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The report recently issued by the joint committee, appointed by various Administrative Counties and County Boroughs in the North of England, to inquire into the subject of milk contamination, is an important document to which reference was made in the last number of this journal. Unfortunately little permanent good is likely to result from such reports unless the circumstances which have given rise to the grave faults to which attention is called be dealt with by authority. Such reports are admittedly of great interest. They contain much valuable and important matter, and are full of firsthand and reliable evidence collected by experts at the expenditure of much time and trouble. As a general rule, however, they are too technical in their wording to appeal directly either to the general public or to the ordinary milk dealer. Still, the bearing of the matters they refer to on the everyday life and health of the nation is so great that they should not be allowed to sink into oblivion by failure to bring their essential features before the wider public to which they are in tended to appeal. On these grounds the suggestion contained in the report that a pamphlet, should he issued containing the results of the committee's investigations is an excellent one. The means that are taken from time to time to rouse public interest in the important and allied questions of meat and milk are unfortunately characterised by their spasmodic, if vigorous, nature. The agitation dies down after a time and is not renewed until perhaps the original question again rises in a sufficiently acute form. The work has then to be done over again. It is necessary to bring home to the public the importance of, say, a pure milk supply, but to produce a permanent impression it is needful to proceed by an educational process and not by one that is based on unorganised agitation. The methods pursued in the United States in relation to food questions are not always to be commended, but in relation to the educational methods to which reference has just been made we may usefully consider the means adopted by the State authorities of the Republic. They are in the first place nothing if not practical. There, as here, the greatest hope of a wouldbe reformer lies in his being able to rouse up public opinion. Hence we find questions such as these are kept steadily to the front by the authorities, by means of official publications and the public press, with the avowed object of enlisting the trade on the side of the law to aid in keeping food products up to reasonable standards of quality. In a report recently issued by the State Agricultural Station of Kentucky dealing with the question of the milk supplied to the town of Louisville it is said that the result of inquiries instituted by the station showed the large majority of dairymen to be anxious to cooperate with the officials in the enforcement of all fair regulations that they need help in an educational way and are eager for any practical information which will help them to better their plants that to accomplish this both the State and the city should maintain, not at the dairyman's expense, sufficient experts in dairying science, and veterinarians to constantly inspect the districts, helping wherever possible, not only pointing out deficiencies, but suggesting remedies, and, finally, reporting for prosecution or withdrawing the permit of the dairyman not complying with the regulations necessary to produce wholesome milk. What is said in this report might equally well apply to affairs on this side of the water as regards the milk supply. The authorities in Kentucky have had exactly the same problems to face and deal with as those referred to in the report of the Joint Committee. The same want of attention to cleanliness, to light, ventilation, and drainage in the cowshed the same unpleasant methods of dealing with the milk during the process of transport and the same want of cleanliness in the shop characterised many of the small and large dealers in Kentucky as in this country. For all that we cannot assume the milk dealer or cowkeeper to be invariably in the wrong through malice aforethought. The Kentucky report just quoted states that the time and money spent in telling the cowkeeper and dairyman not to do this or that would be in many cases better spent by showing him how to do things. Most dairymen would be willing to make improvements if they knew exactly how to go about it. It appears that threefourths of the dairymen who supply Louisville with milk are cooperating with the health authorities in the task of cleaning up. We must not assume that the British cowkeeper or dairyman is less willing to do the right thing than is his American confrre. The position of such an institution as a State Experiment Station is probably peculiar to the United States. It is in intimate touch with the requirements of every farmer in the State. It deals with all problems relating to the rearing and diseases of cattle, their housing, food and treatment with the products of the dairy, farm, and stockyard. It is consulted by farmers on all conceivable subjects affecting their business at all times. The interests of the station do not end here. Not only is it concerned with the cattle and their products as such, but the Experiment Station is authorised by the legislature to concern itself with the distribution and sale of all dairy produce including, of course, milk and allied substances, with the hygienic and veterinary inspection of buildings and cattle, as well as with the conditions prevailing in dairies and milkshops. Moreover, the inspection of food products of all kinds and their analysis under the Pure Food Law of the State is frequently placed by the State in the hands of the experts attached to the Experiment Station. Under these circumstances such an institution is exceptionally well qualified to judge the requirements or faults of any process or institution affecting the food supply. In the case under review the Experiment Station sent round a circular letter to all cowkeepers and dairymen concerned, pointing out what it proposed to do, and asking for comments and suggestions. The object, in fact, was to make all farmers and dairymen feel that in the authorities of the Experiment Station they had to deal with a friendly body and not one whose desire was merely to catch them tripping. This they have apparently succeeded in doing, and with good results. The position of affairs in this country seems rather to suggest that public authorities and the milk trade occupy two hostile camps, and if this be so the fact is regrettable.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 1, 1908
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