HC Deb 27 July 1937 vol 326 cc2869-75
Mr. Macquisten

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the use of the designation pasteurised in connection with the sale of milk, to enforce the use of truly descriptive designations in connection with the sale of any milk heated above a certain temperature, to amend the Milk and Dairies (Amendment) Act, 1922, and for purposes connected therewith. This is a simple little Bill, and I hope it will be accepted by the House. It is for the prevention of a misleading designation with regard to an important and necessary article of food. I wish it to be enacted that no longer shall the misleading word "pasteurised" be used as applied to milk. Pasteur was a great man, and in a way he made some great discoveries. He had, apparently, a peculiar taste, because I find in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" that he once wrote home saying he was feeling far from well, and that if he could only get a smell of a tannery again he would be quite well. I do not think he made a great discovery. His process was to half-boil the milk with a view to killing the germs in it. The process kills both good and bad germs and half boiling it enables the milk to be carried long distances and the trade soon tumbled to the importance of that aspect of it. I do not think it made the milk any more sanitary. It may or may not have done so. Of course the milk was much more liable to infection when pasteurised.

I am not going fully into the merits of the matter now, but I contend that pasteurised milk is simply half-boiled milk cooled down again. Surely it would be much better, in the interests of every one, if such milk was accurately described. Lots of people think that pasteurised milk means milk got from good pastures. Some of them think of the twenty-third Psalm, which says, "In pastures green He leadeth me the quiet waters by." Others think that Pasteur is the French for pasture. I have heard people say that they think they are getting something very good if they get pasteurised milk. But calves cannot be fed on it, or if fed on it they pass away. I have here a letter which appeared some time ago in the "Daily Telegraph" by a Mr. James, of Laindon, Essex, in reply to another from a leading man in United Dairies wherein he says that the Aberdeen Research Society had conducted experiments on groups of rats, that those fed on fresh milk along with other food flourished and bred while those in whose diet pasteurised milk was included soon failed to reproduce their species. I recommend these facts to the Forestry Commission as a means of dealing with the grey squirrel. It will be found that great pressure is being put on the Ministry of Health to make the pasteurisation of milk compulsory. There is an enormous financial interest behind the demand. All the big combines are for it, because pasteurisation means that milk can be brought from far distant parts, and the combines hope that all the milk will be made to pass through their hands. A number of doctors, too, are talking about it. They then call it not "fresh" but "raw" milk. But they do not go to a butcher and ask for "raw flesh;" they do not suggest that it should be compulsory for the butcher to cook the raw flesh before delivering it. Fresh milk is the only milk worth drinking.

There is a demand made for an inquiry. I know the value of that inquiry. It is the small man who does not pasteurise his milk, who supplies the best milk, who does not pasteurise or half-boil and he will not be represented at the enquiry. I do not believe at all in an inquiry by the Ministry of Health. We know all these great ones from Harley Street. Dr. Cronin has just lifted the lid off Harley Street. We will have the big guns of the medical profession coming with tremendous testimony in favour of pasteurisation. For all the big money is behind it, but I want to protect the food supplies of the people from misdescription. If pasteurised milk or half-boiled milk is such a very good thing, let the medical profession urge their patients to half boil and cool it themselves; let them tell their patients never to use milk unless they have first half-boiled it. Surely it is far better to kill the germs just before use than to let the milk go to dairies where it is liable to be infected again after it has been treated.

Who is at the bottom of all this pretended demand? Always the co-operative movement or some big combine which hopes to benefit. It will be a co-operative who will move the rejection of this motion. They are the ones who insist on compulsory pasteurisation. Then you have some of the medical officers of health. I always regard them as the men who do not like to go into the open to work for a living but want a pleasant job with a pension at the end of it. They are not real doctors. As for the Ministry of Health, that is the body which all these years has tolerated kippers dyed in creosote. I have no use for them at all. We who have kept cows of our own know what fresh milk is, and we do not want this monstrosity, which is being pressed on us for a commercial motive. We want to see that the food of the people, instead of being disguised by any foreign name, will be such that mothers will know what has happened to the milk given to their children. Pasteurised milk may be good enough for diminishing rats, but we are not going to give it to our children if we can get pure fresh milk. Parents should know what they are getting. This putting of "pasteurised" on milk, this advertising that it is pasteurised and concealing what they have done, is very misleading. A great English firm of wine merchants some 50 or 60 years ago introduced Scotch whisky to the English. At that time the legal strength was 20 under proof unless it was disclosed on the bottle label that it had been reduced below that strength. The way adopted to get round the difficulty and make a bigger profit was to print in large letters on the label in red type "Guaranteed 35 under proof," whereas the label should truly have read "Well watered whisky reduced to 35 under proof." The boast was made that what had been done was a merit, not a fault, just as those who boil milk and call it pasteurised conceal what they have done by using the word "pasteurised." At present doctors who speak of raw milk difficulties say that if you use fruit juice, say the juice of an orange, with pasteurised milk, it replaces that essential part which has been removed by the half-boiling. I should like to have the views of the Co-operatives or the big combines if they were compelled to deliver an orange with every quart of milk.

There is a commercial motive behind the whole movement. I want to unmask it, to have a truthful description of what is actually done to the milk, so that the public may know what they are getting.

Mr. Leonard

I am surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) started by referring to a lack of proper sense of smell on the part of Pasteur, because it is not long ago since the hon. and learned Member elaborated greatly in this House on the smell of kippers, and he did not find much appreciation for his sense of smell. Health standards are very much more important than smells, and I want to contest the further progress of this Bill because of its incidence to the health of the people. I was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Member disparage the Department of Health and the health machinery of Britain which we have built up in this country, after centuries of fight, to get to the stage at which it is now. Pasteurisation is well understood by the people of this country. I am prepared to assert that not even one of the electors in his constituency who voted for the hon. and learned Member thinks that pasteurised milk means anything due to the pasture from which the milk comes. People have a pretty fair idea of what is meant. It is not boiled milk.

Mr. Macquisten

Half boiled.

Mr. Leonard

Even "half boiled" is not a proper description. Some hon. Members think that pasteurisation leads to the production of dirty milk or an attitude on the part of farmers that they can be lax because the milk is to be pasteurised. But that is not the case. Pasteurisation makes a higher standard of pre-treatment milk essential. I have here a report, showing results of the examination of samples of pasteurised milk in Glasgow. I find a statement that: Pasteurisation, however, cannot make dirty milk clean, and the need for satisfactory methods of production remains. Milk which fails to reach a certain standard of cleanliness is unsuitable for treatment in pasteurising plants. This was recognised by the Committee on Cattle Diseases of the Economic Advisory Council, which included among the recommendations made in its report the following: 'It should be a condition of the sale of any liquid milk that a fixed standard of cleanliness, or pre-pasteurisation standard, should be attained at the farm.' That indicates that pasteurisation even at the present time is raising the standard of milk production, and has not the opposite effect. There is also the statement of Lord Dawson of Penn in another place re pasteurisation: It is the business of a local authority to see that it is carried out effectively, and if it is carried out effectively, there is an overwhelming body of evidence, not confined to this country but shared by every civilised country in the world, that pasteurisation is an efficient means of preventing the conveyance of certain infectious diseases. The Department of Health in Scotland conducted an investigation in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, and found that 10 per cent. of the samples taken contained living tubercle germs. Glasgow is much worse; there it is actually 13 per cent. I regret that the suggestion is made that great pressure is being exerted by particular commercial interests in this matter. It is not the case. The greatest pressure in this matter is coming from the men who have been put into the job of maintaining the health of the people. It is the health organisations of this country that are endeavouring to do what we who oppose the introduction of this Bill propose to continue.

Let me refer briefly to what is more recent, the outbreak of typhoid in Bournemouth. There we have a seaside town which was affected by an epidemic. There were hundreds of cases of typhoid and over 50 deaths, and all were definitely traced to one milk dealer, who sold his milk raw. The Minister of Health visited the locality and said: Pasteurisation immediately cut the outbreak short, and it has since run a normal course and can now be regarded as over. The outbreak illustrates again the difficulty of ensuring, otherwise than by pasteurisation, a safe milk supply. If that could happen in a seaside district, it is proof that much greater care is required in dealing with great industrial centres. They have to pay due regard to the difficulties which may be presented to them by their milk supplies. Poole and Glasgow have been seeking powers in this matter, but their proposals have been rejected, on the ground that the Government itself is inquiring into this matter, and a definite promise has been made that in the near future a Bill covering certain aspects, including this one, will be introduced. There is no reason why we should hamper their efforts.

The hon. and learned Gentleman speaks to a great extent for the producer-retailer, but the attitude of the producer-retailer is determined mainly by the lack of capital. That, however, is not a sufficient excuse to allow the death of over 2,000 infants annually in this country. Surely the difficulties are not going to allow us to forget what has been done in the matter. We have a part of the Dominions which has experience on the subject. I have here a report covering Toronto, and I find this statement: A study of 300 turberculous children showed that in the group under 14 years of age 15 per cent. of the extra pulmonary forms of the disease were due to the bovine form of tubercle bacillus. Without exception the children infected with this type came from districts in Ontario where pasteurisation was not practised. The history invariably revealed the fact that the child had always, or for some time, been fed on raw milk. This finding is confirmed by the fact that not a single case of bovine tuberculous infection has been encountered in the generation of children raised on pasteurised milk in Toronto where pasteurisation has been in force since 1915. There you have a properly controlled experiment. I confess that the suggestion that there is any need to change the designation is untenable.

Finally, I would refer to the Government reports that can be obtained by the hon. and learned Member. They show conclusively that pasteurisation does not destroy the elements in milk that make for health. Then I would refer to a leading article which appeared in the "Times" on 28th April. It reads: Milk should therefore be pasteurised in such a manner as to secure the destruction of the living organisms contained in it. There is no doubt that this view represents the final judgment of bacteriologists and public health officers not only in this country but also throughout the civilised world. Indeed, dissentients from it are almost invariably laymen who attach too much importance to the idea that milk is likely to lose some of its virtue by being subjected to the influence of heat. There is no substantial body of evidence in support of that view. Considering those expressions of opinion, I ask the House to reject the Motion for leave to bring in this Bill.

Question, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the use of the designation pasteurised in connection with the sale of milk, to enforce the use of truly descriptive designations in connection with the sale of any milk heated above a certain temperature, to amend the Milk and Dairies (Amendment) Act, 1922, and for purposes connected therewith, put, and negatived.