A pan of joy and triumph which speaks for itself, and which is a very true indication of how the question of poisonous adulteration is viewed by certain sections of the trade, and by certain of the smaller and irresponsible trade organs, has appeared in print. It would seem that the thanks of the trade are due to the defendants in the case heard at the Liverpool Police Court for having obtained an official acknowledgment that the use of salicylic acid and of other preservatives, even in large amounts, in wines and suchlike articles, is not only allowable, but is really necessary for the proper keeping of the product. It must have been a charming change in the general proceedings at the Liverpool Court to listen to a preservatives case conducted before a magistrate who evidently realises that manufacturers, in these days, in order to make a decent profit, have to use the cheapest materials they can buy, and cannot afford to pick and choose and that they have therefore been compelled to put preservatives into their articles so as to prevent their going bad. He was evidently not to be misled by the usual statement that such substances should not be used because they are injurious to health as though that could be thought to have anything to do with the much more important fact that the public really want to have an article supplied to them which is cheap, and yet keeps well. Besides, many doctors and professors were brought forward to prove that they had never known a case of fatal poisoning due to the use of salicylic acid as a preservative. Unfortunately, it is only the big firms that can manage to bring forward such admirable and learned witnesses, and the smaller firms have to suffer persecution by faddists and others who attempt to obtain the public notice by pretending to be solicitous about the public health. Altogether the prosecution did not have a pleasant time, for the magistrate showed his appreciation of the evidence of one of the witnesses by humorously rallying him about his experiments with kittens, as though anyone could presume to judge from experiments on brute beasts what would be the effect on human beingsthe lords of creation. Everyone reading the evidence will be struck by the fact that the defendant stated that he had once tried to brew without preservatives, but with the only result that the entire lot went bad. All manufacturers of his own type will sympathise with him, since, of course, there is no practicable way of getting over this trouble except by the use of preservatives although the abovementioned faddists are so unkind as to state that if everything is clean the article will keep. But this must surely be sheer theory, for it cannot be supposed that there can be any manufacturer of this class of article who would be foolish enough to think he could run his business at a profit, and yet go to all the expense of having the returned empties washed out before refilling, and of paying the heavy price asked for the best crude materials, when he has to compete with rival firms, who can use practically anything, and yet turn out an article equal in every way from a selling point of view, and one that will keep sufficiently, by the simple and cheap expedient of throwing theory on one side, and by pinning their faith to a preservative which has now received the approval of a magistrate. Manufacturers who use preservatives, whether they are makers of wines or are dairymen, and all similar tradesmen, should join together to protect their interests, for, as they must all admit, the welfare of the trade is the chief thing they have to consider, and any other interest must come second, if it is to come in at all. Now is the time for action, for the Commission appointed to inquire into the use of preservatives in foods has not yet given its decision, and there is still time for a properlyconducted campaign, backed up by those influential members of the trade of whom we hear so much, and aided by such farreaching and brilliant magisterial decisions, to force these opinions prominently forward, in spite of the prejudice of the public and to insure to the trades interested the unfettered use of preservatives,which save the trade hundreds of thousands of pounds every year, by enabling the manufacturers to dispense with heavilypriced apparatus, with extra workmen and with the use of expensive materials,and which are urgently asked for by the public,since we all prefer to have our foods drugged than to have them pure.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 1, 1900