.—In the preparation of marmalade and jams, which articles were for a long time mado from fruit and sugar only, a part of the sugar, from 10 to 15%, is often now replaced by starch glucose. This material, consisting mainly of a mixture of dextrose and dextrin, is of much less sweetening power than ordinary sugar and mostly cheaper. It is said to prevent the crystallization which frequently used to occur in some jams. The use of glucose has been declared by the High Court (Smith v. Wisden, 1901) to be legitimate, the court holding that as there was no recognized standard for the composition of marmalade the addition of saccharine material not injurious to health could not constitute an offence. Artificial colouring matters and chemical preservatives are almost constant ingredients of jams. To such fruits which, when boiled with sugar, do not readily yield a jelly (strawberries, raspberries) an addition of apple juice is frequently made in the manufacture of jam, without much objection; the pulp of the apple, however, is sometimes bodily added as an adulterant.
Tea.—In consequence of the proviso contained in the Food Act of 1875 that tea was to be examined by the Customs on importation, such tea as was found to be admixed with other substance or exhausted tea being refused entry into England, the adulteration of tea has been virtually suppressed. Great numbers of samples are annually examined by the Customs, and a not inconsiderable proportion of these are condemned because they are either damaged or dirty, their use for the manufacture of theine being permitted, only sound and genuine tea coming to the British public. The practice, very common a generation ago, of artificially colouring tea green with, a mixture of Prussian blue and turmeric, has quite vanished with the decline of the consumption of green tea.
Coffee.—A few cases of artificially manufactured coffee berries, made from flour and chicory, have been observed, but it would not be fair to speak of a practice of adulteration regarding coffee berries. Not infrequently coffee is roasted with the addition of some fatty matter or paraffin or sugar, to give to the roasted coffee a glossy appearance. These additions as a rule are small in amount. Ground coffee is often sold adulterated with chicory, sugar or caramel. Other adulterations, reference to which is found in literature relating to the second half of the 19th century, do not seem now to occur.
Cocoa and chocolate are liable to a number of fraudulent or questionable additions. In the cheaper qualities of cocoa-powder sugar and starch-the latter in the form of sago flour or arrowroot-are admixed in very large proportions, and, in order to give to such mixtures something like the appearance of genuine cocoa, red oxide of iron is added. This almost invariably is more or less arsenical. Cocoa-shell, a perfectly valueless material, is mixed in a very finely ground state with cocoa of the commoner kind. Owing to the enormous increase in the consumption of so-called chocolate-creams, which are masses of sugar confectionery coated with a cocoa-paste containing a large proportion of the fat of cocoa (cocoa-butter), the quantity of cocoa-butter that is obtained in the manufacture of cocoa-powders is no longer sufficient to cover the demand. Substitutes of cocoa-butter prepared from cocoa-nut oil are manufactured on a large scale, and all enter without acknowledgment into chocolates or chocolate creams. As there are not any regulations touching the composition of chocolate, sugar or starch or both are used in chocolate manufacture, and especially in that of chocolate powders in often excessive quantities. In the Dutch mode of manufacture of cocoa-powders an addition of from 3% to 4% of an alkaline salt is made for the purpose of rendering the cocoa “soluble,” or, more strictly, for putting it into such a physical condition that it does not settle in the cup. This addition does not, as is often alleged, render the cocoa alkaline, and is not made with any fraudulent object; several countries, however, have passed regulations fixing the maximum of the addition which may thus legitimately be made. Most of the cocoa powders sold in England are prepared in accordance with the Dutch method.
Wine.—If under this term a beverage is understood which consists of nothing but fermented grape juice, a great proportion of the wine consumed in England is not genuine wine. All port and sherry comes into commerce after having received an addition of spirit, generally made from potatoes; port and sherry would not be what they are and as they have been for generations unless they were thus fortified. The practice can now hardly be classed among adulterations. A well-fermented wine made from the juice of properly matured grapes does not require any added alcohol in order that it should keep; imperfectly made wine is liable to turn sour; the addition of alcohol prevents this. French wines, both red and white, are hardly subject to adulteration. In wine-growing countries like France wine is so cheap and plentiful that it would be difficult to manufacture an imitation beverage cheaper than genuine wine. In Germany the conditions are different, the districts from which those wines that are exported are nominally derived being small and insufficient to cover the world’s demands. The addition of sugar solution or of starch sugar is allowed within limits by German law, which not even requires that notification to the purchaser be made of the addition, and it is notorious that a very large proportion of the wine sold under the name of “hock” and some of that coming from the Moselle are thus diluted, sugared and lengthened, or, in plain terms, adulterated. Wines from the Palatinate which under their own names would not sell out of Germany are often passed off as hocks. As there is but little German red wine the law also permits this to be lengthened by the addition of white wine. For the removal of part of the acid from sour wine produced in bad vintages the addition of precipitated chalk is also permitted. Attention has been drawn in England to the very serious fact that German wines sometimes contain salts of zinc in small quantities. These are introduced by a fining agent protected by a German patent, consisting of solutions of sulphate of zinc and potassium ferrocyanide, which, when added together in “suitable proportions,” produce a precipitate of zinc-ferrocyanide which carries down all turbidity in the wine and is supposed to leave neither zinc nor ferrocyanide behind in solution. As a matter of fact, one or other of these highly objectionable substances is almost invariably left behind. The use of artificial colouring matters in wines does not appear now to occur.
Beer cannot be said to be adulterated, although it is well known that materials often very different from these which the general public believe to be the proper raw materials for the manufacture of beer, namely, water, malt and hops, are largely used. By the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1885, sec. 4, beer is defined as any liquor “which is made or sold as a description of beer, or as a substitute for beer, and which on analysis of a sample thereof shall be found to contain more than 2% of proof spirit.” That is to say, beer is legally anything that is sold as beer provided that it has 2% of proof spirit. There is not any restriction upon the materials that are employed provided that they are not positively poisonous. For Inland Revenue purposes, however, a prohibition has been made against the admixture of anything to beer after it has been manufactured, and excise prosecutions of publicans for watering beer are not infrequent. Formerly there was a restriction on the amount of salt that might be present in beer; this no longer exists. On the other hand it cannot be said that any injurious materials are being used by brewers, the brewing industry being, broadly speaking, most efficiently supervised and controlled by scientifically trained men. The addition to beer of bisulphate of lime, which is almost universally practised in England, is not an adulteration in the ordinary acceptation of the term. The thin beer which has taken the place of the strong ales of the past generation contains an insufficiency of alcohol to ensure keeping qualities, and it is difficult to see how modern English beers could be sold without the addition of some sort of preservative.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks.—The same remark applies to a good many of so-called temperance beverages. Of these again it is hardly proper to speak as liable to adulteration. So-called soda-water is very often devoid of soda and is only carbonated water, but the term “soda-water” is a survival from the times when this was a medicinal beverage and when soda was prescribed to be present in definite amount by the pharmacopoeia. Potash and especially lithia waters very frequently contain only mere traces of the substances from which they derive their names. The sweetness of ginger-beer and often of lemonade is no longer due to sugar, as used to be the case, but to saccharine (the toluol derivative), which is possessed of sweetness but not of nourishment; and since, as an antiseptic, it may affect the digestion, its use in these beverages is to be deprecated.
Vinegar ought to be the product obtained by the successive alcoholic and acetous fermentation of a sugary liquor. When this is obtained from malt or from malt admixed with other grain the vinegar is called a malt vinegar. Often, however, acid liquors pass under that name which have been made by the action of a mineral acid upon any starchy material such as maize or tapioca, with or without the addition of neat sugar. Dilute acetic acid, obtained from wood, is very frequently used as an adulterant of vinegar. When properly purified such acid is unobjectionable physiologically, but it is improper to sell it as vinegar. Adulteration of vinegar by sulphuric or other acids, formerly a common practice, is now exceedingly rare.
Spirits.—By the Sale of Food and Drugs Act Amendment Act, whisky, brandy and rum must not be sold of a less alcoholic strength than 25 under proof (corresponding to 43% of alcohol by volume), and gin 35 under proof (37% alcohol). For many years the only form of adulteration recorded by public analysts related to the alcoholic strength, the undue dilution of spirits with water being, of course, a profitable form of fraud. No addition of any injurious matters to commercial spirits has been observed. It was, however, well known that a very considerable proportion of so-called brandies was not the product of the grape, but that spirits of other origin were frequently admixed with grape brandy. A report which appeared in 1902 in the Lancet on “Brandy, its production at Cognac and the supply of genuine brandy to this country,” served as a stimulus to public analysts to analyse commercial brandies, and convictions of retailers for selling so-called brandy followed. It was shown that genuine brandy made in the orthodox style from wine in pot-stills contained a considerable proportion of substances other than alcohol to which the flavour and character of brandy is due; among these flavouring materials combinations of a variety of organic acids with alcohols (chemically described as “esters”) predominate. For the present a brandy is not considered genuine unless it contains in 100,000 parts (calculated free from water) at least 60 parts of “esters.', As a consequence a trade has sprung up in artificially produced esters, sold for the purpose of adding them to any spirit to fraudulently convert it into a liquor passing as “brandy.” The inquiries into the nature of brandy led to investigations into whisky. Formerly whisky was made from grain only and obtained by pot-still distillation, that form of “still” yielding a product containing a comparatively large proportion of volatile matters other than alcohol. For many years past, however, improved stills—so-called patent stills—have been adopted, enabling manufacturers to obtain a purer and far stronger product, saving carriage and storage. Attempts were made in England in 1905–1907 to restrict the term “whisky” solely to the pot-still product. But the question was referred in 1908 to a Royal Commission which reported against such a restriction. A common form of adulteration of whisky is the addition to it of spirit made on the Continent mainly from potatoes. This spirit is almost pure alcohol and is quite devoid of the injurious properties which are popularly but falsely attributed to it. The substitution of this—a very cheap and quite flavourless material—for one which owes its value more to its flavour than to its alcoholic contents, is clearly fraudulent.
Drugs.—To the adulteration of drugs but very brief reference can here be made. It is satisfactory to record that but very few of the great number of drugs included in the pharmacopoeias are liable to serious adulteration, and there are very few cases on record during recent years where real fraudulent adulteration was involved. The numerous preparations used by druggists are mostly prepared in factories under competent and careful supervision, and the standards laid down in the British Pharmacopoeia are, broadly speaking, carefully adhered to. The occurrence of unlooked-for impurities, such as that of arsenic in sodium-phosphate or in various iron preparations, can hardly be included in the list of adulterations. In the making up of prescriptions, however, a good deal of laxity is displayed; thus, the Local Government Board report of the years 1904–1905 refers to an instance of a quinine mixture containing 23 grains of quinine-sulphate instead of 240 grains. A certain latitude in the making up of physicians’ prescriptions must necessarily be allowed, but much too frequently the reasonable limit of a 10% error over or under the amount of drug prescribed is exceeded. Certain perishable drugs, such as sweet spirits of nitre, or others liable to contain from their mode of manufacture metallic impurities, form the subjects of frequent prosecutions. The element of intentional fraud which characterizes many forms of food adulteration is happily generally absent in the case of drugs. (O. H.*)