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

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City of London 1914

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

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The meat and other foods deposited for sale in restaurants are examined in the
course of the ordinary visits of the Inspector, but only on rare occasions has it been
found necessary to seize food to be dealt with by a Magistrate. Restaurant Keepers have
practically no use for unsound food, and readily surrender or destroy in the presence of
the Inspector any of questionable character.
A number of complaints have been received during the summer months of
nuisance from the smell of cooking, or of burning fat, &c., entering the windows ot
offices, and where possible a remedy was suggested to occupiers of kitchens. In one
case a pipe shaft was taken from the basement to the roof level with satisfactory
results. There seems to be no reason why occupiers of offices should have to tolerate
the smell from cooking in restaurants, when by a system of mechanical ventilation
or otherwise, the effluvia could be discharged above the roof level without annoyance
to anyone.
The nature of the fuel used in cooking is of considerable importance, affecting as
it does the smoke problem, and the adoption of gas ovens where possible is always an
advantage, especially if constructed so that the fumes do not come into contact with
the food during the process of cooking.
The rat problem, always of great importance, is especially so in connection with
premises where food is stored or prepared. Rats frequently gain access to kitchens and
more espicially so in the case of very old premises. Many restaurant keepers employ
a professional rat catcher, in other cases dogs and cats are employed, as also are various
forms of traps. These premises should be made rat proof, and all refuse should be so
stored that the animals cannot gain access to it. Neglect of simple precautionary
measures makes the rat nuisance become quite a serious problem in some places.
Clothing worn by employees in kitchens does not always receive the attention it
demands. Some workers- change their clothes and work in old and evil smelling
garments, and in some cases a dirty condition of the workers themselves has been
noticed. Provision should be made if possible for the storage of clothing belonging to
workers. In many cases cupboards have been provided where space was limited and
there were no staff rooms.
Proper lavatory accommodation for the personal ablution of employees is essential ;
without it, cleanliness is difficult, if not impossible. Unless such provision exists a sink
in the kitchen may be used, an action which is to be deprecated. Washing facilities
should be provided as already stated, in connection with every sanitary convenience in
a kitchen.
It is found that the businesses are constantly changing hands and that the kitchen
arrangements are an ever-varying quantity. Gas stoves are frequently added without
any provision being made for carrying off the fumes, the water closet accommodation
for the sexes has to be re-adjusted and walls and ceilings of the kitchens soon get dirty.
These and many other points need constant and vigilant attention to ensure a decent
standard being maintained.
The experience gathered from the inspection of these places suggests the
The floor, walls and ceiling should be finished in a durable material and be
free from obstructions so as to be easily cleansed—all tables and benches should
be easily moved.