There are various measures which can be taken to improve hygienic conditions in the food trades, but basically they reduce to two namely, legislation and exhortation. I am speaking here of actual positive steps that can be taken by an outside authority such as the central or local government. Within the industry, forces having an influence on hygiene are, of course, continuously at work, and they may make for the improvement or the deterioration of hygienic conditions. These forces may be of a commercial character or they may derive from a desire of those who are engaged in the industry to make their work as attractive as possible by the creation of clean surroundings. The strength of the latter varies with the individualthere are a few who are blind to dirt around them, and there are, of course, also those, I believe a small minority, who, although they areto use a modern jargonallergic to dirt, are even more allergic to the work of preventing its accumulation and of cleaning away what is unavoidable. Most of us, however, are neither blind to the existence of dirt around us nor too lazy to make the effort to remove it if it is there. But by far the most important factor of this kind is competition. Generally speaking, the housewife is becoming more fastidious and will go to a shop where the conditions are clean, where food is attractively displayed and the staff are themselves clean and refrain from unhygienic practices such as licking the fingers to detach a piece of wrapping paper. At the same time, she likes to see plenty of fish from which to make her selection, and the successful fishmonger must accordingly have a generous display. The housewife does not then feel that her choice is limited to what has been rejected by others. Moreover, when the demand for fish is high, possibly owing to the scarcity of other types of protein food, she will tend to go to the shop which has the best supply and the greatest variety of fish even though its hygienic conditions may fall short of the ideal. A crowded shop will make it more difficult for the retailer to find the time and space to protect his fish from contamination and to keep it in prime condition. Thus you will sometimes find a rapid turnover combined with a lack of attention to some of the niceties of hygiene, but it should not be supposed that the first follows from the second. Brisk business may tend to militate against hygiene but lack of attention to hygiene will not encourage good business. Other things being equal, the housewife will choose the cleanest shop. I do not need to tell you that fish is a highly perishable food and that the rate of decay depends very largely on the proper treatment of the fish and of the observance of sanitary and cleanly conditions. Decay is largely due to bacterial action, and any steps which will tend to reduce the activity of bacteria, such as proper icing, protection from bruising, and so on, must be beneficial both to the fish trader and his customers. Before I come to express a view on the principles which ought to guide us in the effort to spread the gospel of hygiene and to ensure that it is put into practice, I want to congratulate the National Federation of Fishmongers on the interest it takes, and I believe has always taken, in this subject. I remember how, during the war years, before there was a Food Hygiene Division in the Ministry, I was in charge of another Division and had some dealings with your federation. I remember that the secretary of your federation approached me many times in the hope of inducing the Ministry to take steps to secure cleaner conditions. I was compelled to answer that we were baulked by questions of vires and that though the spirit was willing, powers were nonexistent. The interest of your federation is also shown by the useful leaflet entitled Fish Trade Hygiene . The recommendations in this leaflet are valuable, and if they were universally observed would leave little room for complaint. It is an open secret that the Minister has in mind some modifications and extensions of the existing law. First, many of you will be aware from statements made in the House of Commons that he hopes at some appropriate time to introduce a Bill to amend the Food and Drugs Act. This Bill, if it is enacted, will probably make some slight changes in Section 13, but I clearly cannot enter into details at this meeting. Your federation has already had an opportunity to comment on the proposals. It is also known to you that the Minister has in mind some regulations for the fish trades. Regulations are the most suitable instrument for dealing with particular conditions of individual trades the general picture is that the Act is appropriate for the requirements applicable to all food trades and that these ought to be supplemented by regulations imposing special requirements for particular trades. It is not always possible to arrange matters in this way, but it is the pattern which underlies our ideas for hygiene legislation, and our draft regulations do in fact contain for the most part provisions which seem to us to be necessary to meet the particular conditions of the fish trades but have not a general application to other trades. Your officers have already had an opportunity of commenting on our proposals which cover all stages in the movement of fish from the time when it is landed on the quay until the time when it is delivered to the consumer. You will be particularly concerned with those parts of the regulations which touch on the sale of fish by retail. They deal with personal cleanliness, the cleanliness of premises, equipment and utensils, the structure of the ceiling, walls and floors of rooms in which fish is sold or prepared for sale, the provision of water, the wearing of protective clothing, the disposal of refuse, the provision and use of refrigerated storage, the icing of fish, and the protection of fish from contamination. I do not intend to go into the details of these draft regulations I doubt if any of them does more than to set out in black and white what every good fishmonger already does or refrains from doing.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 1, 1952