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Yearly Volume 74

AUGUST, 1918

Number 1


The right is reserved to decline papers not dealing with practical medical and surgical subjects, and such as might offend or fail to interest readers. Contributors are solely responsible for opinions, methods of expression and revision of proof.

Adulterated and Misbranded Food*

By CHARLES D. AARON, Sc. D., M. D., F. A. C. P.

Professor of Gastroenterology and Dietetics in the Detroit

College of Medicine and Surgery, Detroit, Mich.

It is admitted by both manufacturers and consumers that artificial means are absolutely unnecessary for the preservation of food. But selfishness and politics have tried for years to discredit the good work done by the Bureau of Chemistry of the Department of Agriculture designed to promote the national health. The laity should know that the use of harmful drugs makes it possible for manufacturers to convert decaying fruits and vegetables into jellies and catsups which look good and taste fairly good, but are unwholesome. They should know that manufacturers take filthy, rancid, rotten, frowy butter and "renovate" it into so-called dairy and creamery butter.

The American Association for the Promotion of Purity in Food Products has declared that chemical preservatives are not necessary for the conservation of the essential features in food products.

That adulterated food does harm, no one can deny. Alum in bread, formaldehyde in milk, salicylic acid and benzoic acid in meats, borax in cheese, coloring matter in butter, acids in smoked meats, copper in pickles, etc. are simple illustrations. The medical press throughout the United States has commented on the subject—but widely varying opinions have been expressed as to the degree of harmfulness of the

*Read before the Detroit Academy of Medicine, February 26, 1918.


food preservatives. Some writers take the ground that boric and salicylic acid, even when contained in considerable quantities in foods, are much less harmful than the toxins of putrefaction which sometimes develop if the preservatives are not used. The French law on this subject regards the addition of any preservative to food as deleterious on the ground that any such substance must inhibit the action of the gastric and intestinal juices and thus delay digestion.

The subject, however, is a complicated one. One expert, for instance, declares that he believes the addition of large quantities of antisepties to food is in the main deleterious, yet there are certain foods, he says, in which it is a distinct advantage. He cites catsup, which is ordinarily sold in a package of sufficient size to last a small family for several days, perhaps weeks. If no antiseptics were used in its preparation, as soon as the bottle was opened fermentation would be set up and the contents soon spoil. This condiment, he declares, is used in small quantities, and the amount of salicylic acid or other antiseptic any individual would obtain is inconsiderable. This reasonable statement of the value of antiseptics shows that no sweeping general rule can be applied in prohibiting the use of such substances. But their extensive use is admittedly harmful; in samples of butter examined, from sixty to eighty grains of boric acid to the pound have been found.

The necessity of preserving food-stuffs is more acute today than in early times, though there never was a time when it was not an urgent problem. Food is not always naturally available when needed. Not only must vegetables, fruits, and nuts be gathered, but their supply varies with the season of the year. Most foods require preparation to render them not only palatable, but even digestible; and evidently the aboriginal tribes in this latitude were under the necessity of storing summer food or doing without it at other seasons. But our difficulties increase as our necessities multiply. The great demand for "preserved" food in ancient times is evidenced by the fact that there were frequent famines; transportation was extremely slow and men were dependent upon the products of their husbandry.

Inasmuch as the succession of seasons, the intervals between harvests, and the distances from the sources of supply compel man to store and transport food products, and since these are more or less perishable, the necessity of artificially preserving these foods from decay is apparent.

Today ships must be provisioned, the camps, the army, navy and marine, the hospitals and places of detention; our allies must be supplied, and the preparation and preservation

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of food has developed on a large scale and into a specialty.

One of the most important and oldest foods is bread. When we get it from the baker's .it has no very great keeping qualities, but in its original form it was one of the best preserved foods. The primitive bread was not fermented; it was simply the flour from some grain mixed with water and exposed to heat. Essentially we have the same thing today in the ordinary cracker, also in the "hard-tack" of the army and navy. In this particular civilization has made little progress.

There are two great reasons why food is adulterated: First, to give it an appeal to our fanciful taste; second, to make it more profitable to the manufacturer.

The adulteration of food for both these purposes has been known for generations, for we know that even the Romans adulterated food and traded it with the Greeks.

There are four methods of preserving meat:
1st. Curing with condimental substances.
2nd. Treatment with chemical substances.
3rd. Sterilization by heat.
4th. Drying.

Salt is the condiment most commonly used. Salt does not inhibit the enzymic action that tends to ripen meat. Sugar is occasionally used with salt.

2nd. Chemicals are used as germicides. Small quantities do not impart taste or odor to the meat; they make it look fresh on the outside while changes of a dangerous character may be going on within.

3rd. Sterilization by heat is the safest and best method. 4th. Drying is the most ancient and popular method.

The essential point in all these methods is that the food should from the start be free of all 'decomposition.

People do not seem to have the least conception as to the materials and methods formerly used in the adulteration of food. Sausages are adulterated to keep them from decomposing and at the same time give them that red color which is so attractive. “Freez-em” was a secret combination of salts sprinkled on roasts, chicken, geese, pork, ets., to keep them for a week. A solution of “Freez-em” will keep oysters fresh for a couple of weeks. “Cold Storine” and “Bull Meat Flour” are "guaranteed” meat preservatives. “Best Bull Beef Binder” makes two hundred pounds of sausage out of one hundred pounds of meat and preserves it under all conditions of the weather for ten days. The coloring used under various names is mainly carmin.

Much of the smoked meat sold has never seen the inside of a smoke-house. Some of the substances used to give it the smoky flavor are “Zanzibar Carbon,” “Deems,” “Mal

lory's," "Krauser's" and many others. To smoke the meat, simply hang it up and paint it every day for three days with one of the above-named solutions. At the end of this time the meat will be smoked most effectively--of a good color and an agreeable odor and taste. Pyroligneous acid, which is crude wood acetic acid, is the main ingredient in these preservatives. Sodium sulphite, calcium sulphite, boric and salicylic acids and benzoic acid with coloring matter are other preservatives. Clams, lobster, and fish can all be treated with these chemicals.

In all canned meat it is wise to test the reaction of the jelly. If this be alkaline then decomposition has taken place and the meat is unfit for use. Another test is to open the can under water; if any bubbles rise, this is a sign that the meat has undergone putrefaction and is unfit for use.

One great danger of artificial preservatives is due to the fact that they do not penetrate to the bone. This part will decompose and toxins be produced. The natural method of preservation affects all the parts. The smallest particle of bacterial toxi:. is sufficient to produce prostration and poisonous symptoms of great severity.

Much of the so-called Russian caviar is made from sturgeon roe at Sandusky, Ohio, or at some port on the great lakes. In some cases the caviar is made in Russia from eggs sent there from America. Very little real Russian caviar finds its way into the American market.

Much of the Camembert cheese, supposed to be imported, is really made in the United States. The law now compels the manufacturer to state on the label where it came from. When this law went into effect the Camembert makers had a large stock of labels on their hands. Unblushingly they defaced the fine Parisian French on the labels and printed across it in very black ink the words “Camembert Type Cheese. Made in the United States.” Now, however, they must state in good English, that the cheese is as near like that made in France as possible, and the consumer knows what he is getting.

Formaldehyde is the preservative usually added to milk. It evaporates when the containers are open. For this reason larger quantities of it are used in open containers than in closed ones. "Freez-em," "Busy Bee," "Giant' and many other so-called secret preparations owe their efficacy to formaldehyde. Salicylic acid and boric acid are quite commonly used as preservatives. Gelatin is the basis of substances used to adulterate cream to make it thicker. It is sold in the shops under the name “Eureka" or “Victor.' It is also frequently used to thicken skim milk. Bismarck Brown is

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