London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Lambeth 1925

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Lambeth Borough]

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tractor and more or less tainted, whilst the dust receptacle or ashpit
was full of the usual household and shop refuse. The distances for the
flies to travel were only six feet.
After salting the beef and pork joints in the brine tubs, which are
kept in the basement (cellar), the boiling is carried out in the yard, in
a portable copper, and, after boiling, the portions of the joints are
pressed between layers of gelatine and are allowed to cool on a movable
table in the yard—the joints being cut up before being boiled, and
afterwards boned and trimmed before being pressed. The flies have
free access to the meat during these boning, trimming, pressing and
cooling operations, and, no doubt, take full advantage of their opportunities.
The fiies were proved, on bacteriological examination, to be
actual "carriers" of the same kinds of germs as were found on and in
the pressed meats as sold.
There was no reason, from the evidence available, to suspect that
the two attendants, who are employed in the actual boiling and
the pressing, are human "carriers," but there is every reason for suspecting
that the bluebottles were "carriers" of germs that caused the
attacks of food poisoning, carrying such germs from the dust receptacle
or ashpit or from the two large fat and trimmings and other refuse cup.
boarus directly to the cooked meat after it had been cooked and during
the process of pressing between gelatine layers and cooling. There is
no evidence pointing to the raw meat, with which the shop chiefly
deals as a retail butcher's, being contaminated.
The bacteriological examinations of the samples of the portions of
the cold salted beef and pork prepared on the 13th May, 1925, which
were obtained not only at the shop (the remains of the suspected
joints), but also at one or two of the infected houses, show such samples
to have been grossly contaminated with ordinary bacteria (perhaps
foecal in origin) and with the bacillus proteus, though the specific
causative germ or germs of food poisoning (the Gaërtner or Salmonella
group of bacteria) were not traced. The bacteria discovered were
sufficient to account for the illnesses, which occurred, and the
causative germs were probably crowded out and hidden by the many
other bacteria which were actually found.
An interesting point in the investigations is the fact that a dog (a
puppy), to which a portion of the cooked salted pork was given, was
also attacked with symptoms which were the same as those of the
human beings attacked. These symptoms consisted of acute gastric
and intestinal disturbances, with vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps in the
abdomen and elsewhere, fever, together with extreme prostration and
a tendency to heart failure and collapse. These symptoms took place
in each case within three or four hours of the infected meats being
consumed, and the incidence of the disease upon the consumers of the

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