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

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Malden and Coombe 1949

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Malden & Coombe]

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(3) A loaf of bread which had a large beetle embedded in the
bottom surface was the subject of another complaint. A prosecution
was instituted in this case, the summons being dismissed under the
Probation of Offenders Act on payment of £2 2s. Od. costs.
(4) A fruit cake was the subject of a further prosecution. In
this case it contained a cricket and the summons was again dismissed
under the Probation of Offenders Act on payment of £3 3s. Od. costs.
(5) A third prosecution was instituted regarding a loaf of bread
in which was embedded a label which had obviously become detached
from a sack of flour. In this case a fine of £20 was imposed with
£5 5s. Od. costs.
I may be permitted to add that in each of the three foregoing
instances the articles in question were prepared in bakehouses outside
this area.
(6) A sliced loaf of bread was brought to me and examination
disclosed a dark-grey to black discolouration concentrated in streaks
near but not on the surface. The conclusions of the Public Analyst
was that the streaks were due to a deposit of tiny particles of carbon
and that it was likely that the particles were introduced by contamination
with some machine or plant lubricant. A warning was issued.
(7) A complaint was made that some buns were in a filthy condition
when purchased. The appearance of these buns certainly gave
rise to some misgivings but were, however, certified by the Public
Analyst to be free from any objectionable dirt or filth, the trouble
being due to another entirely innocent cause.
(8) A somewhat peculiar circumstance was reported to me and
proved of interest. A piece of jam sponge sandwich was alleged to
have caused redness of the tongue and swelling and redness of the
throat when eaten by a young boy. The symptons soon subsided.
On examination the jam was noted to have turned, in parts, from its
normal red colour to green. A sample was, therefore, sent to the
Public Analyst for examination as to the possible presence of injurious
substances. In brief his report disclosed that the discolouration was
due to an alkaline condition of the sponge occasioned by the use
of unbalanced raising ingredients. This lack of balance was probably
due to inadequate mixing whereby a large local excess of carbonate
of soda was present in one section of the cake which could have
caused the symptoms described. The patchy nature of the green
colour of the jam lent support to this theory.
Sixty-three samples were submitted for testing by the
methylene blue method and of these, fifty-four reached grades
I and II standards. Eight were placed in Grade III and only
one in Grade IV. Five of the samples contained faecal coli,
strangely enough four of these being in Grades I and II. As
has been previously explained, the test does not provide a
guarantee of safety but it does serve as a simple and practical
method of grading ice cream according to its degree of
bacterial cleanliness and samples which consistently fail to reach