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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that the trade adopted the practice of stating if the cream was fresh or
preserved. The amount of boric acid used came down from an average
of 36 grams to the pound so that between 1906 and 1912 in over 60 per
cent, of the preserved cream the amount was under 17½ grams, and in 76
per cent, of the samples it did not exceed 22½ grams.
In 1913, an Order came in force which required disclosure of the
presence of preservative without any specification as to amount. Some
of the trade took advantage of this and, as will be seen from the accompanying
figures, the amounts found increased, some samples containing
as much as 40, 50 and even 63 grains. In 1917 the Local Government
Board amended the Order and specified that not more than 28 grains was
allowed. This was unnecessarily high as 76 per cent, of the samples since
taken have not contained as much as 22½ grains.
No. of
Amount of Boric Acid not above
1906-12 322 90 232 141 31 21 8 26
Percentages 27.9 72.1 60.7 15.5 9.1 3.4 11.2
1913-17 815 266 549 275 146 44 35 49
Percentages 32.6 67.5 50.0 26.5 8.0 6.3 8.9
1919-24 501 237 264 135 67 29 13 5
Percentages 47.3 52.7 51.1 25.3 10.9 4.9 1.8
Apparently the demand for fresh cream has increased considerably,
and has been met by the trade without resort to preservatives, even
during the summer months.
Butter used to be adulterated by retaining in it considerable quantities
of moisture, running up from 4 to 27 per cent. of water, in excess of what
there should be, yielding a handsome profit to the vendor. It used also
to be found mixed with margarine. Such conditions are very rarely
found now.
Preservatives were also extensively used in sausages and potted meats,
and the Council called the attention of manufacturers and vendors that
some manufacturers were able to put up such goods without the use of
preservatives. This produced a good result but cases had to be fought
in the High Courts in order to secure that the amount of preservative
should be restricted.
Many other articles of food, drink and drugs have been kept under
supervision with beneficial results.
Various foods are coloured with the idea that they will appear richer
or more attractive. Thus annatto was added to milk to convey the