HC Deb 16 May 1901 vol 94 cc256-7
MR. ARCHDALE (Fermanagh, N.)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the recent prosecutions at Limerick and the Potteries for selling butter containing an excessive quantity of water, and the fines imposed in each case; whether he is a ware that the firm so convicted have stores all over England, trading under two names; that they, last week, were prosecuted before the Birmingham Police Court for a similar offence, and the magistrates refused to decide the case, awaiting the decision of the defendants to appeal; and that the firm have a manufactory in the East End of London, where they urn out about sixty tons of this so-called butter weekly and distribute it over the country as pure butter; and will he undertake to consider whether means can be adopted by which this fraud on the public can be prevented.

MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)

At the same time may I ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he is aware that a patented process is now on the market by which water may be fraudulently added to butter, and that thousands of tons of foreign butter thus treated are sold monthly; and, if so, what steps he is taking to prevent the further sale of such process or machines connected therewith, and to prevent the further use of those machines already sold.


I may perhaps reply at the same time to the question which stands on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for South Kilkenny. We have official knowledge of one factory in Finsbury in which butter is mixed with milk by a mechanical process, and we are following up information supplied to us as to the existence of others. The Finsbury firm has a very large number of depots scattered over the country, and the quantity sold is presumably large. I have no power to send an inspector into such a factory, though one was admitted into the Finsbury factory on sufferance. Nor have I power to stop the sale of butter so manipulated. But we have been acting in concert with various local authorities to have the legality of the sale of butter so treated tested in a court of law. A conviction was recorded against the Finsbury company last Wednesday at Longton, against which the defendants have given notice of appeal. There are three prosecutions pending. The whole question points to the necessity for fixing a standard of butter, which I hope to be able to do without any avoidable delay.


Is it not the fact that under the Act passed two years ago special powers were given to the Board of Agriculture to set up a butter standard, and if that had been done these frauds would have been prevented?


I do not know whether the frauds would have been prevented, but I hope, as I said, to fix a standard very shortly.