adulteration



adulteration defined in 1939 year

adulteration - Adulteration (Lat. adulterare, to corrupt);
adulteration - Term meaning the debasement of anything by the substitution for one or more of its ingredients of something inferior. It is usually applied to food and drugs.

Pliny in the first century a.d. mentions frauds by bakers who added a soft white earth to bread; in ancient Athens adulteration of wine led to the appointment of an official to stop the practice. Dr. Wynter Blyth has collected instances of severe punishments inflicted during the Middle Ages upon fraudulent vendors, of foods. Bakers, brewers, vintners, and "pepperers" were frequent offenders, and were punished by being set in the stocks, whipped, branded, or turned out of the town. A wine-seller condemned to drink six quarts of his own wine died from the effects.

Although adulteration of food is fairly widespread in Great Britain, the devices of dishonest traders are becoming increasingly difficult to practise undetected.

The report of the Ministry oi Health for 1937-38 showed that of 144,675 samples of food examined in England and Wales in 1937, 8,061 were adulterated or not up to the legal standard. Milk is a food easily adulterated by the addition of water, or by adding to pure milk the separated milk remaining after the cream has been removed, by adding condensed milk, gelatin, starch, preservatives, and colouring matter. The extent of milk adulteration varies widely, figures from 2'5 per cent to 35 per cent having been reported. Penalties for this type of offence range from a caution to substantial fines.

Adulteration of food and drugs takes many forms, e.g. coffee containing chicory; gelatin with excess of arsenic; margarine with too much preservative; ' self-raising flour yielding insufficient carbon dioxide; chemical food short of iron; olive oil containing cheaper oils; senna, pods containing grit; too much sulphur in sulphur ointment. During recent years the vigilance exercised over foodstuffs has made the more impudent types of fraud by gross adulteration much more difficult.

Adulteration was the subject of incidental legislation during the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary, Anne, the four Georges, and William IV, and in more recent times gave rise to the series of statutes known as the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, 1875 to 1927, finally merged into the Adulteration Act, 1928. The law relating to adulteration has since been consolidated into one comprehensive code. This embodies all the public health statutes dealing with the importation, preparation, storage, sale, and delivery of food, the examination and seizure of unsound food, the notification of food poisoning, and the control of markets, slaughter-houses, and cold-air stores. This Act is called the Food and Drugs Act of 1938. During the Second Great War, however, the sale of food was rigorously controlled by regulations and orders, enforcement being carried out by the Ministry of Food. On the other hand, some of the laws affecting foods were relaxed, e.g. some preservatives forbidden before the war were permitted. The shortage of supplies of some articles in common use produced during the war an increasing number of exaggerated and unjustified claims for certain food substitutes, and the provisions of the law designed for the protection of consumers against false and misleading advertisements and labels for food were strengthened. The Food and Drugs Act prohibits the addition of any substance to any food so as to render it injurious to health or the addition to any drug of any substance that affects the quality or potency injuriously; no article so mixed may be sold. The Act forbids the sale to the prejudice of the purchaser of any food or drug which is not of the nature, substance, or quality demanded. A purchaser cannot be prejudiced, however, if clear notice is given at the time of sale that the article sold is not of the nature, substance, or quality demanded.

The Act also provides for the appointment of public analysts. Authorised officers who purchase samples for analysis are called "sampling officers." The sampling officer, after purchasing a sample for analysis, must inform the seller of his intention to have it analysed, and must then and there divide the sample into three parts, each of which is then marked, sealed, or fastened up, one part being delivered to the seller, one being taken for analysis, and one being retained for future comparison and production in court if necessary. It is characteristic of the wiles of dishonest traders that in order to defeat these measures they will sell only genuine articles to a stranger, lest he be a sampling officer, and will continue to do so until they are satisfied that he is an ordinary regular customer, when they will supply adulterated articles time after time. Any person refusing to sell to a sampling officer renders himself liable to a fine of £5. A. Shepherd

Bibliography. Foods, their Composition and Analysis, Wynter Blyth, 7th ed., 1927; Bell's Sale of Food and Drugs, 11th ed., 1943; Ministry of Health Annual Reports.

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