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Canned Vegetables

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 24 July 1947

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asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the evidence of a pathologist at an inquest on Wednesday, 16th July, to the effect that his Department is opposed to the tinning of vegetables on the ground that it is dangerous; and whether, in view of the concern of the public in this matter, he will make an early and full statement on the subject, indicating, in particular, what is the latest scientific advice received on this subject.

I have seen Press reports indicating that the pathologist's statement, which misrepresented the Ministry's views, was later corrected by his own explanation that he was referring only to home-canned vegetables. The real position was stated in a note I issued to the Press immediately after the inquest. It is that there may be a risk of botulism from home-canned or home-bottled vegetables because the high steam pressure needed to ensure complete sterility during the canning process cannot ordinarily be applied in the home. Even this slight risk does not arise with home-canned or home-bottled fruit because of its acid content, or with beans preserved in salt. With commercially canned vegetables there has never been a reported case of botulism in this country and the risk is considered negligible.