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

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Wandsworth 1936

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Wandsworth, Metropolitan Borough]

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Analysts' Annual Report. 115
In July copies of certain letters received by his department were
forwarded to us by the Medical Officer of Health relating to the
alleged sale of Red Wine of a harmful character. It was stated
that this wine was known as "Red Biddie" or "Red Lizzie," and
it was alleged to contain a "methylitic" solution; also that
indulgence in this drink resulted in a state of drunkenness from which
recovery was long and that continued indulgence led to insanity.
"Red Biddie," or "Red Lizzie" is the popular name given
to a liquid sold under the description of "Red Lisbon Wine," which
is said to result from the process of washing out wine casks with
diluted methylated spirit. We have no direct evidence that such a
wine is sold, nor does there seem to be any information as to the
quantity offered for sale. If such a wine exists, the methyl alcohol
content would render it a most undesirable and dangerous article
and continued indulgence in such beverage would be disastrous to
the consumer.

As the direct result of the correspondence referred to above, samples of cheap red wine were purchased in the Borough, and the following table shows the result of our examination of these articles.

Case No.Description of Sample.Contents of bottle.Price paid.Proof Spirit.Proof Spirit obtained for 1d.
620British Sherry185 c.c.6d.31.9 %9.8 c.c.
621Tawny Wine370 c.c.11d.28.6 %9.6 c.c.
622Ruby Wine383 c.c.10d.27.4 %10.5 c.c.
623Tawny Wine180 c.c.6d.25.9 %7.8 c.c.
624Pure Grape Wine212 c.c.6d.28.8 %10.2 c.c.
650British Ruby Wine188 c.c.6d.29.0 %9.1 c.c.
651Wine Cocktail190 c.c.8d.30.2 %7.2 c.c.
652White Wine193 c.c.6d.29.0 %9.3 c.c.
653Ruby Wine White Wine184 c.c.6d.28.0 %8.6 c.c.
654182 c.c.6d.29.3 %8.9 c.c.
655Ruby Wine192 c.c.6d.29.5 %9.4 c.c.

None of the above samples contained Methyl Alcohol.
The average proof spirit in these samples amounted to 28.9
per cent., and the average quantity of proof spirit purchased for
one penny amounted to 9.2 c.c.
We are of opinion that as none of the samples contained
Methyl Alcohol they cannot be regarded as being more deleterious
to health than any other liquid of similar alcoholic strength.