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

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Beckenham 1947

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Beckenham]

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An interesting item was cheese which the purchaser thought was
contaminated with mice excreta. It was, however, a Continental
cheese, flavoured with dill seeds. The Ministry of Food agreed,
after representation had been made, to withdraw any supplies which
a vendor could not sell and to allow a vendor to change such cheese,
already sold, for a cheese more commonly acceptable in this country.
Cheese of poor odour was submitted as unfit. It was, however,
certified as genuine by the Public Analyst.
There were a few other instances of milk bottles with dirt and
foreign bodies inside. We do not condone these instances of lack
of care on the part of milk suppliers, but nevertheless, full appreciation
is given to the fact that millions of bottles are filled each year for
delivery in Beckenham, and the very few instances of a dirty bottle
getting through is remarkable.
Bottle washing in these days is usually done by automatic process,
and a " watcher " is employed to view the bottles passing on the
conveyor belt from the washing machine to the milk fillers. Anybody
who has seen this process should appreciate the terrific strain imposed
by the work. It would be remarkable indeed if isolated instances of
failure were not met. It is, of course, an offence against Statute and
prosecution could follow. If the failure was constant, such legal
action would be recommended, but, where the instances are isolated,
the institution of proceedings would perhaps be considered persecution
rather than prosecution.
The problem of the failure of the human element in milk bottle
washing and filling is a great concern of the dairy industry, who have
already spent large sums of money in endeavouring to perfect an
automatic device for rejecting imperfectly washed bottles whilst
travelling on the conveyor between the washing and the filling
It is understood that the work has progressed so far as to give
reasonable hope that ultimate success will be achieved, but it will
take a considerable time before it reaches commercial usage.
A complaint of two flies in a pint bottle of milk was investigated.
It was stated that the milk was delivered in this condition. The
specimens were found, on examination, to be a " blow fly " and a
"house fly." The flies were, however, entire, and were floating
free in the liquid. This condition appeared to cast a doubt on the
matter, for it is reasonable to assume that the high-pressure jets used
in washing and filling would have mutilated the flies. The complainant
was seen by a representative of the dairy and satisfied in the
Meat Inspection—Slaughtering.
On only six occasions were animals slaughtered and dressed for
food. The carcases and offals of three pigs and three calves were
passed as fit for human consumption.

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