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Food Adulteration A Brief History

Food Adulteration A Brief History. Abbas Lalljee Aims. The meaning of ‘Food Adulteration’ How serious was it? Some examples of adulterated foods How food was adulterated An explanation of the legislation introduced . What is Adulteration?.

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Food Adulteration A Brief History

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  1. Food Adulteration A Brief History Abbas Lalljee

  2. Aims • The meaning of ‘Food Adulteration’ • How serious was it? • Some examples of adulterated foods • How food was adulterated • An explanation of the legislation introduced

  3. What is Adulteration? • To adulterate is defined as “to make impure by addition” which thus leads to adulteration. • In relation to food, we can take this to mean “the addition of foreign substances, being contaminated by chemicals, or befouled by animal and human excrement”

  4. !! Historical Note !! • Throughout history food has been subject to adulteration. • Henry VIII cherished saffron so much that he condemned saffron adulterers to death

  5. Fredrick Accum’s 1820 Book

  6. Exposé…. • The book was titled "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons". • The book included a reference to 2 Kings Chapter IV Verse 40. - "There is Death in the Pot", a reference to the fact that the food being consumed could not be eaten.

  7. Exposé…. Other chemists took up the challenge. In the second half of the 19th century legislation in the UK established the statutory appointment of Public Analysts.

  8. Adulteration…….. • The deliberate adulteration of food was a common and, until 1860, virtually unrestricted practice. • For example, because of the Englishman's dislike for brown bread, bakers regularly whitened their flour with alum. • Conditions for the processing and sale of foods were unsanitary.

  9. Adulteration…….. • An 1863 report to the Privy Council stated that one-fifth of the meat sold came from diseased cattle. • In 1860 the first pure-food act was passed, but, as was often the case in these early regulatory measures, it provided no mandatory system of enforcement. • In 1872 another act was passed, this time considerably strengthening penalties and inspection procedures.

  10. Adulteration……. • The Sale of Foods and Drugs Act of 1875 prevented the addition of harmful ingredients, such as poisonous chemicals and dyes, to foods and drugs. • The act also allowed medical officers to inspect foods.

  11. Adulteration…… • Throughout most of the nineteenth century, Britons had little protection against unwholesome food and drink. • Many tons of adulterated tea, rancid butter and polluted meat were sold throughout the United Kingdom.

  12. Adulteration…… • At this time bacterial contamination was not understood. • The chief concerns were visible gross contamination and decomposition.

  13. Foods that were Adulterated • pepper - gravel, leaves and twigs added • tea - exhausted tea leaves and other leaves added and glazed with black lead • bread - grit, sand, ashes and mashed potato were added and alum used for bleaching.

  14. Foods that were Adulterated • rum and beer - strychnine, cocculus inculus (both are hallucinogens) and copperas were added • pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves - sulphate of copper added • mustard - lead chromate • chinese tea - ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric

  15. Foods that were Adulterated • copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate • Red lead gave Gloucester cheese its 'healthy' red hue • flour and arrowroot a rich thickness to cream

  16. Food Analysis…… • The London County Medical Officer discovered the following in samples of ice cream:- cocci, bacilli, torulae, cotton fiber, lice, bed bugs, bug's legs, fleas, straw, human hair, and cat and dog hair. • Such contaminated ice cream caused diphtheria, scarlet fever, diarrhoea, and enteric fever.

  17. Food Analysis….. • The Privy Council estimated in 1862 that one-fifth of butcher's meat in England and Wales came from animals which were 'considerably diseased' or had died of various diseases

  18. Food Analysis….. • As late as 1877 the Local Government Board found that • Approximately a quarter of the milk contained excessive water or chalk, • 10% of all the butter, 8% of the bread and 50% of the gin had copper added to heighten the colour

  19. Food Analysis….. The problem was that the adulteration could not be detected. At that time, science was based in universities and had never been applied to the practical examination of food.

  20. Food Analysis at University

  21. Food Legislation… • Clearly, food adulteration was a problem that the authorities had to sit up and take notice of, especially after the publication of Accum’s work. • Legislation was introduced in 1875 to protect the public: The Sale of Food and Drugs Act, but it was not always properly and consistently implemented.

  22. Food Legislation… • In the late 19th century important discoveries were being made in the field of bacteriology: • 1867 Pasteur's work laid the foundations of bacteriology • 1885 Salmon and Theobald Smith discovered the organism Salmonella Cholereasius in pigs • 1888 Gaertner isolated the organism Salmonella enteritidis • 1895 Van Ermingen described Clostridium botulinum

  23. Food Legislation… • By the First World War 1914 - 1918, it was accepted that food poisoning was caused by contamination with bacteria. Food manufacturers, especially canners, followed procedures designed to achieve and maintain good standards of hygiene and safety.

  24. Food Legislation… • In 1938, the Food and Drugs Act made reporting food poisoning a legal requirement. In 1939, there were reports of 83 incidents of food poisoning in England and Wales involving 94 people. Following the Second World War, the number of reports rose rapidly. In 1955 there were 8961 outbreaks reported involving 20,000 people.

  25. Food Legislation… In 1955, the new Food and Drugs Act made it an offence to sell for human consumption any food to which substances had been added or abstracted or which had been processed so as to render it injurious to health. After this Act the number of reported incidents fell to 3184 involving 7907 people in 1964.

  26. Today…. The legislation of the UK consists of Acts (the primary controls) and Regulations (the secondary controls). The main Act covering food is now the Food Safety Act 1990. This establishes the key offences that protect the public. These include requirements that food: Should not be injurious to health Should satisfy food safety requirements Should be of the nature, substance and quality demanded by the purchaser Should be labelled in a way that does not falsely describe the food or otherwise mislead.

  27. Today… The legislation makes these offences absolute i.e, there need be no intention to commit the offence. However, to counterbalance this the Food Safety Act also contains a defence of due diligence.

  28. Summary… In the middle of the 19th century, food was not at all safe! Food adulteration was practised Living conditions were unhealthy. Diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid fever, dysentery and cholera were spread by contaminated food, water and personal contact.

  29. Summary… Significant Legislation in 1875 to protect the public The Sale of Food and Drugs Act

  30. Summary… Today we are a lot safer thanks to various pieces of legislation in place. A lot more care is taken at various stages of the Food Chain to ensure standards of quality are maintained. Various QA systems are in place such as HACCP’s, BRC Standard and ISO 9000.

  31. Online This PowerPoint presentation can be found under the Resources section on The Food Club website at:

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