HC Deb 12 November 1951 vol 493 cc626-7
10. Mr. David Renton

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the danger to the health of human beings caused by the use of agene in the making of bread; and what steps he will take to bring this practice to an end.

Major Lloyd George

I am advised that there is no evidence that the use of this improver is harmful to human health. But in view of its effect on certain animals it has been agreed by the Departments concerned and the milling industry that its use should be discontinued as soon as practicable.

The choice of an alternative improver to agene is being urgently examined jointly by my Department, the Ministry of Health, the Medical Research Council and the milling and baking industries.

Mr. Renton

Would my right hon. and gallant Friend give some idea of what he means by "as soon as practicable"; and when he sees signs of hysteria in his fellow beings will he consider means of arresting it?

Major Lloyd George

The only hysteria I have heard of up to now is in dogs. Improvers of this sort have been used in this country for over 30 years. There is no danger at all, but its use is being discontinued, and something else is to take its place as soon as it is possible to get it.

Dr. Barnett Stross

Is the Minister aware that as far back as 1927 it was recommended, following a Departmental inquiry, that agene should no longer be used; and that we have had this type of stock answer for a long time and have not found it satisfactory? Is he also aware that the weight of evidence now is that agene combined with the protein of flour is toxic when applied to animals?

Major Lloyd George

I did mention animals. My experience is that we have had these ingredients in bread for some time. I have never found unanimity about it in the medical profession, and I have to be guided by my experts in this sort of thing. I do not think that I can go further now than to say that it is to be discontinued as soon as possible.

Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan

Has my right hon. and gallant Friend also consulted the Secretary of State for Scotland, who also has expert medical opinion at his disposal?

Mr. W. M. F. Vane

My right hon. and gallant Friend, like his predecessor, has referred to agene as an improver. Can he tell the House what improvement it is intended to bring about?

Major Lloyd George

So far as I can see—I have not been able to master all the technicalities of this matter in a short time—it improves the baking quality of flour.

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