HC Deb 03 April 1882 vol 268 cc548-9

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the Treasury Minute of the 20th of January 1882, by which the importation, under a Duty of two pence a pound, of Coffee or chicory, roasted and ground, mixed, without reference to the proportion of the mixture, and the permission to extend to any other vegetable matter applicable to the uses of chicory or coffee, was made, upon the recommendation of the Board of Trade, as stated in the reply to a Memorial lately presented to the Lords Commissioners of the Treaasury on the subject; and, if so, if he will explain the reasons for such a recommendation, which appears to be in contradiction to the Adulteration of Food Acts?


Sir, as the subject of this Question has excited a good deal of interest, I am much obliged to the hon. Baronet for giving me an opportunity of making an explanation. I should say, in the first place, that the change in the Treasury regulations does not make any alteration whatever in the law with regard to adulteration; nor does it, in my opinion, tend to increase the practice of adulteration. The matter was brought to my knowledge in the first instance by a number of tradesmen of Leeds and elsewhere, who complained of what they considered to be the anomaly in the Custom regulations. They informed me that while coffee which was pure could be imported and that chicory and other vegetable substances applicable to the use of coffee could also be imported, and having been imported could be legally mixed in this country and legally sold, the same articles could not be imported if they were mixed abroad. When I came to inquire into the matter I found that the anomaly had arisen from the fact that at one time the duty on chicory differed from the duty on coffee, and that it was necessary that it should be imported separately, and not be allowed to come in mixed. The regulation was purely one relating to revenue, and was not passed to prevent adulteration. The change which has been made amounts to this only, that whereas previously coffee and chicory could only be imported separately and mixed afterwards, they can now be imported ready mixed. I should say that the interests of the consumer are protected, not by any regulations of the Customs, but by the provisions of the Adulteration Act. The Sale of Food and Drugs Act provides that no article of food, or drug, shall be mixed with any ingredient injurious to health and sold under a penalty of£50, and that no article shall be sold to the prejudice of the purchaser mixed with any ingredient unless at the time of the sale the article so sold is described as mixed under a penalty of£20. Under these circumstances, the interests of the consumer will, I think, be protected.