HC Deb 22 February 1881 vol 258 cc1523-5

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, If the Admiralty are taking precautions in regard to the ration of pork for the Navy in consequence of the serious outbreak of trichinosis in America, which has caused the French Government, as reported, to forbid the importation of American pork?


Sir, of the salt pork used in the Navy, about a third is supplied by Irish curers, and two-thirds by Danish firms, who deliver at Deptford cheaper than the Irish; and, in either case, to substitute American pork would be a distinct breach of contract. Both Danish and Irish pork, apart from the fear of trichinosis, is better suited for Navy purposes than the American; so much better, that the presence of American pork could be detected in the barrels. But another and more effective precaution is afforded by the determination of the Admiralty to deal only with responsible and reputable firms, a determination to which they, in all cases, take the utmost pains to adhere.


asked the Vice President of the Council, If he has seen that the importation of pork from the United States has been prohibited in France, Russia, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, in consequence of the prevalence of trichinosis and the hopelessness of inducing the poorer classes to disinfect the pork and so prevent disease; and, whether he is prepared to forbid its introduction into Great Britain and Ireland?


Sir, as the Question of the hon. Member affects large interests, and only appeared in the Paper for the first time this morning, I am not able to answer it as fully as I could wish. We have no official information that the Governments of the countries referred to by the hon. Member have prohibited the importation of pork from the United States; but we are making inquiries, through the Foreign Office, as to this part of the Question. The importation of pork-bacon and ham into this country exceeds 5,250,000 cwts. (nearly 20 lbs. per head of the entire population), and the estimated value exceeds £9,500,000. Nearly the whole of this comes from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Belgium, and this is exclusive of the importation of live swine. To cut off such an enormous supply of animal food would inflict great hardship on the poorer classes, and could not be done except upon the most urgent necessity, and after the gravest consideration. It would not suffice to prohibit the American supply without prohibiting the importation from all other countries—the disease exists in other countries as well as America—for so long as any country admits American pork the trade is of such magnitude and importance that we should be sure to receive supplies at second hand. We have made inquiries of the Local Government Board, and we find no report of trichinosis in this country. Two years ago there was a report of an outbreak on board a training ship, which has since been investigated, and the medical authorities are satisfied that it was not trichinosis. The Duke of Richmond and Gordon, when Lord President in 1879, was asked a similar Question, and in his reply he called attention to the fact that safety was only to be found in the thorough cooking of pork, whether fresh or salt. And it is only reasonable to suppose that the practice of eating smoked sausages, ham, and imperfectly cooked pork on the Continent and in Northern Europe, has contributed to the spread of this terrible disease; whereas, in this country, where the importation has been on so large a scale, there has been no serious disease, owing, as we believe, to the thorough disinfection by cooking at a high temperature.