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

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City of Westminster 1924

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Westminster, City of]

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Summarised into groups of years the following results appear:—

Milk.Good quality.Fair Quality.Poor Quality.Adulterated.
Per cent.Per cent.Per cent.Per cent.
For the last year the figures are—
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So far, therefore, as tlie chemical composition of the milk supplied to
Westminster is concerned there has been a manifest improvement, especially
marked in the last five years. The proportion of milk with a good
percentage of cream supplied in Westminster has risen from 68 to 87-5
per cent.
The figures in the 4th column contain a number of samples in which
the fat content was a little below 3 per cent., but the amount being small
in amount the analysts gave the vendors the benefit. If these be added to
those stated definitely to be adulterated, it appears that in the years
1902-3-4 28 per cent, of the milk supply was below standard. This
combined figure for the last five years works out at 7.5 per cent. The
degree of adulteration when it did occur was much greater than now,
10 to 20 per cent, of added water being usual but higher amounts were
found, 30, 40, and as high as 68 per cent. Deficiency in fat ran up to
26 per cent.
The addition of preservatives to milk was not then forbidden (the
Order forbidding its use did not come into force until 1912), but the
Council, recognising the danger of having boric acid in a food largely
consumed by young children and invalids, at once took steps to curtail
the amount used, 40 to 70 grains per gallon were found in some samples.
The bulk of the milk (97.5 per cent.), however, did not contain any, as
the large dairy companies also objected to its use preferring to insist on
cleanliness and prompt cooling of the milk. There is still much room for
improvement at many farms, in the means of transit and distribution.
Preservatives were also added to cream and a purchaser had no means
of knowing whether he bought pure cream or an article heavily dosed with
boric acid. The Council contended that in all cases in which preservatives
were used in food disclosure should be made, and even in such cases
the amount of preservative used should be small, e.g., 17½ grains of boric
acid per lb. of cream. The Council successfully fought many battles in
support of their view, both in the Police and higher Courts, with the result

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