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Food Supplies

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 30 July 1947

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Bread (Vitamin Content)


asked the Lord President of the Council whether he has consulted the Medical Research Council on the effect that the extraction of vitamins from the bread now obtainable throughout the country has had on the increase of meningitis and infantile paralysis; and if immediate steps will be taken to reduce the extraction and to ensure that the bread content shall be the same as in 1939–40.

I am advised that the vitamin content of the bread obtainable in this country since 1942 is in fact much greater than in 1939–40, since a higher proportion of the nutrient materials in the grain is retained in the flour. There is no evidence of any relationship between diet and the incidence of meningitis and infantile paralysis, but it is a fact that the death rates from cerebrospinal meningitis and from infantile paralysis in England and Wales were much lower in 1945 than in 1940.

Am I to understand that the quality of the vitamins in the bread today is better than it was prewar?

If that is so, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a great deal of misconception throughout the country? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I say that if the increase in mortality as a result of this unfortunate epidemic is in no way due to lack of vitamins in the bread, it would be a consolation if he would give his answer in a way which is perhaps more easily understood by those concerned.

I am all for answers that can be more easily understood by all concerned. I would not wish to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman. I am assured that there is no connection between this particular disease and the subject of the Question. I am scientifically assured that that is so.


asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that the vitamin content of the bread now on issue throughout the country provides adequate nourishment; and whether, under the circumstances of improving wheat production, he will consider reviewing the whole position so that the nutritious value of bread may be restored at any rate to that obtaining in 1939–40.

The question of the best extraction rate for flour has already been fully reviewed and the findings of the Conference on the Post-war Loaf were published in Cmd. 6701 in November, 1945. The vitamin content of the present 85 per cent. extraction flour is higher than that of the flour available in 1940.

Usa Wheat


asked the Minister of Food to what extent gift shipments of wheat have been made from the U.S.A. to the United Kingdom.

So far as I am aware, there have been no gift shipments of wheat from the United States of America to the United Kingdom during or since the war years.

Is the hon. Lady aware that my Question was put down at the request of two American visitors from the Middle West, who informed me that two shiploads of wheat had been sent to this country?

I have no knowledge of them. The Americans kindly sent a small amount of flour during the war to the Women's Voluntary Service and the British Red Cross. Apart from that, there have been no gifts, and no shipments of wheat under Lend-Lease.

Meat Allocation, Devon (Quality)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the unsatisfactory quality of much of the meat now being distributed to butchers in the county of Devon, resulting in both hardship and waste; and what action he proposes to take.

The quality of meat at present being distributed to butchers in Devon is not below that for the country as a whole, and I cannot agree that much of the meat is not of satisfactory quality.

Does the hon. Lady realise that some of this meat is absolutely unfit for human consumption, and in view of the relatively poor quality of the meat, does she not feel that it is a shocking waste of hard-earned foreign currency to spend it on the importation of low quality meat?

I think that the difficulty is that the people of Devon have been used to very high-quality home-produced meat and now they are having to share in the imported meat. So far as the second part of the Question is concerned, I would like the hon. Member to know that recently an official of the Ministry has been in Devon, and other places, and has contacted 90 per cent. of the chairmen of retail buying committees, none of whom has made any grave complaint.

Oatmeal Production


asked the Minister of Food whether any steps will be taken by his Department to encourage the millers to install machinery for the production of oatmeal in England as is the practice in Scotland, so that oatmeal may become an increasing quota in the diet of persons in the south of England.

The processing capacity of the oatmeal industry is fully adequate to meet demand. About one quarter of the total production in Great Britain is milled in England.

Can the hon. Lady say why it is almost impossible to get oatmeal in England?

I cannot say, because there is no difficulty in transport between Scotland and England, and there is no shortage.

Would it be possible to bring some Scottish housewives to teach housewives in England how to make porridge?

Is the hon. Lady aware that oatmeal made in England could never possess the quality of Scottish oatmeal?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The constituents of oatmeal in England are exactly the same as the constituents of oatmeal in Scotland.

Usa Canned Fish


asked the Minister of Food how much tinned fish has been imported from the U.S.A. in the first six months of this year; and the total cost in dollars of these imports.

About 39,000 tons of canned fish were imported from the United States of America during the six months ended 30th June, 1947. The approximate total cost was 22,450,000 dollars.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this American tinned fish is being sold in my constituency and that the fishmongers on the other side of the street cannot sell their fresh fish, and is not this importation a gross waste of our dwindling dollar resources?

I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that 85 per cent. of the imports consists of salmon and pilchards used for points rationing, and that the demand for salmon and pilchards has not yet been met in this country.

Can the hon. Lady say how much silver hake was imported and does she consider that is essential?

Could the hon. Lady say if it is not a fact that in the case of this tinned fish the tin often costs as much as the fish?

Consumption Levels (Report)


asked the Minister of Food when the promised publication on food consumption levels will be available.

It is 11 weeks since the Minister said the figures were ready and what is the explanation of the delay? Will the hon. Lady see that when the world food review which was promised nearly a year ago is ready in the autumn the delay does not recur?

I recognise that there has been some delay, but I must remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there has been a good deal of editing and setting up to do because this is the first time that the British figures have been published alone.

Wholesale Fish Merchants, Grimsby


asked the Minister of Food how many new wholesale fish merchants have established themselves at Grimsby since the control of licences was abandoned.

Since my right hon. Friend relaxed the qualifications for wholesale fish licences on 1st July, one licence for herring has been granted at Grimsby to an established white fish merchant. A decision has not been reached on the remaining 89 applications for provisional white fish licences, largely because of the need to satisfy my Department that the applicants have suitable premises.

In view of the fact that there are several hundreds of merchants at Grimsby and that control of fish distribution still persists, can the hon. Lady say what advantage her Ministry expects from the increase in these merchants?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Food reminded the House that perhaps in the fish industry at this stage a little healthy competition might be introduced.

Street Trading Licences


asked the Minister of Food whether, in the light of a recent case in which a street trader was heavily fined for breaking the law, he will, in this and similar instances, cancel the licence under which such people operate.

My right hon. Friend can only decide whether to revoke the licence of a trader convicted of a food offence after carefully considering all the circumstances of the case. If my hon. Friend will let him have particulars of the case which he has in mind, he will notify him of his decision.

National Milk Cocoa (Price)


asked the Minister of Food, why the cost of National Milk Cocoa was increased on 1st July last from 6s. 9d. per 6 lb. container to 10s. 3d., and from 18s. 4d. per 20 lb. container to £1 10s.

The price of National Milk Cocoa was increased by 7d. per lb. on 1st July, 1947, to cover increased costs of materials and manufacture.

Is it the full economic cost which is now being charged in the new price?

There was a temporary subsidy which covered the period of price negotiations.



asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that unlicensed slaughterers are doing an extensive trade in horseflesh at high prices which is sent to London for use in sausages and meat-pies; and whether he will look into this traffic in horseflesh to ensure that there is no evasion of the law and that young healthy horses are not slaughtered for this traffic.

We have no knowledge of the traffic in horseflesh, which would, if it exists, constitute a breach of the regulations governing the sale of horseflesh for human consumption. If the hon. and gallant Member will let me have particulars of any case of illegal slaughter or disposal of horseflesh of which he is aware, I will see that the matter is followed up with the utmost vigour.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that scores of young colts are reported to have been loaded for killing in Devonshire and would it not be in the national interest that these horses should be turned into the rich pastures of Cheshire and Lancashire instead of being turned into sausages and meat-pies?

I saw this information in the "Sunday Express" last Sunday but I have no other evidence.

Milk Bottles


asked the Minister of Food what is the present rate of production of milk bottles; and what is the unsatisfied demand.

The total production of milk bottles for six months to 28th June last was 644,777 gross, showing an average weekly rate of production of 24,799 gross. I am informed that there is no unsatisfied demand at present. If, however, my hon. Friend knows of any particular case of local shortage and will give me particulars, I shall be happy to look into it.

Does my hon. Friend realise that in my constituency I am told there is a delay in some cases of as much as two years, and will she look into it?

In view of the terrific losses of milk bottles and the unnecessary waste is it not about time that milk producers were entitled to charge for milk bottles?

Jam Making


asked the Minister of Food why last year's plum pulp is only now being made into jam, and why last year's strawberries are still not made into jam.

The preserves manufacturers can only make a proportion of their jam direct from the fresh fruit and for the greater part of the year they have to use preserved fruit. The size of the fruit crops varies greatly from year to year and after a good season manufacturers may carry over stocks to the next. The stocks of preserved strawberries and plums of the 1946 crop are now relatively low.