HC Deb 02 February 1951 vol 483 cc1213-90

11.6 a.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Motion which the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) is about to move appears to be in part anticipated by the Packaging and Handling of Food Bill which, I think, is down for next week. That Bill proposes a very slight amendment to Section 15 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, which is the predominant Section dealing with this problem of clean food. I therefore hope that this debate will not be too restricted because of this Bill, which was down before this Motion.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to this point. I think the Bill is down as No. 6 on the Order Paper for next Friday, and in view of the chances of a No. 6 Bill becoming law one may rule out the Rule about anticipation with regard to this matter. I do not think it even necessary to restrict the debate.

Dr. Broughton (Batley and Morley)

I beg to move, That this House is of opinion that further steps should be taken by His Majesty's Government to enourage cleanliness in the preparation and serving of food in retail shops and catering establishments. Good fortune and your kind permission, Mr. Speaker, allow me to open today's debate and to draw attention to a subject which I regard as being of national importance. I hope to succeed in proving the need for the cleaner handling of food, for the welfare of both the individual and the nation. I also hope to obtain from the Government assurances that difficult problems will not be neglected and that all reasonable steps will be taken to encourage a higher standard of food hygiene.

Before I try to explain briefly why a high standard of hygiene is desirable, or, to put it the other way, why dirty food is undesirable and dangerous to health, I must first combat prejudice. I claim that knowledge is lacking from the old wives' saying that "We must all eat a peck of dirt before we die." I am sure my medical colleagues will support me in denouncing such complacency. I admit that much in a peck of dirt may be harmless, but no one other than an analytical chemist or a bacteriologist can tell before it is eaten whether any given piece, large or small, is free from danger. Microscopical portions of dirt can be harmful to the extent of causing death and, therefore, the only safe and sane way of taking our food is in a clean state. It is dangerous to be resigned to the philosophy of that old saying. Indeed, it is foolhardy to neglect cleanliness.

By way of explanation of the problem we have, to face, I might say that dirt in food falls into two main categories. One has been called "dead" dirt and the other "live" dirt. Dangerous dead dirt includes metallic poisons, such as lead and antimony, but the number of cases of illnesses through this cause is now so small that I make only a passing reference to it. By the term "live" dirt we mean living germs. Some of these are harmless, others are deadly. Many diseases can be conveyed by food contaminated with bacteria, and an infinitesimal speck of this kind of dirt, undetectable in food, can be extremely dangerous. This is the kind of contamination responsible for nearly all food poisoning. This is the type that concerns us chiefly.

By way of further explanation of the problem, I should like to remind hon. Members that disease-producing germs can reach food through being conveyed by dust, insects, animals, dirty utensils and other kitchen equipment and human hands. It will be readily understood that the prevention of access of these germs to food presents many difficulties. Most of the diseases caused by dirty food are infections of the bowels and we can understand that the causative organisms are present in large numbers in the excreta of patients. The germs enter by the mouth and they are excreted by the bowels. Fresh cases occur by food becoming contaminated with germs which have passed through the body. That is a revolting thought, but nevertheless it is true.

It follows that the higher the standard of sanitation and hygiene the safer the food supply of the nation and the better the health of the people in the country. One of the first essentials of food hygiene, therefore, is for the people handling food to have clean hands. The hands should be washed after the toilet has been used and before food is handled again. The hands are the most important means of the transfer of dangerous germs to food. Every place where food is prepared or served should have wash basins available for the use of the staff, and I should like to see notices posted over those wash basins saying "Clean hands for safe food." There are still food shops with no adequate washing facilities. The careless handling of food in the kitchens of restaurants, canteens, cafés and hotels can affect hundreds of people.

I should like to make one further point by way of explanation. Persons who have suffered from food poisoning, possibly in a very mild and almost unnoticeable form, may carry the germs of the disease for years. That there are these so-called "carriers" amongst the population has been abundantly proved. A person may be perfectly well, yet capable of transmitting fatal illness to other people. The only real safeguard lies in having a high standard of hygiene.

The standard of food hygiene in Great Britain is good and there has been recent improvement owing to growing public interest. If there is any doubt in the minds of hon. Members about the truth of that statement I should like to inform them of conditions in the 17th century. There was then a period when deaths from disease, which we now regard from the clinical records as having been caused by infected food and drink, numbered, on an average, 2,000 annually in London. That is to say, nearly 1 per cent. of the population of the city died each year from infections caused by consuming dirty food and drink. Appalling as it was, it is really not surprising when we realise that in those days refuse was thrown into the streets and it would be easy for the infection to be carried by flies, mice, rats, cats, dogs and human hands to food from the filth in the streets. When we think of conditions in those days and compare them with what we have today I think it will be agreed that we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our public health service. The work of that service is not spectacular, but it is of immense value and of vital importance.

Nowadays, some of our food shops and catering establishments show the very highest standards of hygiene. Others leave much to be desired. As a nation we compare favourably with most other countries, but we are lagging behind parts of the United States, Sweden and New Zealand. It causes us concern to know that food poisoning in this country is on the increase. Before the war we had about 50 outbreaks of food poisoning a year. Now we have nearly 1,000. It is really a very serious matter. This recent large increase is accounted for partly by more efficient diagnosis and notification, but much of it is real.

Most of the outbreaks of food poisoning have been traced to food eaten or prepared outside the home. Communal feeding is increasing. People are eating more made-up foods. We naturally ask ourselves what is being done about it. As I have already mentioned, a number of catering establishments and food shops are wide awake to the dangers of dirty food. Some have achieved standards of hygiene second to none in the world. For example, a well known firm of multiple stores has recently published "Hygienic Food Handling." Of course, that publication serves as a very useful advertisement for the firm, but it really does contain valuable information of a practical character. The book is now in the Library of the House and hon. Members who are interested will find it available there.

If we now turn our attention to the work of local authorities, we find that powers to improve hygiene are given to them under several Acts of Parliament, particularly the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. Recently they have received model by-laws from the Ministry of Food. Some local authorities have accepted the suggestions contained in the model by-laws; others appear to have ignored them. In my own constituency I have been pleased to find that food hygiene has been given careful consideration by the public health departments of both Batley and Morley. The borough councils have shown their interest in the problem and have given full support. The model by-laws have been accepted. and it has been found that tradesmen engaged in food preparation and supply show a willingness to co-operate with the local authorities. Useful pamphlets for distribution have been prepared, and the response to the campaign for cleaner food is excellent.

If 1 might be permitted to give one example, in the borough of Morley there are 524 premises which are retail food shops, butchers' shops, ice cream manufacturers, preserved food manufacturers, fried fish shops, bakehouses, café kitchens, industrial canteens and school kitchens. Some of those premises are very small, being one-man businesses, and yet every one of those 524 premises now has a supply of hot water and wash basins. I think a tribute should be paid to these and to those other local authorities who have taken similar action, for the splendid work they are doing and the fine example they are setting.

Local authorities undertaking cleaner food campaigns can be greatly assisted by the Central Council for Health Education. That Council provides all the information that a local authority is likely to require and can offer many useful suggestions. It is a most knowledgeable body and its services are of great value to the nation.

When food hygiene was being considered in the two boroughs of my constituency it was decided that the most successful action would probably be that initiated and controlled by the local authority itself. Other places have arrived at a similar decision, but some thought that the best approach would be that coming from a body of food traders themselves and not directly from the local authority. For this reason, hygienic food traders' guilds have been formed in many places and they have done a great deal to counteract the dirty handling of food.

Credit for this type of work must be given to the Medical Officer of Health for Guildford, who was the first to begin this experiment in this country. Some of these guilds have been less successful than others and the comparative failure of some has been attributed to the control of the guild being in the hands of persons suspected of being fanatical, persons who have been accused of demanding a code of practice which food traders look upon as unreasonable in view of practical difficulties.

I think, myself, that it is very important, when we are considering the matter of food hygiene, to try to strike a reasonable balance between the careless handling of food and hygiene fanaticism. While it is possibly true that a few of the guilds may have been unreasonable in their demands, it is certain that many food traders have been ridiculously obstinate in adhering to their old, out-of-date methods. It has been found, generally speaking, that the smaller shopkeepers and the cafés are the most co-operative. The resistance usually comes from some of the "big boys," from hotel and restaurant proprietors. The British Hotels and Restaurants Association has told its members—and I quote: Some authorities are endeavouring to inaugurate what are known as clean food guilds. Membership usually involves signing an application form agreeing to comply with certain codes of practice. Some of these go beyond the provisions of the model by-laws. Examples of requirements include an obligation to clean ceilings and walls of dining-rooms used for the sale of food at least four times a year and to repaint and distemper when necessary. The walls, floors and ceilings of rooms to be used for the storage of clothing to be cleansed at least once a week; bins used for the storage of refuse to be emptied daily t no cats to he allowed in kitchens. I have not had an opportunity of reading the full contents of that communication sent out to its members by the British Hotels and Restaurants Association. What I have read was published in the "Daily Mail" on 15th November, 1950, under the heading "Cleaner Food Boycott." If the objection of the Association is based only on those and comparable demands and if its members are not prepared to accept those suggestions, then, in my opinion, they are not fit to be handling food.

The standard of hygiene in some hotels and boarding houses really is deplorable. Only last week-end a constituent of mine, who has many friends in America, told me of a party of 15 Americans who came to this country for a holiday last summer. They stayed at a London hotel which enjoys a high reputation. They noticed that the waitress serving them had dirty finger nails. They observed a waiter with a dirty table napkin on his arm. They peeped into the kitchen and were appalled by the lack of hygiene. They stayed two days and then packed their bags and left the hotel and the country. We cannot afford to treat our visitors like that. Such carelessness is discourteous to our guests and it is unfair, indeed grossly unfair, to those other hotels which maintain high standards.

A point which has been made crystal clear by the work of food guilds is that for a campaign to be successful it is essential to have the co-operation of both the employers and the staffs. I might illustrate that by pointing out that the installation of equipment for a constant supply of hot water is of no assistance whatever if the wash basin is not used. On the other hand, if workers are hygiene conscious they can press a reluctant employer for the provision of suitable equipment. Education in hygiene, voluntarily undertaken, is highly desirable for all persons handling food.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to a recent experiment. This brings me to mention a famous organisation which, although old, appears to be endowed with the gift of perpetual youth. I refer to the St. John Ambulance Association. Hon. Members will be aware of some of the noble service to mankind which has been performed by that association. No doubt it is well known that the St. John Ambulance Association gives courses of instruction and holds examinations in first aid and home nursing, but I think it is not so well known that the Association does the same in hygiene. In fact, the first syllabus of the Association was drawn up as long ago as 1898. The Association is always ready to co-operate with others for the dissemination of useful knowledge on health.

Last year the Association welcomed the opportunity of co-operating with the local health authority at Southport to provide a combined course in hygiene and food handling. An approach was made to all handlers of food announcing that a series of lectures would be given under the auspices of the St. John Ambulance Association, in conjunction with the local health authority. There were 200 applications for that course but, as the capacity of the lecture room was such that it would hold only 120 persons, nearly half the applicants had to wait for the second course. The second course began last month and at present, 500 people are waiting for subsequent courses.

The course consists of eight lectures on the basic principles of hygiene and food handling. At the end of it an examination is held and successful candidates are presented with a very handsome certificate. I think it will be generally agreed that that is a praiseworthy and valuable undertaking and I hope that many local authorities and catering establishments will approach the headquarters of the St. John Ambulance Association with a view to having courses arranged in their areas and in their establishments.

I have tried to give a brief outline of the problems and also a summary of the work which is being done. I turn now to the future but, first of all, I must mention the Report of the Catering Trade Working Party, which was published on Wednesday of this week and is a most useful document. I know that the Government will pay careful attention to it, and I hope it will be closely studied by all local authorities.

Now, I give it as my considered opinion that the Government should bring before Parliament a Bill requiring catering establishments to register with the appropriate local authority. I think that the registration of new premises should be granted only if, on inspection, those premises are found to conform to certain specific requirements. When we come to consider those requirements I think there is need for caution and reasonableness, and I would suggest that the requirements be confined mainly, if not entirely, to the state of the building—for example, such considerations as its situation, its structure, its size, its cleanliness, its lighting and its ventilation, and its type of equipment. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies to the debate, will be able to give a definite answer to that particular request of mine.

Secondly, I ask the Government to encourage and, if necessary, to enforce the adoption by all local authorities of a standard code of practice for catering establishments. My third request is to ask the Government to encourage education in hygiene. I think that more hygiene should be taught in our schools, and I think that the Ministry of Food could contribute with some useful propaganda. I consider that my requests are reasonable and modest, and that they are really deserving of a favourable reply.

In conclusion, I should like to say that I make no claim to be the first to advocate clean food. I have discovered that there were advocates of it in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Mohammed mentioned it. There are numerous references to it in the Bible, and, as we come down the years, we find more and more people have spoken and written about it. The words I like best were written 200 years ago by the poet, William Somerville, and I should like them to be widely known and well remembered. Those words are: Much to health will cleanliness avail.

11.33 a.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I beg to second the Motion.

I think everyone will agree that this subject is a vast one and that one must either confine oneself very narrowly or speak on the whole subject very broadly and rather loosely. I thought a week ago that I knew a little about it, having been interested in it; but when I asked the research department of the Library to help me, they presented me, somewhat to my consternation, with a bibliography that covered 10 pages of foolscap. However, this helpfulness gives me an opportunity of saying how grateful all of us always are for the assistance we get from the Library. I ask for the indulgence of the House in this speech, because I want to quote a number of figures to illustrate the problem to hon. Members, first to show its size and importance, second, where the guilty foodstuffs lie, and third, where they tend to be bought and eaten.

In a report of the Medical Research Council published in November, 1950, it is stated that at least 11,000 persons were affected in that year by food poisoning of all types, and it is stated that that is a very modest figure. It is an under-estimation, in view of the fact that in many instances where in a family there was more than one case, not all of them in that family were notified separately. However, if one takes this figure alone, it is quite considerable. I give it as my opinion that a survey which depends upon general practitioners does not always entirely cover all types of outbreak. The reason is natural. A busy medical practitioner, faced with minor, isolated, individual cases, or minor attacks of cases which affect more than one member of a family, tends to get them right in two or three days, and therefore they are not reported. I can only hazard a guess as to the number of individual cases in an average year, but I will put it as high as 50,000.

Sir H. Williams

Far more.

Dr. Stross

I think that if we say 50,000, it is enough to be going on with. If one estimates that, perhaps, on the average, from seven to ten days' work are lost in each case, it would mean thinking in terms of between 100,000 and 500,000 days lost from work or attendance at school each year.

If we come back to the 11,000 individual cases for the year 1949, we find that the number of outbreaks comprising those individual cases was 2,428. The number of deaths given was 58, meaning that about one in 200 individual cases died. This does not include the few deaths from metallic poisons. One must add those who died from dysentry, typhoid and paratyphoid. In 1949 that number was 72, and that is very much lower than what we experienced during the war when, I think, in 1944 the number was 200.

Before I finish with the question of the mortality rate, I think I should mention in passing that, though it is not connected essentially with the contamination of food in catering establishments and canteens, the large number of deaths of infants and young children from enteritis due to the contamination of food, is in many cases due, I think it is agreed, to improper handling of food in the home. Perhaps from 4,000 to 5,000 cases a year must be thought of in reference to that particular aspect of the problem.

The Medical Research Council, reporting to the Ministry of Health in 1949, fully analysed 339 outbreaks or instances of food poisoning of all kinds. That is approximately half the total number we had in that year in the country. It is worth mentioning that, as hon. Members would expect, the highest number of instances occurs in August, and the lowest in February. So that this month and next month are comparatively safe. Of those 339 outbreaks, 65 per cent., or 222 attacks, were traced to meat dishes. Of the meat dishes, freshly cooked meat gave none. Canned meat gave 15, but it is accepted that there could have been contamination in many of those cases after the cans had been opened. Processed meat, made-up meat, and re-hashed meat gave 195 out of the 222. Meat not classified gave 12.

Fish was guilty to the extent of 46 outbreaks or 14 per cent., and of that number canned fish gave seven, made-up fish 11, shell fish 22. I think that there is no reason why we should be subjected to poisoning by shell fish at all. I think it is accepted that shell fish, if kept for at least a week, alive and in fresh, guaranteed clean water, would cleanse themselves from typhoid or paratyphoid, or probably any other possible infection, and we therefore should not have to suffer from poisoning by shell fish. Other fish dishes were responsible for six outbreaks. Seven per cent. of all the outbreaks were due to the eating of trifles, ice-cream, custards, cream buns and éclairs. It is noteworthy that in 1948 there were 93 individual notifications in one outbreak traced to éclair or bun filling, which was tracked down to one carrier, a confectioner who was suffering, but did not know he was suffering, from mouse typhoid.

There were 30 outbreaks due to eating duck eggs, and if hon Members will allow me, I would advise everybody that a duck egg is not safe unless it is boiled for at least 10 minutes. Then it is always safe. That also applies to pigeon eggs, although I do not think many of us are addicted to eating them. There was one outbreak only from eating dried egg, and from eggs classified merely as "eggs" there were two outbreaks. There were five outbreaks from milk, five from canned vegetables, four from fruit and one only from cheese.

If the House will forgive me, I should like to give a few more figures showing where these outbreaks occurred. In the same year, 218 of these outbreaks were traced to the premises concerned. It was found that in school canteens there were 68, in works canteens, 32, in municipal canteens seven, in places such as railway station buffets, and so on, four, restaurants and hotels 35, hospitals and institutions 44, bakeries five, butchers' shops 11, cooked meat shops seven, dairies three, hostels and camps two, giving the total of 218.

Sir H. Williams

Is there any explanation about the hospitals?

Dr. Stross

I will come to that a little later, if I may. I apologise for having given all these figures, but I think they help us to get a picture of the situation with which we are faced.

I must say that my attention was very vividly drawn to this problem once in this House when, during a late Sitting, I was asked at about midnight to see a member of the staff who was very seriously ill and had collapsed. On questioning him I made up my mind that he was suffering from food poisoning. I am glad to exonerate the Kitchen Committee, because although he ate his food here, he bought it outside and brought it in.

In considering the problem of an attack upon food poisoning generally, we realise at once that this problem cannot be solved immediately, or in a year or in five years. It requires the mobilisation of all our forces and their continuous application in order to reduce it so that it does not constitute a real danger. I think everyone would agree that there are three factors involved: legislation is one, and education and co-operation are the other two. Although I mention legislation first, I do not over-emphasise it as being more important than the other two. So far as possible, the legislation required must be understood, welcomed and accepted by the catering trades. Of course, an informed public opinion makes it very much easier for those who cater for us to accept necessary legislation. That is why co-operation and general education are naturally important to augment the legislation.

Nobody who handles or processes food would knowingly hurt his neighbour, either here or anywhere else in the world, and we all accept the fact that food poisoning is due to faulty technique and ignorance, and that the problem would obviously be lessened if ignorance on this subject disappeared. It is fair to say that 50 years ago we knew very much less about it than we know now. It is strange that when there is a case of poisoning by a malevolent poisoner who goes out of his way to destroy human life, either because he is obsessed, or lunatic, or for gain, there is a feeling of horror throughout the whole community. It is a little unfair that the public should be in any way complacent about mass poisoning due to ignorance, especially when that mass poisoning may pick out any of us at any time.

There is nothing novel in passing laws to protect the public. It has been done in England for a very long time, and penalties have been imposed upon those who broke the law. In Plantagenet and Tudor days the penalty for anyone who purveyed at Cheapside meat that was considered faulty, dirty or diseased, was an interesting one. They were usually put on horseback and the feet of the diseased pig, calf or cow were slung round their necks, and very often the entrails as well, and they were paraded up and down the precincts of the City for everyone to see. I am sure that was a very interesting form of deterrent, although I doubt whether we can go as far as that now.

I would urge three points upon the Parliamentary Secretary, two of which are important and the third of which is a minor one. First, would he note that the Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations, 1927, empower local authorities to remove from his occupation in food handling any carrier of typhoid or dysentery. I do not think there is any power so to remove carriers of other diseases such as bacillus aetryeke or bacillus enteritidis following contamination of food by rats or mice, which causes the majority of our salmonella infection, and therefore the majority of these cases. In 1948, one salmonella carrier infected 93 people in one outbreak. In 1949, one carrier of living staphylococci infected 441 people in one outbreak owing to his work in manufacturing the glaze that is put round liver sausage. The infected sausage was traced to all the shops; no organism was found in any of the meat, but organisms were found in the glaze in every case; the same organisms were found in the glaze that he was making with his hands in the workshop, and the same organisms were found on his skin and in his nose. I therefore think we must press the Parliamentary Secretary today to promise to consult with the Minister of Health for a consideration of a further extension of these regulations so that we may be protected.

Secondly, will he agree with us that Section 14 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, which deals with registration, is at the moment too narrowly defined? My hon. Friend asked for registration of all catering establishments. I believe that at the moment there is compulsory registration only for shops which offer for sale ice-cream, sausage meat and similar cooked meats, but we know very well that other foodstuffs are potent sources of poisoning if they are contaminated, such as gelatine and synthetic cream. If my hon. Friend cannot register all establishments, let us at least have compulsory registration where these types of foodstuffs are being prepared, because it is from them that the majority of the outbreaks come.

Thirdly—and this is perhaps a small point and I may be wrong in my reading of it—will the Minister look at the model by-law, series I, 1949, and reconsider the recommendation in part II, of by-law 4? Here, ham is included in meat that need not be covered or wrapped when in transit. Will he advise that this must not apply to cooked ham, which must be properly and adequately protected and covered? All of us agree that cooked ham is easily infected and in any case cooked ham is too much handled, and causes quite a number of cases as compared with other meat-stuffs.

On the question of education, both of employees and the general public, it is made clear in the Report of the Working Party that what the public require is, first of all, that premises should be as good as is possible, and secondly, that those who handle food should be trained in the practice of personal' hygiene. I like the phrase "trained in the no-touch technique." There is too much quite unnecessary touching with the hands. I am sure that every medical man will agree with me that it is possible to train people in the no-touch technique, or to touch only with instruments.

Sir H. Williams

What about bread and butter?

Dr. Stross

The best touch technique with bread and butter is to eat it; moreover, bread is an excellent food and is not a source of infection. This gives me an opportunity of saying that we need not press too much for the wrapping of bread. We are quite safe in that respect.

The main agent in these matters must remain the local authority. They are the best possible agents between the Government and the public. The Government and the trade should co-operate. One would like to congratulate the Central Council for Health Education on the magnificent work they have done for some years with their propaganda, slides, lectures and leaflets. They are willing to co-operate and to start campaigns in every area where they are welcome. At the same time, one must stress that the campaign that commences and is conducted with enthusiasm and is followed by apathy does not do much. We have to keep on steadily, and achieve cooperation and education among the trade, the public, the local authorities and the medical profession, and consistently attack this problem until it has disappeared. The British Tourist and Holidays Board has been doing excellent work during the last few years, and I know that local authorities are grateful to them. An active and well-informed insistence by the public is the most important thing of all. It will give us in the long run what we demand.

I wonder if I might suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that sanitary officers employed by local authorities should be asked not only to inspect as they do, but where possible to teach? If any welcome is given to them for that teaching and if there is co-operation by the trade, it is not difficult to envisage, as is done in some parts of America, that the sanitarian could pick out people, train them well in personal hygiene and make them responsible in regard to the rest of the staff. They could pass on information and keep an eye on what was done, and particularly help new entrants to learn the technique of personal hygiene.

The Working Party describe two codes, which are very interesting. One they call the "standard code" which they think should be enforced and the other the "target code." The mover of the Motion and myself and probably other hon. Members urge upon the Parliamentary Secretary that the standard code should be made an obligation in all premises specified in the Report. The Report suggests exemptions for some premises, but we should make a tremendous stride forward if we got the code established. The target code is more difficult. We expect that many catering establishments in Britain already follow this code but we should hold it before every catering establishment as the ultimate objective.

We must carefully make provision in these arrangements that workers who may be excluded from work affecting food, shall not be in want during the time they are out of employment. Compensation must be arranged. For example, workers who have discharging wounds or sores, bad skin or diarrhoea must be excluded and provision must be made to assist them while they are kept away. Every medical man will agree that the fullest medical supervision of workers is impossible. We have not the staffs in the laboratories and it would be an enormous piece of work. If it is not to be done thoroughly, with the help of bacteriologists and laboratories, it is not much use doing it at all. Mere inspection and clinical examination is not good enough.

We have a right to demand—this may be a little contentious but it answers in part a question put by the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams)—that no premises of any kind should be let out from the power of inspection by the local authority whether it be a school canteen, a hospital canteen, a canteen of a nationalised industry or the canteen of a private employer. Wherever masses of people commonly eat together in numbers, we should have the right of inspection. That right has been denied in more than one case by different sections of the community, which makes it almost impossible for the public to be fully protected. I think hon. Members will agree that there is nothing wrong in demanding inspection by the skilled personnel of local authorities to see that kitchens are clean and that food is decently prepared.

Having said all that—and this is a somewhat gruesome subject—I hope that no one will think that our standards in Britain are lower than those of many countries in the world. The reverse is the case. I think that our standards by and large are probably better than anywhere except Switzerland, Sweden, Holland and parts of the United States. We ask for further action because we think that Britain should lead the world in this respect. We know all the causes of food poisoning and we can now move forward to attempt a radical solution of the problem. It merely rests with us to apply our knowledge. To end my few remarks—

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

Before my hon. Friend ends his speech, will he say whether there is anything dangerous in fish and meat being exposed on slabs? Nothing has yet been said about that matter at all.

Dr. Stross

There is, of course, danger in exposing any foodstuff which is a suitable medium for infecting bacteria. Obviously, the less it is exposed the better. But when it is raw and has to be cooked later, the danger is naturally very much less than if it has once been cooked and is then exposed, when it is very dangerous.

I want to pay a tribute to someone long dead. My hon. Friend went back to Egypt. I am going back to Tudor Elizabeth to speak of the great debt of gratitude which we owe, not to a scientist, a doctor or a technician, but to a poet. It was a poet of Elizabeth's court who was responsible for inventing something which has saved perhaps more lives than anything else in this field. He translated some of the more erotic poetry of Ovid and read his translations to the Queen. She said that she was shocked because of their eroticism, and she punished him by telling him to go home and not to return to the court until he had translated the whole of the works of Ovid. The poet returned to Bath, which was his home. It was a hot summer and the private cesspool in his garden was very offensive, and he sat down to consider the solution of that problem before translating the whole of Ovid. He invented the water closet that we use today, but for 200 years the invention was neglected and was not used much anywhere in the world. It is worth contemplating how many millions of lives have been saved because of that Tudor Englishman's invention.

In many fields Britain has led, whether it has been in the discovery of the cause of malaria or of sleeping sickness or the discovery of penicillin or the many other weapons which combat disease and stave off death. It is not too much to ask the House to accept with complete and unanimous agreement that in this field, too, we should now begin to lead the whole of the world.

12.3 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

My excuse—I hope that it will be regarded by you, Mr. Speaker, and the House as a justification—for intervening at this moment is two-fold. In the first place, I think I was the only layman—using that word in the general sense—who raised this matter in the last Parliament. I put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour when he was Minister of Health on the subject and the need, as I thought, for further legislation. He gave a most courteous and favourable reply. In fact, the House was rather astonished at our mutual politeness over the matter, not expecting it from either of us. I have also taken a great interest in this matter for many years. I had the honour to be for 30 years the chairman of a hospital the business of which was, at any rate to some extent, connected with this subject.

The other reason why I speak now is that I think that it is usually desirable in these debates—we have had two most erudite and interesting speeches from the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), to whom I should like to pay a tribute; they were distinguished speeches from experts on the subject—for a layman like myself to make a few observations, and they will be very short.

The only shade of difference of opinion, if I have any, with the two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken is that I think that they may have shown a tendency to pay a greater tribute to the standard of hygiene in this country than we deserve. I would put the matter in rather a different way. I think there is a most interesting contrast in hygiene in Britain and an interesting comparison with the situation as it was, for example, when I first entered the House 46 years ago. There has been a continuing improvement in personal cleanliness of the body. I believe that we may say that there we lead the world. In Britain we see people who at any rate appear to be cleaner than people in most other countries.

But I should have thought that we were very far behind not only parts of the United States but Holland, Sweden, Switzerland and other countries in handling food, despite improvements in recent years and despite the valuable work which is being done by the organisation to which the hon. Member for Batley and Morley referred. I do not think that we have very much reason to congratulate ourselves upon our position in that respect. I suggest—I think that both hon. Gentlemen who have spoken will agree with me here, because they made a reference to it in their speeches—that the whole matter resides in the fact that public opinion in this country has not been sufficiently aroused upon the matter —I shall have something to say about that later—and, also, knowledge is not sufficiently diffused.

Unfortunately, in these days we do not get very full reporting of the proceedings of Parliament in the Press as we used to do. I wish there could be a full report of the speeches to which we have just listened, because facts were given in those speeches of which many members of the public are completely ignorant. For example, how many cooks realise the necessity—to deal with a rather delicate matter—for washing their hands before preparing food after having used the toilet? Knowledge like that needs to be diffused.

It is rather an unpleasant reminiscence. but I must give the House a personal experience which I had the other day. It depressed me to some small extent because I felt how very backward we were in many respects in this matter of our attitude towards food cleanliness compared with other countries. I was coming, as is my wont, from Victoria Station to catch the underground to the House I noticed barrows with unwrapped food upon them of a nature which could be easily contaminated. I noticed at least two shops with food exposed without any wrappings. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, has assured us that in the case of bread no great damage is done, but there were other things as well as bread exposed in a confectioner's shop. The street was littered with the filth—I use the term deliberately and risk getting angry letters—which the British throw about—cigarette ends, paper, and skins of all sorts.

I would add that I was passing quite close to one of these barrows or shops—it is an unpleasant thing to add but it has a bearing on what has been said about expectoration—when a respectably dressed man who was passing me, who no doubt meant no evil to anybody, spat almost at my feet. But for the fact that I did not want to be involved in a scene and hit the headlines —such as "M.P. in street scene"—I should have said to him, "Has nobody ever taught you at home, in the Army or at school that that is a filthy thing to do?" This has a bearing on the subject matter of the debate, because the hon. Member for Batley and Morley said that contamination could be caused by dust and things of that kind.

On the question of unwrapped food—this is the only technical point that I wish to put—the two hon. Gentlemen did not speak very much but they put points to the Parliamentary Secretary on other aspects. I should like to put a point on the subject. Would it not be possible for the Ministry, in consultation with its experts or possibly by the creation of a committee of some sort, to begin by publishing what food exposed for public sale—based on expert knowledge—should or should not be wrapped? If, as a result of that exposure of knowledge—using the term in its old-fashioned sense—the public did not respond and local authorities did not take the action that was necessary, then, I should assert, it would be a matter for this or some subsequent Government to bring in legislation on the subject. That is all in accord with the point which I rose specifically to urge—the need for diffusing knowledge.

I do not wish to stand between the House and other hon. Members who wish to speak—and I would add, in parenthesis, that I am speaking only for myself and not as representing my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, although I think none of them would differ from me—but I would like to make a quotation. By a system of prevision, the secret nature of which has hitherto been undisclosed to the public, but which is connected with experiments in time, and of which I do not propose to give an exposition now, I have obtained copies of a British newspaper of 2nd February, 2151 A.D., containing the following extract, most of which I think is relevant to this debate. If not, Mr. Speaker, I hope that for a moment your attention will be diverted. The extract reads: Our predecessors in this land of 200 years ago, say, in February, 1951, had peculiar notions on cleanliness. Though in some respects there had been an advance in hygiene between the 16th and 20th centuries, it was only partial. For instance, the men of the 20th century smeared their hair with grease, which defiled everything with which it came into contact, just as their ancestors had done in their caves 4,000 years earlier. Similarly, their women-folk painted their faces and hair in various fantastic colours, and their fingernails resembled as closely as possible lobsters' claws. But most surprising and disgusting, to modern notions, was their attitude towards the contamination of food by exposure and dirt. Bread, fruit, sugar and meat were handled and treated as we should not treat food for animals. Food was frequently placed on slabs or shelves open to the air, and close to pavements on which the populace expectorated freely and exercised their dogs. In general, public opinion regarded this with the same indifference and sense of fatalism as their predecessors had had drainage and tainted water supplies. When people died of food poisoning it was regarded as inevitable, just as cholera and typhus 200 years before. There is some seriousness in that frivolous statement because the last paragraph is very relevant. We owe a debt today to the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion for endeavouring to arouse public opinion on this all-important matter.

12.13 p.m.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I cordially agree with the observation which fell from the noble Lord the hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). that this is not a matter solely for doctors. Two doctors have spoken upon it, but I agree with the noble Lord that it is a matter of great concern to every household in this country, men, women and children. It is also of great concern to local authorities and to administrative officers, as also to the good caterers whose trade is damaged and whose reputation is blemished by the misconduct and the negligence of the others who are culpable in this way.

I am sure hon. Members in all parts will agree that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) has performed a public service in bringing this matter before the House. The two doctors who have spoken, in addition to the noble Lord, have made valuable contributions and have made our blood run cold with their outlines of the results that flow from bad catering. But not colder than it would run if we ourselves were the victims of some of these food poisoners, sellers and handlers of dirty food, and germ generators, who kill men, women and children in ever-growing numbers and whose base crime should be visited with penalties more heavy than those which fall upon them today. They generally kill for profit unsuspecting, good citizens, against whom they have no grievance, in numbers which have been multiplied by 20 during the last 12 years. Sometimes they kill them singly, sometimes they kill them in epidemics.

To envisage the magnitude of this problem may I put before the House a few figures in addition to those put before the House by previous speakers? In this country there are 236,000 catering establishments, of which 114,500 are open to the public, who consume in them nearly 39 million substantial meals every week. Some 42,500 canteens and staff dining rooms provide 24 million substantial meals every week, while 36,500 institutions, such as day and nursery schools, serve 40 million substantial meals every week, making a total of 103 million substantial meals every week. To those may be added establishments who serve weekly 171 million light meals or snacks, and 311 million hot beverages, making a total of half a million or, more particularly, 585,000 services, each one of which is capable of spreading germs which can be multiplied ad infinitum.

In the main, these caterers act with care, skill and cleanliness, but there is a minority who evade the law, who exploit the public and who spoil business for the decent caterers. It is they who, since 1939, have multiplied food poisoning outbreaks by 20; that is to say, from 50 in 1939 to 1,000 today. These provide a gigantic field for infection. One would expect that such infection would be decreasing today because of the statutory efforts to stamp it out, because of the work of local authorities, because of the effects of modern education, because of the more lively public conscience which exists today than it did in earlier periods, and because of the keener good citizenship today. Unfortunately, it is not decreasing; it is increasing.

This shocking increase is disturbing and there are four questions which we must ask ourselves. First, is it due to inadequate attention by the Legislature? An inspection of the Statute Book shows that this is not the real cause. Second, is it due to negligence or incompetence by the local authorities? That would be an unjust imputation against most local authorities because, in the main, they do their job very well in that regard although it must be admitted that there are some who do not. Third, is it due to lack of education and care by the public? I think that is one of the real causes. Fourth, as this increase is one which has come largely since the outbreak of war in 1939, is it one of the consequences which flow from the war? Expert authorities says that it is.

May I direct attention for a moment to the state of the Statute Book in connection with this matter? This has been the subject of consideration by legislators for very many years. I do not propose to review legal history, but it is interesting to recall that as far back as George I we find an Act declaring that: roasters of coffee making use of water, grease, butter or any other material whatsoever, which will increase the weight or damnify and prejudice the coffee in its goodness, shall forfeit £20 for every such offence. It is not necessary to review history from that time, but it is worth remarking, in passing, that statutory orders on this subject made during the recent war were made "for the efficient prosecution of the war"—a very natural thing when the paramount need of the nation was to win the war. Since the war that phrase has been dropped and another used in these orders, namely, "for the protection of the public." That is also natural and enshrines a very sound precept.

It cannot be truly said that the shocking increase to which I have referred is due to inattention by the legislature. The principal Act governing this matter now in force—it has been amended by subsequent legislation in small respects—is the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. It is a really comprehensive statute dealing with a variety of aspects of the subject. Hilaire Belloc wrote some lines on that statute some years ago, and if I might substitute some lines of my own to bring it up to date I would say: The time is gone when eating house Was playground of the rat and mouse: The law provides that public food Must he maintained fresh, clean and good. That is the law, if it were fully and strictly administered. The Act is a most comprehensive one. It deals with the composition of food and drugs, the making of regulations as to food, unsound food, precautions against the contamination of food, food poisoning, meat from knackers' yards and, of course, it contains penal provisions and others which are entirely adequate to meet all needs of today if they were strictly enforced.

To what then is the increase in cases of food poisoning due? I am a great believer in the expert and I have consulted the experts on this matter. I find that Professor G. S. Wilson, Director of the Public Health Laboratory Service, says that it is due to two main causes, one that we are eating more made-up foods now than ever before. By made-up foods he means pressed beef, brawn, sausages, pies, rissoles and things of that sort which encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

The second reason Professor Wilson gives is that we eat communally more often than we used to, in places where food is stored in large quantities often in unsuitable atmospheres and in temperatures unsuitable for food. Then, food is cooked in huge quantities and served by many hands and this promotes bacterial multiplication and contamination. That is the advice of the expert on this grave topic.

Then we must ask ourselves what is the remedy for this growing danger? I am led to believe that it is four-fold. First, there is the more strict enforcement of the law. Here, as in every phase of human endeavour, the few often spoil things for the many. As in the case of road traffic the negligent and drunken motor driver penalises not only pedestrians but also other drivers, so in this sphere of human endeavour the conscienceless caterer penalises not only the consumers but also other caterers to whom he is an added danger.

The second remedy is the education of the young in schools as to the danger of dirty and impure food. That has been adequately dealt with by previous speakers and I do not need to add to that. The third point is the education of adults. I think a great publicity campaign should be undertaken to bring home to the adults of this country the dangers of dirty and impure food. The fourth remedy is the encouragement of good caterers and other sellers of food by promoting food hygiene guilds, local authority associations, traders' own organisations, advisory trade members on public health committees and traders' advisory educational associations. I would mention, in particular, the Lambeth public health authority and various Scottish burghs, particularly Aberdeen, which have given a very good lead in this respect.

Such local authorities' food associations can act in a very practical way. On application being made by a trader they inspect and report on his amenities and facilities for cleanliness. If these are satisfactory, a favourable report is made on the trader who is granted a certificate which he can hang on his wall and which is an advertisement for him. They can give him a code of practice for the guidance of himself and his assistants. This seems an admirable scheme. I hope that this debate will have the result which it is designed to have, to educate the ignorant and negligent, that it will encourage the educated and careful and raise the standard of public health in the interests alike of the consumer and the good caterer.

12.28 p.m.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton (Inverness)

I listened with very great interest to the mover and seconder of this Motion and I must confess I have learned a great deal from what they said.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to the dangers of the unhygienic handling of food in remote areas. I wrote to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food last May about a report on the handling of meat in the Isle of Skye and described how some New Zealand visitors saw a package of meat put down in Skye on a slimy slipway. They watched seagulls tearing a hole in one side of the package and extracting some of the meat. The standards of cleanliness in the handling of food in New Zealand are very high, and the visitors and islanders were horrified to see this.

The hon. Gentleman in his reply to me pointed out the difficulties and said that in these remote areas meat has to be handled by so many different people—British Railways as far as the Kyles of Lochalsh, then the ferry people and then the island carriers across the island. But the crofter who drew my attention to this incident has written to me to say that it was by no means an isolated incident. He has pointed out that as late as December he saw a sheep's carcase delivered and it was quite black with dirt. The point I wish to make is that the delivery van in which it was carried was very dirty indeed.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to these difficulties and the need for inspection. I do not think it would require a great deal; it would probably need periodic checks, and the inspectors need not necessarily be from Whitehall. I am sure that they could be arranged for by the local authorities. But what I have said points to the need for constant vigilance in these remote areas.

12.31 p.m.

Mr. W. R. A. Hudson (Hull, North)

I intend to detain the House for a short time only, as I am sure there are many other Members who wish to speak on this important topic. I must say at once that I have an interest in the matter which is quite direct, based upon the fact that during the whole of my business life I have been engaged in food distribution. I was, for once, in agreement with the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) when he said that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) had raised a most important issue today and had done a public service. I agree with him because we cannot refer to this matter too often or indeed too forcibly.

I think also that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks) has performed an equally useful service in promoting the Bill which stands on the Order Paper in his name. I believe that is possibly the simplest method of promoting hygienic methods in stores and in warehouses, and in fact in every establishment, as well as in the open air. Regulations and by-laws in themselves are not enough. The cost and the difficulty of enforcing such regulations and by-laws mean that the possibility of neglect cannot be completely ruled out.

There are two aspects of this matter to which I wish to direct attention. The first is the personal element, which affects both the individual firms and the individuals engaged within those firms. In the end it all depends on the individual, because the most hygienic methods and standards can be completely destroyed by a single act of carelessness on the part of an individual. I was a little disturbed when the hon. Member for Batley and Morley said, I think in relation to the catering industry, that some of the "big boys" were the greatest backsliders. That may apply to the catering industry, of which I have not a great deal of knowledge, but it certainly does not apply to the business of retail food distribution, the bigger firms engaged in which have been in the van in up-to-date, progressive, hygienic methods. We have had an illustration of that in reference to the book which has been produced by one of the bigger retail distributors.

I wish briefly to refer to something which has been done in a firm with which I am connected. I apologise for raising the issue in this way, but it serves to illustrate the purport of my speech. For many years a very high standard of hygiene was insisted upon and was developed in that firm. There was a slogan used—"Hospital cleanliness." That slogan was driven home on every possible occasion, but it was not until after the war that it was thought necessary and desirable to adopt a code of hygiene. It was then felt that all that had been done for so many years should be codified. The point I desire to make is that when that was to be done, the directors of the firm felt that the people to do it were those actually engaged in the handling of food. The idea was, therefore, put to the advisory council of the firm, an example of joint consultation, and the employees themselves prepared the code, which was a summary of all the regulations and standards of practice that had been operating for so many years.

The point of my speech is that in order to get high standards of hygiene in the retail food trade, catering or any department of food distribution, we must secure the sympathetic co-operation of those actually engaged in handling the food. The illustration I have just given proves what I have said. Those so engaged were able to produce a very useful document in the light of their own experiences.

I must refer briefly to some of the difficulties. The greatest difficulty with which the food distributive trades are faced today lies in the cost and shortage of wrapping materials and the cost of equipment. I do not wish in any way to make this a party matter, but I must refer to the fact that the heating apparatus for the supply of hot water in food establishments, for example, is subject to very heavy Purchase Tax. Such an industrial purpose ought to be immune from the effects of taxation of that kind.

With regard to the shortage of wrapping material, I would welcome the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) about the gathering together of all standards of practice by the Parliamentary Secretary, in consultation with experts. I must add, however, that even if that were done, the trade itself would be under great difficulties because of the shortage of material and because of the costs. I end by appealing to the Parliamentary Secretary, in taking note of that suggestion by the noble Lord, to take note also of my appeal that those costs should be abundantly provided for throughout the whole structure of distributive margins and prices. The wrapping of bread, to take one example, has been rather played down by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Dr. Stross). I am afraid I do not agree with him on that. I believe it to be abundantly necessary to wrap bread. At the same time, as one who knows something about the costs, I would say that adequate provision is never made for those costs in the structure of prices allowed by the Ministry of Food.

12.38 p.m.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

Three of the very interesting speeches we have heard in this debate ended with a quotation. I intend to commence with one, although I do not know its distinguished author. It is: A little of what you fancy does you good.

Sir H. Williams

Marie Lloyd.

Mr. Hastings

There is a great deal of truth in that statement. It is a truth which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) when he moved the Motion, and spoke of the American who could not fancy the food in this country and had to leave. If we cannot fancy our food because we are uncertain about its cleanliness, there is no doubt it will not do us as much good as it otherwise would.

I wish to speak about cleanliness not of food itself but of the apparatus used in its preparation, of the dishes, cups and cutlery from which we take food and drink. In other words, about washing-up I am sure that at any rate some of the epidemics of food poisoning which we associate with minced meat and sausages are not because of anything wrong with the food, but are due to the imperfect washing of the mincing machines. Bits of meat are left in the machines, and unless they are removed a culture medium is formed for germs; and when the machine is used again the sausages become infected with such germs, which may be germs of disease.

Washing-up in public restaurants and bars is very often imperfectly carried out. Too often in public bars the barmaid has a little bowl under the bar filled with water which was once clean. Glasses are washed in that and are dried either with a towel which is wet, or which has been dried again and again. The fact that one sees lipstick on cups and glasses indicates that saliva, which is not visible, must be present much more often.

In restaurants, conditions vary. In some restaurants great care is taken; but even in restaurants where detergents are used, and especially chlorine disinfectants, not enough trouble is taken to remove the remains of the food and the value of these disinfectants becomes vitiated. In any case, very rarely are cups, plates and cutlery put into boiling or very hot water and then dried by air. Too often cloths are used which are by no means clean, and so infection is spread.

Not very much research work in connection with washing-up has been done in this country. That is not so in America, where nearly every new mayor of a city feels he wants to clean up something; and sometimes, very rightly, his attention is directed to the preparation of food and washing-up. There can be no doubt that there is a real danger in imperfect washing-up. In America, particularly, samples have been taken and organisms cultured from crockery and cutlery. In some of these cases observations show that dangerous germs are found in anything between 1 per cent. to 5 per cent. In this country epidemics of diseases have been described as due to faulty washing-up and to dirty crockery and cutlery; particularly in institutions have epidemics of diarrhœa, ulcerated gums and influenza been traced to this source.

We know that the virus of influenza will stand a lot. It will remain alive outside the body for some considerable time and is not appreciably affected by most of the detergents used in washing-up. There is no question but that there is real danger in imperfect washing-up, in addition to its unpleasantness. During the First World War I was for a time in charge of a large ward of soldiers who had just returned from France. They were tired, had been badly fed and were somewhat debilitated. Tonsillitis broke out and spread from bed to bed; until I insisted that every piece of crockery and cutlery used in that ward should be boiled after use. Then, and only then, and rather suddenly, the trouble ceased.

A great deal has been said about the danger of cracked crockery, and there seems no doubt that if germs can get into these cracks they can get out. Recent work has suggested that if washing-up is done in a proper way, and the utensils used put into water at nearly boiling point for about 30 to 60 seconds, there is little additional danger from these cracks.

What can be done to improve washing-up conditions? I do not think there is sufficient power under the present laws. The Food and Drugs Act, 1938, has been referred to more than once today. It gives to local authorities powers of inspection of the conditions under which food is prepared, but I think it very doubtful if that Act of Parliament gives sufficient power for the inspection and control of washing-up. Section 13 (1) reads: There shall be provided in, or within reasonable distance of, the room suitable washing basins and a sufficient supply of soap, clean towels, and clean water, both hot and cold, for the use of persons employed in the room. I should read that as referring to personal cleanliness, but it is suggested in "Hygiene in Catering Establishments." that valuable document published a couple of days ago, as the report of the Catering Trade Working Party of the Ministry of Food, who had the assistance of representatves from other Ministries, that this should give power to control the conditions of washing-up. I suggest there is some uncertainty about this, and I would recommend to the Parliamentary Secretary the desirability of further legislation to make the position absolutely clear; and that in any legislation which is being considered, standards for washing-up, not too severe, should be enforceable.

In the case of glasses, there should be some disinfectant in the water used for washing, either warm or cold. The glasses should be rinsed to remove this disinfectant before they are dried, preferably by air. With cups, plates and utensils used for feeding as well as cutlery, the by-laws should insist on two washing-up bowls. One should contain detergent material for removing and loosening the food that remains, and the other water, very near boiling point, in which the plates should be placed for 30 to 60 seconds. They should be dried by air, because there is no doubt that towels used for wiping are a great source of danger.

As has already been stressed today, whatever we try to do, however stringent are the by-laws and however great the trouble taken to enforce them, we shall never achieve success unless the people concerned understand the reason for the cleanliness which they are asked to entertain.

Some of us will remember that there was a picture, I think it was in "Punch," some time ago, of a man in a restaurant who complained to the waitress that there was egg on the spoon which he was given to stir his tea with and she replied, "I am sorry, sir. There is some as don't like egg." People must understand that it is not just fussiness which is the cause of the insistence on the cleanliness of utensils used in eating and drinking. There is a real reason for it. Unless both the public and all those working in the catering trade really understand the reasons for insisting on cleanliness, I do not think that we shall get as far as we all desire.

12.51 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

I have listened with great interest to this debate which has dealt very largely with what I call the retail end of the business. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) is not here now, because he was going to tell me why the hospitals have the worst record in their catering establishments with regard to food poisoning. I hope that will be dealt with later on. That the hospitals should be at the bottom of the list is deplorable.

My interest in this subject started a great many years ago, in 1905, when I was president of the engineering students' society at the University of Liverpool. I induced Sir Ronald Ross, who was one of our professors of tropical medicine, to come to tell us about malaria. After a most interesting lecture, he said, "Of course, it is not a doctor's job. It is for you engineers. You clean out the sluggish streams and fill in the stagnant pools and then there will be no malaria mosquitoes." These methods, as well as others, have been widely applied, with well-known results. The same is true of yellow fever. I have always looked upon Sir Rupert Boyce as the world's greatest expert on this subject. His methods of eliminating yellow fever were largely engineering.

Some of the points raised today are obviously of great importance. I think that the legislative powers are greater than the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) realises. He mentioned the Food and Drugs Act of 1938. There are also the great Public Health Acts, starting in 1875 and last modernised in 1936. There are very great powers there. It is the duty of the local authorities to inspect their districts and to abate nuisances. The sad thing is that many local authorities do not use the tools they have got. In addition, local authorities have powers under Private Acts. Anybody will see that who cares to go through recent Bills to see what additional powers they are seeking.

My constituency was the victim of a sad tragedy in, I think, 1934. One of the wells was being repaired. One of the workmen was a typhoid carrier. Suitable arrangements were made, but he was a dirty man and he made water down the well instead of in the receptacle provided. That killed 100 people, and another 200 were seriously ill. He did not know that he was a carrier. We heard the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, talk about somebody who was making glaze for sausages. Over 400 people were affected. The registration of the premises in which he worked would make no contribution unless the man was examined. The trouble is that he does not know that he is a carrier.

I had an early experience of food poisoning. I was living in the North of England and I came to stay with relatives in London in 1900. I went out with a cousin and bought a lovely bunch of grapes from a barrow. We all ate them that evening. The consequences were disastrous: I will not go into details. Such experiences as that are fewer than they used to be, because the engineer has played some part. Up to 1911, every hot summer involved a terrible epidemic of infantile diarrhoea. At Kew where they kept what is known as a deep well thermometer, which is four feet underground, it was suddenly discovered that when the temperature went above 64 degree, the diarrhoea used to start. That indicated that it had been hot enough long enough for these germs to have large families.

In 1911, for the first time in history there was not an epidemic of infantile diarrhoea, and there has never been one since. I have discussed this matter with many medical men. The conclusion we have arrived at is that the motorcar is almost entirely responsible. The flies used to have a nice feed on horses dung and then wander round the grapes, and all the rest of it. That was the origin of a great deal of this infantile diarrhoea. Now the streets are, clinically, very clean. I do not know whether any medical men have taken swabs off London streets and sent them to the bacteriological laboratory to find what is in them. I think the streets are very clean indeed. Petroleum drippings are, I believe, very antiseptic and the streets, from a clinical point of view, are much cleaner than they ever were before. That is one of the causes of the big fall in the infantile diarrhoea which used to prevail.

We have heard a lot about food poisoning. There is a kind of food poisoning which I was discussing last night with the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) and which perhaps he might talk about. I remember the tragedy which happened in Scotland when nearly the whole of a picnic party of 20 or 30 people were taken gravely ill after having consumed some tinned food. It had in it botulism which I believe is not a germ disease but a poison caused as a result of the previous activity of germs. A very unhappy time was had by all except those who decided to take a liqueur brandy after they had had the meal. They escaped. I do not know whether I shock the hon. Member for Barking. I know that his habits in that direction are not the same as mine. I have been led to believe that some kinds of germs suffer fatal effects if they come into the presence of concentrated alcohol. I believe that that happened in that case.

Reference was made by the hon. Member for Barking to washing up. There was a report produced recently by some organisation of the licensed victuallers' trade on the cleanliness of glasses. It is difficult for the ordinary person, whenever he does something, to have a bacteriologist around the corner. I get a glass; I wash it up; I dry it with a cloth that looks clean; and then I am told that it is clinically filthy. I do not know what we can do about that. It is no good deploring it unless the remedy is placed at our disposal.

There is dirty dirt and clinical dirt. There is dirty dirt in vast quantities at Stoke-on-Trent. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central complained about it, but it reduces food poisoning, because soot is a good disinfectant. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here. We have been told a lot about the high standards in the United States of America. They cannot be very high. In relation to population we have three times as many water closets as they have in the United States. We have only one-third the number of telephones, but we have got three times the number of water closets. One cannot have water closets without a piped water supply. That is the problem.

Again, I come back to my engineering friends. I am not in that branch of engineering, but the adequate provision of water supply is an engineer's job. Every house we build today has a bath; but in 10 years from now there will not be water to put in the baths unless drastic steps are taken about water conservation.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

Water undertakings are to be nationalised.

Sir H. Williams

Even if they are nationalised, the water has to be conserved first. It is already municipalised. In this area 10 or 12 million people are catered for by the Metropolitan Water Board, which is a semi-national institution with its members elected by the local authorities. In a few years the Board is going to be up against a major problem of providing water, because the bulk of the rain that falls on London is wasted. It does not penetrate through the clay soil. The bulk of the water comes from near Chequers and percolates in the gravel underneath London.

A piped water supply is an essential condition in keeping down disease by what I would call the wholesale method. We must do something about these things. We must get back, not merely to superficial treatment of disease when it happens, but to prevention. When I was privileged to be at a luncheon which the mayor had at Croydon, I suggested a new municipal motto from the French, which I translated for the benefit of the people of Croydon. It runs, "Où sont les mouches en hiver?"—"Where do the flies go in winter time?" Why is it that there are a lot more germs about at certain times? I hope that all these things will be looked into because if the learned medical gentlemen can do that, then they will be able to make a greater contribution to the health of the people than they have done in the past.

1.2 p.m.

Captain Field (Paddington, North)

After the excitement of the last few days, it is a real pleasure to intervene in a debate on a subject on which we are so united and on which back benchers on both sides of the House can offer some constructive advice to the Front Bench. I want to confine my remarks to my experience as a member of a local authority, and to try to give the House some details about the difficulty they experience in this problem of hygienic food handling.

I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is not in his place, because he referred to the stuff that one puts on one's hair. As I have a good supply of hair, I should like to assure him that I use the Metropolitan Water Board's product, and I hope it is reasonably sterile. I agree with him that the most important problem we have to tackle today is the education of public opinion. We must raise the standard of public opinion as high as we can.

My mother gave me an account of her experience the other day. She was in a baker's shop and the assistant who was handling the food in the window sneezed over the whole of the contents of the window. Several of the customers, quite rightly, remonstrated with her and told the manageress that if she did not insist upon a higher standard among her assistants, they would remove their custom elsewhere. If that attitude were adopted by more people, then we should have a higher standard all round.

The noble Lord also mentioned his experience with barrow boys. The problem of barrow boys is a very real one for the local authority. First of all, they are awfully difficult to catch. They start off in the morning in the area of one local authority, they spend half the day in the areas of various local authorities and finish the evening somewhere else. As they go round they create an enormous amount of dirty litter. Most local authorities are trying, very slowly, to eliminate the barrow boy nuisance and also the nuisance of street markets which create enormous litter and, in my experience, are extremely dirty and have very low standards. That is a matter for the local authorities to deal with and they are trying to eliminate the street markets by "the effluxion of time", as I think the phrase puts it.

Since the matter has been mentioned by several hon. Members, it may be of interest, in passing, to refer to my experience in the Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith, and to mention the case of the firm which has produced this excellent booklet, "Hygienic Food Handling". Through voluntary action by their staff they have achieved a very high standard. I think it is worth saying that this firm has the highest standard in hygiene of any retail establishment in the borough.

Sir H. Williams

They will probably vote for the hon. and gallant Member next time.

Captain Field

Good, I am always pleased to hear that, but this is not a matter of my Parliamentary duty but of my local authority duty. During the war I spent a considerable time in the Services in a tropical climate. There, of course, one has to have a rigid food discipline which has to be enforced at every stage. In the area in which I served, the incidence of food poisoning amongst the troops was very low indeed. It may not be possible to apply the high standards we had in the Services in civilian life, but I think Service experience has a lesson for us in tackling this problem. For instance, every handler of food in the Army was medically examined. As has been pointed out already, that is not possible in civilian life. On top of that the faecal specimens of food handlers were also examined. If they contained any bacteria which were considered to be dangerous, that person was rejected as a food handler.

There can be no doubt that the number of food poisoning cases is on the increase. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) and disagree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) that our experience on local authorities is that the powers we have at present are inadequate, whether under the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, or under the Public Health Acts. As I have mentioned already, the most important thing is to educate the public in higher standards and to get the public to demand those higher standards in a voluntary way.

Let us consider for a moment the numerous hazards from food sources that we experience. There is the problem of cracked cups and dirty plates. I think the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) also mentioned public houses. There is a very great hazard there, of course. The hygienic qualities of glasses in public houses would be greatly improved if the publicans themselves insisted on washing their glasses in running water rather than in the static water which is almost invariably used.

We also see in many retail shops and catering establishments an abundance of flies. I am not sure but I think the hon. Member for Croydon, East, mentioned "moustiques," which is the French for mosquitoes. I do not know whether he meant "mouches"—flies—or not. Flies cause a hazard to health. One also sees waitresses with long finger-nails, and food handlers who have cut their finger and bound it up with a dirty rag through which blood is slowly percolating.

Many of these things have been covered in this debate already, and I want to pass quickly to the role of the local authority in this problem of ensuring cleanliness in food. I think the operations of local authorities could be divided roughly into two categories. First, all over the country, they are at present waging a campaign to educate the public and to try and get the public to insist upon higher standards in the catering and retail establishments which they patronise.

I would mention, in passing, that local authorities can assist a great deal in this campaign in various ways. For instance, many local authorities are now providing free washing facilities in their conveniences either to people who go in there for that purpose or to people who have themselves made use of the conveniences. I think that point should be taken up by all those local authorities who do not at present provide those facilities.

Some local authorities go even further, and endeavour to enrol traders into voluntary associations or guilds, themselves applying very much higher standards than are necessary under the law as it stands. These guilds have various codes of conduct for their members and standards for the various categories of traders who are enrolled, such as butchers, bakers, cafés, dairies and so on, each category having a standard of practice and a code of cleanliness.

The guilds sometimes have a badge. I have with me an example of my local authority's badge. This badge is displayed in the windows of those establishments which are members of the guild, and it is hoped by getting the public voluntarily to discriminate between members and non-members to get those traders who are not members to realise the advantage that can be gained from voluntarily adhering to the high standards which are set out. All the members of the guild have to submit to a voluntary inspection. There is a report, and if any alteration or modification of their premises is recommended they voluntarily carry out the recommendation of the guild.

The inception of the guild in Hammersmith was accompanied by a great deal of local enthusiasm on the part of consumers and traders alike; but I must report that for various reasons this enthusiasm is now evaporating somewhat. There appears to be a growing resistance to the guild. In mentioning what I conceive to be the reasons, I should like to say frankly that I think the traders have a point of view which must be considered, that some of the objections they raise are perfectly valid and that we shall have to see how best they can be met. When we consider that in Hammersmith the largest catering firm in England has its headquarters there, and that the laboratories and a depôt of a very large dairy are there also and that neither of these establishments is a member of our clean food guild, it is obvious that there are objections on the part of these enterprises to entering into this voluntary association.

I think the first objection is this. It arises from the composition of the guilds. People who are not members feel that if they enter a guild they will have over them and judging them people who have neither the technical nor the legal training to give judgment on the cases which are presented to the guild. Indeed, many of the people who sit on the guild may be trading competitors of the firm which is accused of some breach of the regulations or standards.

The second objection is that if a case is brought before the guild there is no appeal from its decision, and, bearing in mind that the guild will have power seriously to impair the reputations of members who are accused of breaches of the clean food standards, I believe that this objection is also quite valid. For this reason, many firms feel that it is better not to join the guild and to run the risk of being pilloried for not doing so than to be expelled from the guild with all the publicity which that might entail through, perhaps, the carelessness or inadvertence of one of their employees.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Do these guilds insist upon a standard from their members higher than that required or imposed on them by statute?

Captain Field

Oh, yes. I thought I had made that clear in my earlier remarks. The standard required by these guilds in practically every case is higher than that required by the law. I have with me—and I am willing to show them to my hon. and gallant Friend—examples of these codes and standards for the various categories of trades which form part of these guilds.

The third and last objection which I wish to mention is this. Multiple firms, which I think have quite high standards in this respect, are under very great difficulties because of the varying codes and practices throughout the country. One local authority might adopt certain standards while a local authority in another area might adopt a different set of standards. It stands to reason that the multiple firms are under a great difficulty on that account, not only from the point of view of administration but from the point of view of training their staff who may, of course, be moved from branch to branch throughout the country. In those circumstances, it is little wonder that many firms find difficulty in joining these voluntary guilds.

I have mentioned these matters to demonstrate to the House that there are real difficulties facing local authorities who seek by voluntary methods to deal with the problems which we are discussing today. I should like to reinforce the demand which has been made by several hon. Members for an investigation into this important problem; and I should like the Ministry of Food to consider the various codes of practice throughout the country and the voluntary standards which these guilds themselves impose, to see whether some of the requirements embodied in those codes could be given the force of law. Certainly, as a minimum requirement, a standard code should be recommended to the guilds throughout the country. I fully recognise that voluntary standards must always play their part, particularly on the side of the public, but it is felt that the legal standards are too low.

1.18 p.m.

Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)

The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), in moving this Motion, said that the requests he was making were reasonable and modest, as indeed they were. I think the same might be said of the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who seconded the Motion. Very reasonable requests have been made, and both speeches were, of course, extremely well informed and highly interesting to those hon. Members who were fortunate enough to hear them.

I must confess that I came to the House this morning with no intention of speaking, but so great was my interest in the speeches of the two hon. Members to whom I have referred, and others, that I should like to detain the House for just a few minutes to draw attention to two quite narrow aspects of the problem which we are considering.

I think it is a fair criticism of the first two speeches made this morning, but it is meant to be a friendly one, that a great deal of attention was devoted to catering establishments but not very much to shops —the ordinary retail shops. I want to say a few words in connection with two grave criticisms of a large number of shops, although I think my remarks are almost equally applicable to catering establishments and households.

The first point is about flies. One hon. Member has suggested that this does not matter very much where raw meat and raw fish are concerned, because in any event those foods will be cooked and, presumably, the infection destroyed in the process; but there is a great variety of foods, such as cheese, biscuits and fruit, which are not cooked, which are spread out on the counters of open shops, and which surely must become infected by flies and insects of all kinds. Those of us who have had our eyes open and have been worried about this question must have been horrified at times to see the insect population which inhabits many shops, particularly during the hot summer months. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some assurance that in some way or other encouragement will be given to shopkeepers to protect food. The normal practice at the moment is to leave it exposed to infection by insects.

Perhaps I should apologise for introducing my second criticism, but it has been a secret horror in my life and I have seldom mentioned it because of the possibility of worrying other people. Emphasis so far has been laid on infection caused through the medium of excreta. I want to draw attention to the infection which must frequently be caused, through practices followed in shops and other places, through the medium of saliva. Hon. Members have mentioned the question of washing up, but I think it goes further than that.

Only a week or two ago I was sent by my wife to do the morning shopping, and I went into a small baker's shop and asked for a loaf of bread. What happened was that the good lady behind the counter gave her fingers a good lick, got hold of a piece of tissue paper and then hold of a loaf of bread and wrapped it up. I did not dare to say anything because I am sure that that good woman has been licking her fingers and getting hold of a piece of tissue paper to use for wrapping bread for the whole of her life. I am sure that literally tens of thousands of other people are following the same practice. Perhaps I should have had more courage and made my views known, but I did not like to do that in my local shop because I thought everybody might think I was being unreasonable.

The same thing has happened when I have gone to fruiterers and asked for a bag of cherries. Again, there is the lick of the fingers and a plunging of the hand into cherries which are already covered with flies. Almost every shopkeeper who wants to take hold of a paper bag seems to lick his or her fingers before doing so and then takes hold of the food.

Captain Field

Or blows the bag open.

Colonel Ropner

I agree—or blows the bag open. This is such a universal practice that one feels one is perhaps being hypercritical to mention it at all, but I cannot help feeling that, however universal the practice may be, it is nevertheless quite disgusting and must very frequently be the cause of spreading disease.

It is almost true to say that saliva is looked upon as a convenient form of moisture and nothing else. Not only have all hon. Members seen paper bags treated in the way I have described but we have seen waiters, wanting to clean the mouth of a bottle, lick a cloth and give the bottle a rub round. We have seen waiters who wanted to clean a plate lick a cloth and rub round the plate. I do not know what the Minister will say that he could do in this matter, if, indeed, he bothers to reply to me at all—I hope he will—but it is a question of educating the public to understand that saliva is not a substitute for clean water.

One hon. Member used an expression, which I thought was a good one—the "no-touch technique." Hon. Members who have borne with me will realise that if we could develop universally a "no-touch technique," the problem which I have raised this morning would be solved. Certainly I am not suggesting that it should immediately become a penal offence to lick one's fingers and take up a paper bag. We cannot make progress as quickly as that. But I hope that, partly through the speech I have made but much more through some propaganda which might be conducted by Government Departments or local authorities, some attention may be given to effecting an improvement in this matter.

1.27 p.m.

Mr. Richard Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)

I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) will excuse me from following the line which he took in his speech. In the main, the problem with which he dealt has previously been discussed in the Debate and I want to follow a line which has not been approached at all since my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) introduced this subject. Perhaps I may tell the hon. Member for Batley and Morley and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) that I think the whole House will agree that it was a wise decision to introduce this subject at this moment.

I am in a difficulty in that I cannot follow either of the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion because I am not a medical man, and in the main they dealt with the problem as medical men. I am an ex-grocer and I want to deal with the problem from that point of view. Everyone who has taken part in the debate will agree, I am sure, that the golden rule—prevention is better than cure—applies to this problem of dirty food. It is much better to adopt a code of clean handling of food than to have bottles of medicine, and I believe that those who deal with the food of the people—the grocers, the catering workers, the transport workers and others—have a very important job in our community to lower the number of prescriptions which are issued by doctors. I believe that between 200 million and 250 million prescriptions were issued last year, many caused by dirty food. Thus, prevention is better than cure, and grocers have an important place in the community to relieve doctors from some of their present onerous duties.

Very often the grocer, and sometimes the catering worker, is the victim of contamination as much as the consumer. I could give illustrations from my own experience of how the grocer has been the protector of the consumer and also financially the loser in seeing that the food is clean before passing it to the consumer. I think due regard and due praise should be paid to the conception of cleanliness now prevalent throughout the grocery establishments of this country, and to the part the grocers have played in raising the standard of food. I know that mistakes are sometimes made. I have seen packets of tea in close proximity with fire lighters. I have seen soap and butter very close together.

It would be a most difficult thing to examine every type of shop selling perishable goods of that description, and to educate all those shopkeepers. There are over 2,800,000 engaged in the distributive trade, and the process of education is going to be a very long, and, perhaps, a tedious affair. In some parts of the country there are still dairymen who supply milk from cans on carts exposed to all kinds of weather. One can imagine how on muggy mornings contamination is transmitted through the milk.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, mentioned the problem of bread. I should very much like to see the day come when bread will be wrapped compulsorily by legislation. I do not agree with my hon. Friend that bread cannot contaminate. It may be true that the bread itself may not be a contaminator, but in bread there can be that which in itself can contaminate, and there are processes in the manufacture and distribution of bread that ought to be examined very closely in these days. In passing, I ought to mention the responsibility of the transport workers in this country. On more than one occasion I have had to destroy as much as 2 cwt. of bags of sugar because of the packing on the railways and transport on the railways, the sugar having been brought into close proximity with contaminating goods.

However, I do not want to deal with details of that description: I want to come ton two problems which I think are very important from my point of view and from the point of view of the grocers, and which should be considered, not from the point of view of voluntary effort, but from the point of view of legislation and, therefore, by the responsible Ministries.

One of the problems is that of protective clothing. I could take hon. Members into many shops where people are serving with no protective clothing at all. Clothes may contaminate as much as hands, and, therefore, it is essential, I believe, that we should have some standard of protective clothing, and that it should be compulsorily adhered to so as to make some contribution to the efforts to supply clean food to the community. Voluntary methods have not been as successful, in my experience, as they should have been. I know that between trades unions and employers, there are many agreements in operation which provide for protective clothing for those people who work in food distribution, but in many cases that protective clothing is missing completely, and the voluntary method has. not been successful, so far as I can see, over the whole range of food distribution. I believe that the time has come in the history of food distribution in this country when the protective clothing should be insisted upon by legislation, and that the legislation should provide not only for the provision of the clothing but for its laundering as well.

Now I come to the most important thing I want to say. At the present moment food distribution and food shops are covered mainly by four sets of Acts of Parliament, the Shops Act, the Factory Acts in the case of food manufacture, the Food and Drugs Act, and the Public Health Acts. We have to look at this problem of clean food in the light of the actual operation of those Acts. I agree with one previous speaker that if the Acts were properly applied, there would be no problem in so far as dirty food is concerned, because the Acts of Parliament are there. The difficulty is that there are not enough inspectors to apply them.

I remember going before the Gowers Committee to deal with the problem of catering. The Chairman of the Committee asked me how many inspectors I thought were necessary to inspect the catering establishments in Blackpool alone. I said it could not be done regularly and systematically without two inspectors in that district, whereas, in point of fact, we have only one or two more in the whole of the north-western area. So in the inspectorate alone we have not the personnel necessary effectively to apply the law. That is one of the things we have to take into consideration when we are trying to envisage a completely clean food supply throughout the length and breadth of this country.

I want to deal for a moment with the last Report of the Working Party on catering hygiene. It is an excellent document, which has, of course, been given in précis form in many of the papers. I know something of the catering industry. I was on three of the five wages boards provided by the Catering Wages Act. I was, prior to coming into this House, on almost every body for negotiations with the employers in the catering industry in relation to the difficulties of the catering trade—and the difficulties of the catering trade are legion. In the main, the people who represent the respective organisations are in favour of very progressive measures to ensure a clean food supply, but they, like many of the representatives of the trade unions, have given up hope that voluntary effort will ensure that happy result. In their Report they recommend that legislation shall be effective, and I think I agree with them that unless we do this by legislation we shall never bring cleanliness into many of the little kitchens of some of the cafés and restaurants, and in some of the hotels.

Not long ago, in my duty as a trade union official at that time, I was called into a certain place in one of the best hotels in one of the largest cities of this country, and I saw the kitchen, and I saw the little room which was devoted to the staff. People talk about the provision of hot water, soap and towels and basins in which catering workers can wash their hands. In that first-class hotel, where the tariff was 20s. and more for bed and breakfast, there was a running cold water tap from the wall, with no adequate washing facilities for part-time workers who had to change in order to serve the meals. That is only one illustration.

I know of catering establishments in many other places which are really disreputable in this respect. I know that there are difficulties nowadays, that to have conditions conducive to the serving of clean food there would have to be an extensive building programme and that there would be difficulty in obtaining the licences and the materials. Our economic position at the moment prevents this from being done, but in many of these establishments things could be done which would at any rate make them cleaner than they are at present.

When I sat on the Catering Wages Board, the Administrative Committee was inundated with applications from catering employers throughout the country asking for a lower wage than the statutory minimum because most of the people employed in washing up dishes in their kitchens were sub-normal. Most of those applications were granted, to the regret of the employers as much as of the trade unions. We shall never get cleanliness in these establishments when the people employed in the kitchens have not the proper outlook on cleanliness in the first place.

These are things which ought to be considered when discussing the problem of dirty food and how to obtain a clean food supply. Of course, this must not be confined to the catering industry alone. Of the million or more shops in the country, 85 per cent. are small unit shops, and if we are to have, as the Catering Trade Working Party recommends, registration and regular inspection of all these units, and then to carry the matter beyond the catering industry into every shop where food is sold, the House and the Ministries concerned will have to face, in terms of legislation, the registration of all shop life in the country.

I know that there are difficulties, but even allowing for those difficulties, I see no reason why, under the terms of this Motion, until legislation is introduced, the co-operation of all should not be sought—authorities, grocers, transport workers, catering workers and the Ministries—in a drive to overcome the problem of dirty food, which I believe has caused more deaths in the country than the sword of Herod did in Biblical times, or road casualties nowadays, or even the casualties of war in our lifetime.

1.45 p.m.

Colonel Cyril Banks (Pudsey)

I should like to refer to the more practical side of food and food cleanliness. I want to do so in the light of the fact that I have now spent some 10 years dealing mainly with the feeding of people as opposed to the distribution of food or its wrapping. During the war I had the job of feeding people after air-raids and in North-West Europe, and I had the ex- perience of having to look after large numbers of people whom we could not feed under reasonably hygienic conditions. I saw many attacks of dysentry and the like as a result of the way in which those people were fed, and I then decided that if and when the time came when I could assist in achieving greater cleanliness of food and the handling of food, I would do everything in my power. Since I have been in this House I have spoken only twice, each time on the subject of food.

While offering my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Motion, because I think they have done a grand job—it is good to hear people from either side of the House talking about the cleanliness of food—I think we have reached a stage in our history when we must think rather in practical terms about what can be achieved in these times. We know that from about 1875 until 1906 we were really the pioneers in achieving cleanliness in food. We did a very good job in that pioneering work, and it was not until 1905 or 1906 that the United States lined up with this country on food hygiene. Since then other countries, which have already been mentioned, have gone ahead of us in food hygiene.

We should, however, reflect that this country has gone through two world wars, during the first of which there was a shortage of food which created a very big demand for meals outside the home. During that period there developed a habit of eating away from home. Between the two wars, due partly to a rising standard of living, more people ate away from home. Then came the Second World War, and, again, due to the shortage of food and the introduction of British Restaurants, emergency feeding centres and the like, millions more meals were served in establishments outside the home. We also had a great difficulty of finding the necessary equipment and clothing apart from the necessary food, and were not able to do those jobs as we would have liked. It is regrettable that today we are using a large amount of the same equipment that we used during the war for the feeding of people, which we know is not desirable, and which we would like to eliminate. I think that in time we shall eliminate it, provided we are spared another war.

We must be practical at this stage. We are now facing a drive for re-armament and a position in which it will be difficult to come by the protective clothing referred to by the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. R. Winterbottom), or equipment and washing facilities. All the equipment necessary for food hygiene will be extremely difficult to come by for some time ahead. How long that will be depends not on this country but on the world situation. Therefore, we can talk only in simple terms about the best way in which we can deal with the situation at present.

That was my reason for seeking to introduce the Packing and Handling of Food Bill, dealing with the model by-laws issued by the Ministry of Food which, if followed, would mean that we should be little worried about the possibility of an increase in poisoning due to dirty food. I have been rather shocked this morning, and I wondered whether any hon. Member or anybody sitting in the public gallery would care to eat lunch when they left the House. The position is not quite as bad as all that. Much can be done with soap and boiling water, and we must cut out a lot of the trimmings until such time as we are better able to take care of this problem.

In regard to model by-laws, my name, as Mr. Speaker said before the debate was opened, was sixth on the list, which means that the Bill has not much of a chance. It does not matter where the proposal comes from or how it originates. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take this matter up if he possibly can. It would be a good idea if he could eliminate from those model by-laws the words "in the open air." That would be a great help, because it would bring into operation regulations for controlling the sale of food not only in the open air but on enclosed premises. I would like those words to be dropped so that the model by-laws could be made applicable throughout the country, to food wherever it is sold or exposed for sale, in addition to its wrapping, handling and delivery.

I give my support to the Motion because I think it is grand in its conception. It has been interesting to hear the debate and I have learned a lot from it. I hope that there will be more debates of this kind with the idea of increasing the hygiene efficiency of this country and bringing us more into line with where we were from the period 1875 to 1905, when we pioneered the world in health. Our place is not so high as we should like it to be today; it could be a lot better. That will be achieved if everybody works to that end.

1.52 p.m.

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I am glad to have an opportunity of adding a contribution to the debate, which I have found very informative. Indeed, perhaps we are just a little smug in our remarks, particularly about cracked cups and unwashed fruit. I have observed that some hon. Members who referred to cracked cups have left the Chamber and are probably at this moment drinking tea out of the cracked cups in this House. If it is possible to find a cup that is not cracked in our own House of Commons tea room I would like to examine it carefully. I try every day to find a cup that is not cracked, but I have not yet succeeded.

Nor do I think that we are very particular about the washing of fruit. If a Member is having tomatoes today, or this week, the fruit will look fairly clean because it will be imported. Tomatoes are brought into the House of Commons wrapped in tissue paper. A little later, when we are buying for Members of the House of Commons tomatoes which are not wrapped, the dirt will be quite visible when the Member lifts a tomato on to his slice of bread and butter. It was only last year, when we were entertaining guests on the Terrace of the House of Commons and we boasted of our strawberries and cream, that I noticed there was not one strawberry that was picked. The strawberries were still appearing on the terrace with their hulls on; moreover, the cream had to be poured over the strawberries whose hulls had not even been picked off. Yes, I think cleanliness, like charity, can begin at home.

I was travelling in a British Railways train last week, first-class, at the country's expense, with an extra supplementary fare, Sir, of 12s. I noticed as I boarded the train that I was met by an admiral, or at least he seemed like an admiral. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like this official—flashes, uniform, and all. He took me to my seat. He insisted that I submit proof of having paid the supplementary fare. I left Glasgow at about 11 o'clock and the train was due in London at about 6 o'clock. There were "elevenses" coffee, lunch served between 12 and 2, and afternoon tea, and yet not a bit of soap on the whole train. I ran along to see the admiral and try to get a bit of soap. He had disappeared. When I got hold of some other officials they told me that it was too much to expect a bit of soap on a train. There was no soap on the train, and not in any of the toilets, even if one did pay 12s. supplementary fare. There was an admiral and his flashes and his braid, but there was not a bit of soap. There is a lot of smug talk about how we should instruct others, before we have started to instruct ourselves.

A real source of contamination is dirty hands. The doctor who opened the debate laid great stress on it. He cited the case of his friends who had been at a very well-known hotel with a good reputation, and said that they observed that the waitress had dirty nails. Of course, dirty nails are a chief source of contamination, but I wondered how they had observed the dirty nails. Dirty nails are camouflaged today with red polish. Of all the abominations, one is the red paint which covers so many germs on the finger-nails of my sex. This red polish ought to be prohibited. We cannot see the dirt. There may be microscopical germs in their thousands, which are completely hidden. I have come to the conclusion that polished nails are an abomination not only because they hide those germs but because they act as a deterrent against the hands going into water frequently, as they ought.

The housewife has the best end of the stick in this matter, next to the doctor. Doctors always have what is called a "scrub up." I was reading through a book about Monro Kerr, father of our great Scottish Midwifery Act, of which we are very proud in Scotland. He insisted upon the 18-minute scrub up. I have tried standing for five minutes scrubbing, and waiting until they became eight. I wonder why on earth Monro Kerr was so insistent upon the 18-minute scrub up. The constant dipping of the hands into water and scrubbing is important, and the housewife has ample opportunity for it. It would be one of the finest things we could get to help us in the clean handling of food and of everything else. It should begin with the children. It ought to begin with a campaign in the schools of scrubbing up. Keep scrubbing up. I am sorry that there are not facilities in the schools for scrubbing up. Matrons and assistants of nursery schools to whom I have spoken tell me that once children are accustomed to hot water and soap, and there is a little towel, they take a positive delight in approaching the washhand basin.

I can remember having a Sunday school class in my youthful days, before I married. I took great pride in the fact that my Sunday school class was the biggest in our church, but others said, "Do not be so snooty about it: it is because you throw a party every year." Every year I threw a party and I always had a very big attendance in my class. On one occasion I could not get the children out of the bathroom. At least 20 of them were crowding in there. I went in to see what the fuss was about and I heard them saying to each other, "There is scented soap." A small incentive like scented soap is a very low price to pay for getting clean habits instilled into our children.

I was very interested in the contributions made by the doctors today, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), whose statistics were exceedingly informative and interesting. He mentioned processed foods and the handling and using of left-overs. Here I come to what I think the Ministry of Food could do. In these days especially, when there is a shortage of fat and such a very great shortage of butcher's meat of any kind, there is a great temptation to hash up left-overs in some way to try to make the next day's meal a little more appetising. The Ministry use a great deal of space for advertising recipes, most of which housewives have already filed, and, if they have not done so, the recipes can be obtained from the many contributors to newspapers without the assistance of the Minister or spending money in this way. That space might be used to warn housewives about the use of left-over fats and gravies and occasionally to warn them of the importance of clean hands.

A doctor spoke about drinking tea out of a cracked cup, which he deplored, and the necessity for the second bowl of rinsing water. It is a curious fact that women will insist on three rinses for their "smalls" and for their hair—I do not think there is a woman who would shampoo her hair and use only one basin of water; she would have at least two rinses—and yet it is common to find only one bowl of soapy water used for washing the household dishes. After they are washed with hot water and detergent even a rinse in running water under the tap makes a great difference to the dishes. Little hints like that could be given by the Minister in some of the advertising space which he still occupies, and in the schools a campaign to lay stress on the necessity for constant washing of the hands might help the cleaner food campaign.

2.5 p.m.

Dr. Hill (Luton)

With the remarks that the hon. Lady for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) made in the later part of her speech, the whole House will agree. It has been behind most of the speeches made today that this is essentially a matter of public education with particular reference to the food handlers. I shall not follow her in some of her earlier suggestions, during which she seemed to combine what might be quite a wholesome prejudice in relation to the fingertips of others with the suggestion that it was to reduce the danger of food poisoning with which she was primarily concerned.

There has been a danger from time to time in the debate of our regarding cleanliness as exactly related in an opposite sense to food poisoning. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) described—how he got the information I do not know—what happens in certain public houses in which the washing-up water is in danger of being mixed with the beer. He condemned that on aesthetic and health grounds. The point I want to make is that there is much in cleanliness which is desirable on aesthetic, social and appetising grounds and there is much in uncleanliness which interferes with the proper enjoyment of food, but there is much in uncleanliness which has nothing to do with the problem of food poisoning.

It is as well that we look first at the general problem of cleanliness with all its social and medical implications and, secondly and differently, at the problem of food poisoning. It filled one hon. Member with horror to see barrow boys pushing their food around London and leaving a litter of paper behind. Other hon. Members have found it impossible to understand why the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) did not refer to the contamination of meat. Another hon. Member interrupted the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), to ask about the wrapping of bread, clearly expecting a vehement condemnation of unwrapped bread. The truth of the matter is that there are considerations of cleanliness, desirable in themselves and related to many aspects of life, which have nothing to do with the problem of food poisoning, and we must narrow the problem in order to get the emphasis right.

I should dislike more than most the admixture of washing-up water with beer. I dislike to see a loaf that has fallen in the road. It dismays me to see flies wandering from fish to fish, crowding there perhaps because of the inadequacy of raw material for their activities in the butchers' shops. Those things are highly undesirable, but the plain fact is that meat or fish which has been cooked at a high temperature and is promptly eaten is safe and does not cause food poisoning.

I should, therefore, like to dwell for a few moments upon what seems to me to be the most important point, the body of knowledge which, in an attractive form, has to be conveyed to the public. The first point is to distinguish between uncleanliness and danger in relation to food poisoning. The second point I would stress is that we must get out of the old idea of imagining that the article which smells is necessarily the article which is dangerous. On the contrary, some of the safest and most delightful forms of food have an odour which, at least in my household, is found to be most discouraging by most of the members, if not by the one who enjoys these particular cheeses. The thing that crawls, the thing that is alive, the food that is high, is not necessarily dangerous. Indeed, it is wise to stress the fact that for the most part the foods which are in a contaminated state are, to all outward appearance, untouched. They do not smell, they are not necessarily discoloured, they usually look as do other foods.

It is as well, too, to get this perfectly plain: that the danger is in respect of some foods. It is no good our wandering around the shelves of the grocer's shop and attacking him for putting his tea next to his soap or fire-lighters. It may be that the fragrance of one will pass to the other and may cause a change of flavour and a lack of appetite, but it will not cause food poisoning. So let us separate the aesthetic considerations from those which are mainly medical.

The hon. Members who moved and seconded this Motion, in what seemed to me to be unusually valuable and comprehensive speeches, said that, in the first place, it is milk products of all kinds which represent a danger. In the second place an even greater danger is provided by the made-up dish, particularly the meat patty, the meat pie, the brawn which has been made up and left about. What happens is that germs, liking particular kinds of food and seeing the opportunity presented by such uncovered food being left around, take advantage of the opportunity in their search for food, warmth and moisture. Reference has been made to duck eggs, uncooked salads, shell fish and the like, but it is worth considering that recently cooked and well-cooked food is generally without danger. It is the food which has been left about, usually preparations and dairy products, which represents the greater danger. Food that is cooked over-night and subsequently warmed up is food which, if left uncovered. may have become contaminated.

Another point is that we must not exaggerate the value of refrigeration in this matter. What cold does, in the form in which the refrigerator can apply it, is to suspend the activities of the offending germs, but when the foodstuffs in which those germs reside are withdrawn from the refrigerator, as they become warmer so any germs they contain return with energy unabated to their former activities.

We need to stress the role of the individual. True, there is disease which finds its way to foodstuffs because the animal is diseased, but I am regarding that as outside the scope of our present discussion. For the most part, the agency is that of flies or fingers and, as we cannot convict the fly for all our troubles, we should lay stress on the fingers. The people of this country, at home as well as in canteen kitchens—for everything that has been said today applies to the home as well—have to realise that disease which is carried in the bowel, in the nose and throat and on the infected skin can be imparted to certain kinds of foodstuffs and via those foodstuffs, and can lead to disease in hundreds of persons originating from a single individual. And so we have to get down to the simple teaching that not only is unguarded coughing and sneezing a danger to the community generally, but that the person with an infection of the nose and throat, through sneezing or coughing or even talking loudly over such foodstuffs, is in danger of spreading that condition.

Much has been said about washing up. The hon. Member for Barking said there had been no research on it, but a distinguished piece of research was done in Oxford on the subject, and most hon. Members of this House have been conducting research on the subject in the last few years, even if it is only research in discovering an excuse to avoid participation in that domestic exercise. It is worth emphasising that it has now been established clearly that if the washing is done in a detergent followed by hot water and not followed by the drying process—not followed by rubbing with a tea towel that has been used before and has been drying in the kitchen—then the washing up is really successful. There is not a great deal of knowledge on this, but it may well turn out that inadequate washing up may be playing quite a big part in the spread of food infections. So I believe there is sufficient material for the Department to urge a particular technique of washing up. And as that technique involves leaving out that part of the washing-up process in which hon. Members of this House usually find themselves involved, it is something we can advocate with unusual fervour.

So, whatever may be done by laws or regulations—and those who have studied the modern by-laws of the Ministry and the report of the Working Party will find a wealth of opportunity for legislative zeal—and while I have no doubt that structural considerations play an immense part. I believe that the most valuable thing which could go out from this debate today is that the problem is a restricted one. There is no further need to be put off one's victuals by generalized scare talk. The problem arises for the most part from careless or ignorant conduct on the part of food handlers. Food poisoning can be prevented. An example of what can be done in this field passed almost unnoticed the other day when in this House a reply was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) on the subject of diphtheria immunisation and diphtheria deaths. But prevention can only take place by convincing people of the dangers and by convincing them that it is personal conduct which solves the problem.

Today it is much easier to engage in such propaganda with candour and with frankness than it was some years ago. In the early 40's, I was Chairman of the Central Council for Health Education, to which reference has been made. In consultation with the Government we decided to conduct a campaign, the slogan of which was simply, "Always wash your hands after using the W.C." The advertisements were prepared and were sent to the newspapers. The Scottish national newspapers accepted them without question but not the newspapers of this country. They, through the Newspaper Proprietors Association, rejected the advertisements in toto.

I went with a deputation to meet the distinguished representatives of the national newspapers. We made our case. Their reactions followed. I can remember the distinguished representative of "The Times" telling us that the readers of that excellent newspaper always washed their hands after using the W.C.—an assertion which he did not proceed to prove. I can remember being told that the British newspaper was something which should, when it goes on the breakfast table, contains only material that everybody could read. My retort that breakfast time was the most appropriate time for consideration of that slogan was coldly received. I have to report that the result was that the national newspapers, including the Sunday newspapers, declined to publish that advertisement.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)

Not even the "News of the World"?

Dr. Hill

I am not criticising them because, as the war went on and other considerations appeared, they even went as far as to accept that most frank of all campaigns relating to venereal disease. Simply expressed—and the Ministry of Food have ample experience of simple expression, working with inadequate means—and related to individual conduct and to the real dangers of food poisoning, not giving expression to views about how to drink one's beer, to swallow one's tea or to paint one's nails, I am certain that the people of this country will grasp the significance of it, and when they do, I am certain that at least 5,000 and possibly 6,000 lives a year will be saved—and a mass of unrecorded, unreported pain, inconvenience and general disturbance to social and other life prevented.

2.22 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

I am not sure whether it is always safer for a layman in these matters to follow a professional expert or to precede him, but I wish to say, at the outset, that I find myself, for what it is worth to the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), in considerable agreement with him. The fact is that there is a distinct limit to what can be achieved in this particular field by legislation and by legislation alone.

We need to say that certain things shall be but it is more difficult, in the sphere of food handling, to make quite sure that the intentions to give legislative effect are, in fact, carried out. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Dr. Stross) made what I thought was a crucial point when he said that this problem was one of legislation, education and co-operation and made it quite clear that he did not put legislation in the first category. I would be quite satisfied if I could be sure that existing legislation. with all its defects, was being universally observed without bothering at the moment whether any further legislation is required.

The other point with which I find myself in considerable agreement is that local authorities are probably the best agents for education and propaganda in this respect. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Captain Field) made some reference to the excellent voluntary efforts of various food guilds. not only in Hammersmith. but in other parts of the country. I would like to refer to the experience we have in Lambeth of the operations of the Lambeth Clean Food Association. The difficulties to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred in the case of Hammersmith could, I think, have been overcome had the traders' food guild in Hammersmith not set their standards as high as apparently they did.

We in Lambeth have been content to establish a Clean Food Association which does not require more than the standards already imposed by Parliament on people dealing with food. Once we try to approach a standard very much higher than the statute requires, it would be possible for one business member of the Association to interfere with the affairs of another. In Lambeth, we have got over that problem by first deciding that the standard should be what is already statutorily required and the Association in Lambeth have been careful so to frame their rules as not to go beyond what the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, already stipulates. All that the code seeks to establish is that the facilities provided by the management shall be used properly by the staff and that both management and staff shall do their best to ensure the clean handling of food throughout the activities of the business concerned.

The important factor about this Association is that it is in no way subject to the control of the local authority. The majority of the members of the executive, 14, are representatives of the different food trades involved. This is provided for by the articles of association. They include two representatives of food trade employees and representation on the executive committee ensures that the consumer angle is not completely overlooked. The Medical Officer of Health of Lambeth takes a keen interest in the work. A great deal of useful work still remains to be done without any additional expense to the Government and without necessarily the introduction of further legislation which would have to be of a somewhat complicated and detailed character, entailing methods of enforcement which, possibly, are not at the disposal either of the Ministry of Food, or of the Ministry of Health.

It is opportune that only a day or two ago the Report was issued of the Catering Trade Working Party on Hygiene in Catering Establishments. It would be too much to expect my hon. Friend to make a pronouncement on this document or to make any statement as to what the Government or his Ministry intend now to recommend. Naturally, he and his advisers have not had full opportunity of deciding what shall be done, but quite a number of recommendations put forward by this working party will involve legislation and that is not so important for the moment as it is to ensure that the normal standards which ordinary people observe—if they only take the trouble to think about them—should be observed in the food trade.

Earlier an hon. Member opposite tittered when my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central mentioned that there had been an outbreak of food poisoning in a hospital. If there is only one careless member of the staff it is the easiest thing in the world for even the most reputable hospital to be subjected to what the outside world would regard as a disgrace of food poisoning on their premises. Only a short while ago, in a hospital of the highest possible repute in my constituency, there was, unfortunately, an outbreak of food poisoning which was the subject of a report to the Lambeth Borough Council. All told 27 persons were involved, 13 patients, five nurses, a ward maid and two kitchen staff who had symptoms and six who had no symptoms.

How did this unfortunate outbreak occur? Much complicated investigation was necessary. I am assured by experts that it is by no means easy to track down the original source of the infection, because there are so many people who can be described as symptomless carriers—there may be people now sitting in the House who, without knowing it, are symptomless carriers. After hundreds of swabs had been taken and biological tests had been carried out on all kinds of people, it was finally discovered that two of the kitchen staff who were engaged in the peeling of potatoes and the preparation of vegetables were found to be—and here I use technical language as I do not know how to express it in layman's language—excretors of typhimurium. Two or three hon. Members will know what I mean.

Dr. Stross

It means that the trouble is caused by the contamination of food—as a rule in the excreta of a mouse, and then from food to the human being—by a bacillus called bacillus aertrycke, which causes gastro-enteritis.

Captain Field

Surely the point which my bon, and gallant Friend is making is the need for the medical inspection of food handlers, which would require legislation.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

That is so. If it is felt that there should be medical examination of all food handlers that would necessitate legislation of a somewhat major character. It would mean that many people who probably do not see why they should be so examined will be subject to a medical examination, and if found to be not up to the standard required would have to find other jobs. It may well be that as a result of that medical examination they would lose a good job and have to take some job at a much lower rate of remuneration.

There are difficulties in the matter because quite innocent people would find themselves directed, so to speak, out of their present job into some less remunerative occupation. That is a possibility. It is not an argument against a medical examination, but I mention it only as a possible consideration to show that while it is easy to say, "Let all food handlers be medically examined," there are implications and consequential results arising from that which the House should bear in mind.

Captain Field

Another point I should like to make, which might interest my hon. and gallant Friend, as a legal practitioner, is with regard to an adequate supply of water on premises which handle food. I believe the courts have held that if there is a gas stove, a kettle and a water tap on the premises that is regarded as complying with the requirement. Surely some kind of legislation would be required to secure a more accurate definition of an adequate supply of hot water.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

That is as may be, but questions on future legislation should be addressed not to me but to my hon. Friend who sits a few yards from me on the Government Front Bench. I hope that note will be taken of those valuable suggestions.

I have been diverted from what I was trying to say, and I should now like to revert to the point I had reached when my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central very kindly helped me out, as he no doubt helped other hon. Members. I was dealing with the case of the hospital in my constituency where two of the kitchen staff engaged in the peeling of potatoes and the preparation of vegetables were found to be carriers. As soon as that was discovered they were at once suspended from work. Unfortunately, if all that they had been doing was to peel potatoes and prepare vegetables for cooking that would have been all right, but in addition their duties also included the preparation of salads, which are not cooked or subject to any form of heating before being consumed. It was through a few leaves going into the salads of the hospital that this unfortunate outbreak occurred

I quote that illustration because it follows upon what the hon. Member for Luton said, and stresses the absolutely vital necessity—it is no exaggeration to put it in that way—of all persons handling food in whatever capacity, whether as housewives, or as waiters or kitchen hands in hotels or as kitchen hands in hospitals, to wash their hands after using the water closet and before resuming the work in which they are engaged. If, as a result of propaganda, or of this debate or of any other steps which this House sees fit to take, we could be absolutely certain that people wash their hands after going to the water closet that would in itself be a tremendous step forward.

That is one of the more important aspects of which the Lambeth Clean Food Association seek to undertake in connection with their work. If a firm applies for membership of the Association—and at the moment there are 144 members—it voluntarily agrees to accept what we call the code of practice. If a firm accepts that, subject to periodical examination of the premises by the medical officer of health or a sanitary inspector, it is given a certificate which can be displayed to prove that the firm has complied with the conditions of membership.

There are a dozen items or so of the code of practice to which a firm desirous of joining the Association must subscribe. I will quote from the first item: Hands and fingernails shall he scrubbed clean before commencing work, and after every visit to a sanitary convenience and as often as necessary That is made point No. 1 in the code. Then various other conditions and suggestions are made, such as a frequent change of overalls, no smoking while foodstuff is being prepared, and such similar things which leap immediately to the mind. But that is made the first point in the code of practice; and it is something we can reasonably ask of all people concerned in this important industry, without the necessity for further legislation.

Unfortunately, so many people do not realise the dangers which can arise. That is why I quoted the case which occurred in a hospital of the highest possible repute; to show how easy it is, through carelessness or ignorance, or through being in a hurry or something like that, to cause pain and suffering to an incredibly large number of people. Fortunately, this outbreak was not as serious as it might have been. All the cases were mild and there were no deaths. But it could easily have been otherwise, as my hon. Friends the Members for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) and Stoke-on-Trent, Central would agree.

The House is greatly indebted to the hon. Members concerned for having moved and seconded this Motion. I hope that the discussion today will have some influence upon public opinion, because it is public opinion that counts. If we can have a clean food association in every town and village in the country, if the general public will buy only from those shops that have a certificate obtainable in a voluntary way through their own local traders committee, we shall have made a considerable step forward.

2.42 p.m.

Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)

The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) has mentioned certain standards which it is necessary to maintain and made some useful suggestions which I hope will get great publicity. But what is in the minds of all hon. Members today is the best way of putting into operation the many suggestions that have been made. We are agreed that there is much to be done, but what steps should be taken? Do we want more legislation? Do we want to insist on the present legislation being strictly enforced? Do we want a publicity or educational campaign, or what do we want?

I wish to make a suggestion which I believe the Government could carry out almost at once. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton mentioned expense, and the suggestion I propose to make may involve a little expense. I hope, however, that it will be thought worthy on economic grounds, because in the long run it will save much money through the prevention of illness, and soon. What has become clear during this debate is that most of the food poisoning has increased in direct ratio to the increase in the number of catering establishments. So it is to those that we should pay particular attention. The Government already have a "basinful" in the Working Party's study of hygiene in catering establishments, and I think they will be able to act on a great many of the valuable suggestions contained therein.

But the fact remains that dirty hands are the chief cause of most of the trouble. In order to get rid of dirty hands, we must have wash basins, especially near the lavatories, and also, if possible, in the kitchens, so as to encourage people to use them as much as possible. We must have clean towels. In many cases roller towels are used. Hon. Members who have boys at school will know that when washing their hands boys generally take off most of the dirt with the towel instead of in the wash basin; so that the dirt on the towel is handed on to the next person who uses it. In this House we have an excellent continuous roller towel machine to which we just give a tug and get a clean towel. That is one of the things to be encouraged, and I believe that the Government could encourage it by reducing the Purchase Tax on the utensils needed for keeping hands clean.

I have been looking up my Purchase Tax book. It is an involved affair. I find that baths and basins, apparently, are not charged Purchase Tax, but many of the things that go with them are—towel rails, soap holders, liquid containers and many other et ceteras; even soap itself. One hon. Lady mentioned the lack of soap on railway trains. No doubt the railway authorities have to pay Purchase Tax on their soap which helps to put up the cost of the British Railways. If the Government relieved of Purchase Tax these things which are absolutely essential to ensure clean hands, they would be taking a very important step in the right direction Another thing needed for clean food is modern, hygienic kitchens. We have to buy cupboards and sinks and refrigerators. All these, or most of them, are subject to tax, and with the cost of living going up, people are deterred from buying the things necessary for keeping food cool and for producing it in a healthy state for the public to eat.

I wish to refer to washing-up because constituents in my division have drawn my attention to the kind of washing-up in some public houses. Most of the best conducted public houses are run extremely well, but in others one finds glasses being pushed into a little pail of water under the counter. That is all they seem to get. I think the worse cases occur only in the rush hour, because there is not time to wash the glasses properly. Another reason is the shortage of tumblers. If they could be washed in the next room, and if there were an ample supply, tumblers would not be just rinsed through in the rush hour, as they are at present. So I suggest to the Government that they do their utmost to provide more tumblers in the public houses so that there is sufficient time for the used ones to be washed properly.

I have learned a lot today and have been most interested. Many useful suggestions have been made, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of the two I have made—reducing the Purchase Tax on those utensils used in the promotion of cleanliness and producing more glasses for public houses, so that it is possible for them to be washed adequately.

2.49 p.m.

Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)

In the time I have been in the Chamber, I have heard a great deal about contacts between carriers of various diseases and food: but I wish to refer to an aspect of this great problem which has not yet been referred to today, or at least not in my hearing, and that is the general control of dogs. Yesterday the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) referred to damage done by uncontrolled dogs on sheep farms, and from my experience on the Kent County Council I can say that he well sustained his case.

In answer to a Question put by me last Monday, the Minister of Transport indicated that in one year no fewer than 2,187 cases of death or personal injury were caused by uncontrolled dogs on the roads. We might say that the Minister of Transport gave a very nebulous reply. He suggested that he intended to put in with the dog licence a little leaflet giving certain advice on the control of dogs. There are two points about that. The principal offenders among dogs are ownerless or unlicensed. In any case, dogs cannot read.

I should imagine that the dog population has reached an all-time high level. As a political protagonist, I always say that that is due to the full employment policy of the Government and that people can now afford to keep animals as well as themselves, whereas before the war they could not even afford to keep themselves. Not only do people own more dogs now but, so far as they are owned by responsible people, they are more valuable dogs.

Mr. G. Williams

We will have to eat them soon.

Mr. Pannell

That is very much a matter of taste. I could very well imagine that hon. Gentlemen opposite would think that they were good food for, us on this side of the House but not for them. I refer particularly to uncontrolled dogs, not on the highways, but in the matter of food. Precautions could be taken to abate this problem immediately. I see no reason why dogs should be allowed in restaurants or in food shops. I have yet to be told by the medical fraternity whether dogs as well as human beings can be carriers of disease.

Dr. Stross

They can be carriers of a certain condition termed "hydatid disease," and the food contaminated is sometimes growing watercress, but they have to pass water on it first.

Mr. Hastings

One per cent. Of dogs can carry in their intestines salmonella germs which are dangerous to health and may cause diarrhoea.

Mr. Pannell

I take up the point mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) about green salads. I should like action to be taken to protect green salads in the food shops themselves. Nobody can fail to be disturbed about this subject. The reply by the Minister of Food recently, that he could not see that there was any purpose in excluding dogs from food shops, was just about as useful as the reply of the Minister of Transport on the subject of dogs and road accidents. It is useless to carry on a debate such as this and to have advertisements in the Press, yet at the same time to exclude a factor which is responsible for at least 25 per cent. of road accidents and nobody knows what percentage of the poisoning of foodstuffs.

Another interesting point mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton was that he took great pride in the fact that in his borough the clean food committee was run by the traders themselves. That is not always an advantage. I know of two cases where prominent traders of national repute refused to join a clean food committee if it was not run by the local authority. Apparently, they have more trust in the local authorities than in the local traders. The hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) spoke of the reluctance of the Press to publish simple advertisements about washing one's hands after one has been to the lavatory. I was rather surprised that he raised that matter. I am open to correction, but I think that 14 years or so ago the British Medical Association were concerned in a clean milk campaign. They wished to advertise, but they came up against the vested interests of the milk trade. The newspapers came down heavily on the side of the milk trade and the advertisements were not published. That reinforces the claim which is often made that there should be some general control of the Press.

I am surprised at the number of letters I have received about the control of dogs. I have had some hundreds of letters, and it is rather curious that none of the sentimentalists has weighed in with the old argument that the dog should have its freedom. I do not think that dogs should have any more freedom in the realm of foodstuffs than that which is expected by any decent human being.

2.57 p.m.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Angus, North and Mearns)

Nearly 400 years ago a Dutch merchant from the town of Delft discovered through his microscope what he described as little animals more numerous than all the people of the Netherlands and moving about in a most delightful manner. We know now that these "little animals"—germs, as we call them nowadays—can carry infection which causes disease and poisoning; that a common form of transmission of disease is in the preparation and sale of food; and that contaminated food causes poisoning which can be prevented by hygienic food handling. There, in a sentence, is the justification for this debate, which was so ably opened by the two doctors from the opposite side of the House.

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) that there really is not an enormous amount that can be done by legislation. A certain amount can be done. The initiators of the debate, particularly the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), indicated certain action which could be taken by legislation, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks) advocated his own little Bill for the amendment of Section 15 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, which I think would be most admirable if it could be adopted by the Government.

But in our basic legislation we have the framework of almost all we need. We have it in the Food and Drugs Act, with the complementary legislation in respect of meat and milk, and in the regulations which are based on those Acts, and in the model by-laws which have been adopted by so many local authorities, and in various food hygiene schemes such as were initiated by the borough of Guildford and are now adopted in the case of the borough of Lambeth and other places. There we have the framework upon which this kind of food hygiene can be improved.

Generally speaking, the solution of our problems would seem to lie in the encouragement of local authorities to take advantage of the powers that are already in existence, in securing the cooperation of food traders and of caterers in carrying through the application of the model by-laws and so on, and, as so many hon. Members have said, in the education of those who handle food in this country. It is not without interest that in Norway and Sweden, which have, deservedly, such a high repute for their standard of food hygiene, the general methods and the administration of food laws are very much like our own. Those countries have a general Act, drawn in very wide terms, and powers to local authorities to enforce the provisions of that Act. There, as here, the central Government acts mainly in an advisory capacity.

I think the trouble in this country was pointed out by Doctor E. K. Macdonald in an address to the conference on food and drink infections which was held at the end of August last year and was attended by over 600 representatives from 400 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Dr. Macdonald pointed out that although the Food and Drugs Acts, and the regulations under those Acts, give us nearly all the powers we want, most local authorities are not making full use of their existing powers. I am sure that what we want today, as many speakers have said, is to follow a course of persuasion rather than prosecution. Excellent work is being done by food hygiene guilds and clean food associations. They provide the incentive of a badge or certificate which can be prominently displayed. It is issued on the inspection of the premises by the local authorities and has to be renewed annually.

I want to refer also to Scotland and to follow what the noble Lord the Member for Inverness (Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton) said earlier in the debate. He spoke about the unclean and unhygienic condition of some food in transit. I want to ask particularly that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in conjunction with his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland, should look into the question of the transit of meat after slaughtering from some of the slaughter-houses in Scotland.

I have had brought to my notice many cases of the use of contractors' lorries which are extremely unclean and which have been used, in some cases, for carrying bags of lime. That in itself may not be a harmful substance, but lorries with very unclean floors are being sent straight from jobs like that to the slaughter-houses to take carcases to the food centres. Often a man with quite unclean boots gets among the carcases to pull them out of the lorry. These are examples of things that happen perhaps more in the countryside than in the town and I am sure that they are important in connection with this problem.

This has been a long debate and I do not wish to prolong it. I only add that for my part I welcome the debate and I am sure that we are all indebted to the hon. Member for Batley and Morley for raising the subject.

3.4 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Frederick Willey)

I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who moved and seconded this Motion. In case the House itself may be too modest, may I say what an enjoyable and helpful debate this has been, from all quarters of the House, and that it will be of valuable assistance to all those concerned at the moment in trying to ensure more cleanly handling of food?

I have been asked to see that a good many things shall be done. I have been asked in some cases to be unduly restrictive. I have been asked to chase dirty dogs out of shops and to discourage ladies from painting their finger nails. However, I shall not succumb to that temptation to be too restrictive. I agree with those many Members who said that the question of clean or safe food is one which depends largely on the co-operation and helpful assistance of people within the industry and a lively sense of the problem and its dangers.

This is the problem as it appears broadly. According to the Annual Reports of the Ministry of Health, the number of food poisoning outbreaks has increased from 422 in 1945 to 964 in 1948. Or, if we look at another set of figures—because food poisoning is a notifiable disease—the number of individual cases increased from 6,063 in 1949 to a provisional figure of 7,480 in 1950. We may say that this is partly due to improved diagnosis, and no doubt that is so, but it does not relieve us of our responsibility in this matter. If we are more aware of the dangers of food poisoning, so much greater is the burden upon us to do all we can to prevent it.

On the other hand, we should be reasonable in considering this problem. We should not over-exaggerate the case. We have to remember the other side. As has already been said, and as is demonstrated by the Catering Trade Working Party's Report, there are in this country, a very large number of catering establishments—over a quarter of a million—serving a very large number of meals every day of every week. Over and above that, we have had an expansion of school feeding and other forms of communal feeding. Against this background the risk of food poisoning is infinitesimal.

If we look at the reports of the medical officers of health we see that although perhaps scores of cases of alleged food poisoning are referred to, they must be viewed against the background of millions of meals served. For example, in the annual report for 1948 of the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Westminster it is stated that there were 3,000 catering establishments in Westminster serving over 360 million meals a year, and that during 1948 only 106 cases of alleged food poisoning had to be investigated. As my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley said, we have to strike a reasonable balance. We must recognise that, by and large, we have every reason to be proud of our catering industry.

Comparisons have been made. I think that if we compare ourselves with other countries, we need not be ashamed of the safeguards we make in this country. At the same time, food poisoning is unpleasant, and occasionally dangerous, and if it is avoidable every one of us should do everything possible to see that it is avoided.

As has been said, we are not newly aware of this problem. A good deal has been done in the past. We rely very largely on the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. In the last Parliament, in 1949, the then Minister of Food issued his model by-laws affecting the handling, wrapping and delivery of food and the sale of food in the open air, affecting incidentally all sections of the food trade. Today we can say that those model bylaws have been adopted by no fewer than 1,100 local authorities.

Again, during the last Parliament the Catering Trade Working Party and the Manufactured Meat Products Working Party were set up, and, as the House knows, those Working Parties have recently made their Reports. Thus, we have the position today that there is a good deal of power in the hands of local authorities which they can use to ensure the cleaner handling of food, and more than that—and this is a point which so many hon. Members have stressed—we have today a much greater volume of information and knowledge about the food trade.

I cannot deal with all the points which have been raised, but I am not trying to evade them and I assure hon. Members that if I do not deal with any points this afternoon, I will, as far as possible, deal with them by correspondence. Nevertheless, I want to deal with some of the broad issues which we must now consider. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley asked me to give him an assurance that the Government would proceed to the registration of catering establishments. Let me say, first of all, that this concept of registration is not new. Provision was made in Section 14 of the Food and Drugs Act,1938,and,so far as I know, the registration of the ice cream industry and the meat manufacturing industry is accepted as a desirable thing by the trades concerned, and a system of registration has worked effectively.

The Catering Trade Working Party, which included representatives from all sections of the catering industries, unanimously recommended that the premises of all catering establishments should be registered by the local authority. They went on to recommend that all catering establishments in existence at the time of registration should be accepted for registration. But we have to recognise that there was a difference of view on the Working Party about the type of registration. Although perhaps the most important factor is that the whole of the Working Party agreed to recommend that there should be registration, nevertheless, at the same time we have to take note of the fact that there was this difference of opinion about the type of registration. Indeed, in the course of this debate many different points of view have been expressed about registration. Reference was made, for instance, to whether we should seek more specific provisions than those at present provided under Section 14 of the 1938 Act. When we talk of the different requirements in connection with standards, we must remember that all those are matters which, in turn, affect the question of registration.

Earl Winterton

May I put one point to the Parliamentary Secretary at this stage? Some speakers, and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), have suggested that we are concerned here only with food poisoning. Of course, that is not what the Motion says; it deals with food cleanliness. I hope the hon. Gentleman will deal with that aspect of the subject—he is now referring to it—for, obviously, if the standard of cleanliness in public establishments dealing with food in this country is lower than that abroad, the tourist trade, for example, will suffer.

Mr. Willey

I am obliged to the noble Lord for his intervention, which gives me an opportunity to say that I do not dissociate the issue of food poisoning from the issue of food cleanliness. Quite apart from safeguarding ourselves from food poisoning, we are endeavouring to establish decent standards of living.

I was calling the attention of the House to the fact that, although the Catering Trade Working Party were unanimous in their general recommendation, there are different points of view about the type of registration, and a good deal of what has been said about premises and practices affects this question. I am sure the House would agree that it would be discourteous and unfair of me to express any point of view so early after the issue of the Report. What, of course, we must do is to await the views of the representatives of the various sections, management and workers, of the industry, and the views of the local authorities and of the general public, and, in the light of those representations, come to a decision about what is the most desirable course to follow.

My hon. Friend also asked me whether I could make any statement about the intentions of the Government regarding a code of practice—whether it was our intention to make codes of practice for the catering industry enforceable. Again, it is far too early to give any such assurance. I think the House should know that in this case there appears to be quite a difference of opinion between the two Working Party Reports. The Report on the Manufacture of Meat Products does not take the same view as the Report on the Catering Industry. In paragraph 87 of the Report on Meat Products, the Working Party say: We regard a code of practice as being additional to legislation, as, in our opinion, there are certain matters which can best be covered by legislation and others which, in existing circumstances, may be more appropriately dealt with in a code of practice. They go on to say that The observance of a code of practice does not rest upon penal sanctions but on the integrity of the individuals subscribing to it, and its successful application would depend upon the way in which it was introduced. The co-operation of all persons engaged in the preparation of meat products would have to be secured, and instructions in the code should form part of the education of all concerned. That is a different concept from that taken by the catering Working Party, who put forward two codes, a standard code and a target code. They make it quite clear that the target code should not be enforceable in any way but would be no more than a guide. However, so far as the standard code is concerned, they do suggest that, "so far as legally practicable," the code should be enforced. This, in itself, is not an easy concept, but I think that, quite apart from that, we have to recognise that at present there are before us two different points of view, affecting, it is true, two different sections of the food industry, and that it is far too early to be dogmatic about this question. Again, we have to allow this to be the subject of discussion and representation, and against the background of that discussion and representation to try to make the most sensible and reasonable decision, because whatever decision we take on these matters, in so far as it is possible we should carry the food industry with us.

A third matter that has been raised and frequently referred to is the question of medical inspection and allied questions. What further steps should be taken to control infection? Well, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, in fact asked me to say no more—and I am much obliged to him for his moderation—than that I would consult with the Health Department. That I shall be very happy to do. This, again, is not an easy problem. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, himself implied that it would not be easy to do this at the moment. It is true that medical inspection is carried out, for instance, regarding workers in water works, for the very good reason referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), but we have to realise that there are only, I believe, about 6,000 workers in the water works of this country, but that in the catering industry alone there are 700,000 workers and of these 700,000 workers quite a number are casual workers. The cases are not at all comparable. It must be realised, with this very large number of workers in this very large industry, that whilst we have to take those steps which we consider reasonably necessary, we must at the same time avoid taking steps which would be quite impracticable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley referred to a firm which has issued a very attractive and useful booklet on this subject. This particular firm insists upon medical inspection, and carries out periodic inspections. I hope that their example will be followed by other similar firms, because we may then get some experience upon which to work to see how effective such medical inspection is and how far it insures us against the spread of infection.

Another matter raised is that of washing up—something in which I personally am quite experienced. In the catering industry washing up is a vital industrial operation. In this large industry it is a matter of considerable importance to ensure that washing up is carried out as effectively as possible. I agree with the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) that some work has been done in this country on this subject. As a matter of fact, it was my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) who referred me to this work. What interested me particularly in looking at the reports of the Public Health Laboratory Service was the very willing co-operation of all those consulted. As the reports say, not only did the management and workers welcome the investigation, but they were very keenly interested in knowing what the results were, which shows that the interest in clean food is there.

As I have said, there is now some knowledge available and we must seriously consider how we can convey this knowledge to those quarters in which it will be most effective. Incidentally, it is a matter to which a considerable amount of attention is paid in the Catering Trade Working Party Report, which makes a recommendation not altogether dissimilar from that made in another context by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). They suggest that either a suitable committee already in existence or a new standing committee should advise on standard methods of washing up, about detergents and that sort of thing, and give general advice. In general, I think the House would expect me to say no more than this, that we are all very greatly obliged to the chairman and the members of the two Working Parties, and we recognise that they have contributed very substantially to our knowledge about the food industry, and it is incumbent upon us all, whether we speak for the industry or for the consumers, to do what we can to hammer out the problems they have raised and to come to reasonable, practical conclusions.

The third point about which my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley asked me, and about which most hon. Members have spoken, is that of educational activity. Let me say at once that upon this we accept all the encouragement we can get. Of all matters, clean food, I think, is one which cannot be solved without a good deal of educational activity. I have felt time after time that we must be very careful in our attitude towards the conduct of people in this industry, because very often they do things which they do not think are at all dangerous. In fact, very often, they may not have reason to believe that they are dangerous. Until practices which spread food infection are widely known and appreciated, it will remain difficult to ensure that further regulations or legislative changes made will be effective.

The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) very properly said that we should not concentrate only on the catering industry. I agree, but it is not only the catering industry which is acutely aware of the necessity for the safe and cleanly handling of food. I noticed recently that the Retail Fruit Trade Federation have taken a special interest in clean food and have said that they believe that the clean food campaign is an item of first-class national importance. Several of the retail food trade national associations have formed a food hygiene liaison committee. On the workers' side, the various unions in the food industry, and the Trades Union Congress themselves have been most helpful in spread- ing knowledge of the dangers of food poisoning and the necessity for ensuring clean food among their members. The T.U.C. recently issued a very helpful pamphlet.

Both the Working Parties' Reports emphasise this matter. The Catering Working Party suggest that the industry should set up an information centre. Local authorities are most co-operative. We have had a remarkable response in so soon getting 1,100 local authorities who have adopted the model by-laws. Food guilds in various forms are equally helpful. I cannot agree with the approach made by the hon. and gallant Member for Paddington, North (Captain Field). I do not regard the food guilds as bodies primarily concerned with enforcing discipline. In any case, a new factor has arisen now that the proposal has been made by the Working Party that there should be registration. I regard the essential and major task of the food guilds, food councils and similar bodies to be that of spreading knowledge and information about the dangers of food poisoning and encouraging clean habits in the food industry.

I equally welcome the action that has been taken by the St. John's Ambulance Association. All those are voluntary expressions of assistance in overcoming something which is recognised as unpleasant and largely avoidable. These bodies have had and continue to have valuable assistance from the Central Council for Health Education, of which the hon. Member for Luton was at one time the distinguished chairman, and whose work was properly referred to as "magnificent" by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. Equally good work has been done in Scotland by the Scottish Council for Health Education. We are taking every step we can to encourage educational activity of food hygiene. Soon we hope that we shall have ready and available to local authorities who are running clean food exhibitions a new, portable exhibit. In this and other ways we can help local bodies and associations to organise exhibitions and other activities. I believe that the debate itself will have helped a great deal in the essential work about which I have been talking. Much, however, still remains to be done.

I want to deal, in conclusion, with the suggestion made by the noble Lord that we should set up a committee to advise about those foodstuffs which are particularly dangerous. The point made by the noble Lord demonstrates the necessity for the educational activities I have been describing. There is no great difficulty in defining the main foodstuffs which are conveyors of the germs of food poisoning. The medical officers of health or the sanitary inspectors could give that information without difficulty and very readily. But it is clear that that information is not sufficiently widely known. I hope that the debate will not only have served the purpose of encouraging His Majesty's Government to consider any further action that may be necessary but will also have served to show that what is required above everything else is wider dissemination of knowledge about food poisoning—

Earl Winterton

And food cleanliness.

Mr. Willey

—and food cleanliness. and that the wider the knowledge, the sooner the time will come when we can speak in this House without fear of any unfavourable comparison even with a very limited number of countries.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That this House is of opinion that further steps should be taken by His Majesty's Government to encourage cleanliness in the preparation and serving of food in retail shops and catering establishments.

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