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

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London County Council 1900

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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14.—The question how fried fish should be capable of conveying the infection of enteric fever is
one to which no answer can at present be given. If due to surface contamination before cooking it
is probable that this process would destroy the infection; if due to infection within the fish it is
improbable that the fish would be sterilized thereby. These points could be determined only by
experiment. With respect to the question generally, as to how the fish acquired infective property,
Dr. Hamer found no reason for thinking that specific contamination occurred on the Southwark
premises, and if both the Southwark and Lambeth outbreaks were due to the consumption of fish,
this fact would strongly militate against the view that such contamination had occurred in either of
these districts, and points to some earlier period at which the fish became infected.
15.—It will be noted in connection with the four cases of enteric fever mentioned as possible
exceptions in the Southwark outbreak, that the consumption of fish purchased as wet fish cannot be
wholly excluded as a possible cause, and in this relation it may be stated that not infrequently fried
fish shops are owned by the vendors of wet fish, and transference of fish from one to the other is,
under these circumstances, of likely occurrence. Fish purchased as fried fish in Southwark comprises
plaice, haddock and skate. The fish is fried in cotton-seed oil, and, beyond the batter in which it is
cooked and the occasional addition of potatoes, no other foods are generally associated with the
sale of fried fish.
Shirley F. Murphy,
Medical Officer of Health.