HC Deb 25 June 1951 vol 489 cc981-2
19. Mr. W. T. Aitken

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that boxes of sultana raisins imported by his Department from Turkey and sold to bakers and confectioners in Bury St. Edmunds, contained quantities of stones, nails, gramophone needles, string and other extraneous material; and what precautions officials of his Department will take to avoid a repetition of this occurrence.

Mr. Webb

In one of the cases referred to me by the hon. Member the fruit was unfortunately released, despite firm instructions to hold it because it was not fit for distribution. We do our best to minimise mistakes like this, but they are bound to occur from time to time, and I am sorry about this one. We are still making inquiries into the second case, and I will write to the hon. Member when they are completed. I should add, however, that these are relatively insignificant incidents against the general scale of our trading operations.

Mr. Aitken

Is the Minister aware that in a good many cases confectioners and bakers take the box of dried fruit which is marked "clean" and dump it straight into their mixture, and that but for extra precautions taken by the two firms I have mentioned these extraneous ingredients might well have been lethal to a number of people in Bury St. Edmunds? Is the right hon. Gentleman willing to send a notice to all the people who received these 28 lb. boxes asking them to exercise greater care in mixing them with food supplies?

Mr. Webb

I do not think it is necessary to send a notice to the trade. The trade are very co-operative in this matter, and do help us greatly. Incidents of this sort are very small. I do not want to under-estimate them, but it would be equally unwise to exaggerate them.

Mr. Baldwin

Could the Minister say whether this purchase of sultanas was a private transaction, or whether it was done through the Ministry of Food?

Mr. Webb

Not without notice.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Whether traders are co-operative or not, does the right hon. Gentleman not know precisely to which traders these Turkish goods were sent, and can he not circulate those traders and tell them that in the event of an accident or prosecution he would be able to indemnify them?

Mr. Webb

That is a much wider question. I have already authorised such steps as we now think are necessary to deal with this problem, and if it involves circularisation of that sort I am quite prepared to look at that.

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