HC Deb 11 November 1954 vol 532 cc1468-75

1.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, no person shall sell, or offer or expose for sale, for human consumption—

  1. (a) any substance which resembles cream in appearance, but is not cream; or
  2. (b) any article of food containing such a substance,
under a description or designation which includes the word "cream (whether or not as part of a composite word).

(2) The foregoing subsection shall not apply to the sale, or offer or exposure for sale, of any substance being reconstituted or imitation cream as defined by this section, or of any article containing such a substance, under a description or designation which identifies the substance as such, or to the sale, or offer or exposure for sale. of any substance under a description or designation which indicates that the substance is not for use as, or as a substitute for, cream.

(3) In this section "reconstituted cream" means a substance which, not being cream, resembles cream in appearance and contains no ingredient not derived from milk, except—

  1. (a) water; or
  2. (b) ingredients (not added fraudulently to increase bulk, weight or measure, or conceal inferior quality) which may lawfully be contained in a substance sold for human consumption as cream;
and "imitation cream" means a substance which, not being cream or reconstituted cream, resembles cream in appearance and is produced by emulsifying edible oils or fats with water, with or without other substances not prohibited by regulations made for the purposes of this section under section three of this Act, or added in quantities so prohibited.

(4) For the purposes of this section, the description or designation under which a substance or article is sold, or offered or exposed for sale, shall be deemed to include the word "cream" if it includes any other word (composite or otherwise) which is calculated to lead a purchaser to suppose that the substance is or, as the case may be, the article contains either cream or a substance for use as cream.

(5) A person who contravenes subsection (1) of this section shall be guilty of an offence.

(6) It shall be the duty of every food and drugs authority within their area to carry into execution and to enforce the provisions of this section.

(7) Section twenty-nine of the 1950 Act shall cease to have effect.—[Dr. Hill.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Dr. Hill

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

In Committee the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) pleaded for a re-examination and rewriting of the Clause dealing with cream substitutes. We were glad to do so because of a number of defects in it with which I need not weary the House now. This new Clause does three things. It ensures that the word "cream," whether appearing alone or as part of another word, and even if spelt differently, shall not be used unless that substance is cream or reconstituted cream or imitation cream, as defined in the Clause.

Secondly it ensures that where the substance is either reconstituted cream or imitation cream it shall be so described. Thirdly, this applies not only to cream when sold as cream but to cream when it is sold with another substance as part of a composite article, when that substance resembles cream—as when used with strawberries and cream.

The purpose is to secure that "cream" means cream and that where imitation cream or reconstituted cream are used they shall be so described. The substance, the food, although described by words including "cream," such as "cream of tomato" or "cream cracker," is not affected if it does not resemble cream.

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

I am sure we are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary, not only for having kept their word but for having kept it so very well indeed. It must have been very difficult, finding a form of words to make it obviously a tedious job for anyone wishing to do so to deceive the public. With this new Clause as it is, I think we may rest assured that, as far as words can do anything, the public will be protected, and I am sure that we are very grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

I am afraid that I did not come into the Chamber in time to hear all the Minister's speech, and so I would ask him whether this new Clause applies to ice cream or at any rate cream of tartar.

Dr. Hill

Not in either case, because those substances do not physically resemble cream.

Dr. Stross

May we have it on record that "Bristol Cream" is for ever safe?

Dr. Hill

I am not familiar with the appearance of that fluid, but if it does not resemble ordinary cream in appearance it is not covered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill" —[Dr. Hill.]

Mr. Michael Higgs (Bromsgrove)

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause in subsection (1), to leave out or b) any article of food containing such a substance. The purpose of this Amendment is to deal with the sort of queries which hon. Gentlemen opposite have just been putting, and to make sure that subsection (1, b) does not do anything we would not wish to do. I have no quarrel with the first part of the new Clause, which deals with cream as such, cream that is sold in bottles as cream. I would support it wholeheartedly. I am, however, a little anxious about the effect of the new Clause in relation to articles of food which contain cream.

Let us try to read subsection (1) in a straightforward way, althought that is an almost impossible way to read any part of any Bill. It would read something like this: "No person shall sell any article of food containing a substance which looks like cream in appearance but is not cream, under a name which includes the word 'cream'."

7.0 p.m.

A number of things have already become associated in the public mind with the word "cream," and I want to know whether the sale of those products under the name of "cream" will be a criminal offence. The House must remember that we are now dealing not with a Clause which enables the Minister to make regulations but with the operative words themselves. We cannot later alter them, except by amending legislation.

I believe that hon. Members who have shown an interest in Bristol Cream Sherry or Highland Cream Whisky can rest secure in the knowledge that these things do not look like cream, but I have a little more doubt about the cream cracker biscuit, because presumably such a biscuit is made by mixing something and then cooking it; and after it has been mixed but before it has been cooked, it must look very much like cream. It is sold under the name of "cream," but it is not cream. I should have thought that a cream cracker biscuit which contained a mixture originally, perhaps, something rather like cream, might possibly be the cause of an offence against this Clause.

I am not so worried about that, however, as about such things as custard cream biscuits. They have a sandwich content and there is something in the sandwich which looks like cream. What about them? Surely we do not intend to, compel people to say, when they sell such a biscuit, "custard reconstituted cream biscuit," or "custard cream substitute artificial biscuit." Some horrible expressions might arise.

I may be told that if we buy such a biscuit from a good shop, the content in the middle of the sandwich will be solid and not liquid and, therefore, will not look like cream, but what about cream buns? Hon. Members must be familiar with this delightful confection which contains something which resembles cream. In some cases, if we pay a lot of money for it, then it will contain real cream; but, normally, if we go to a shop and ask for a cream bun or a cream slice we do not imagine, in the majority of cases, that we are getting dairy cream in the middle of the bun. Have we to call it a "reconstituted cream bun" or an "artificial cream slice"?

This House will not make the decision as to whether an article is offending against the law or not; that will be decided by the courts of law. The matter ought, therefore, to be made quite clear before we part company with this Clause. Salad cream is an article which everybody knows. Nobody expects salad cream to be cream when he buys it, but it looks like cream, and if the word "cream" is used in connection with it, then it seems to me that under the Clause an offence would be committed and we should have to think of some other name for salad cream in the future. If the House is to compel everybody who calls salad cream by that name to use another name in future, I think they should be told so before we pass the Clause.

I could mention a number of other items, such as cream milk chocolates or chocolate creams, as they are sometimes called. Nobody imagines that pure cream and nothing else is inside them. Consider "Kreemy Toffees"; I think the Clause would catch them. I do not know whether cream of tomato soup comes within the scope of the Clause. Nobody expects these commodities to contain pure cream and nothing else, and I think we should be told how they are affected by the new Clause.

The purchaser knows perfectly well, when he asks for salad cream, that he will get not cream but something quite different; and surely we could leave the matter to Section 3 of the 1938 Act. The dividing line between guilt and innocence under that Section is what the customer himself expected when the word "cream" was used. If he expects to get cream, then it is already an offence under that Act if he does not get cream, and he is protected. If he does not expect cream, then it is not an offence under that Act and this Clause ought not to catch that case, either.

We seem to be getting an awful lot of words meaning "something like cream"; we have cream itself, cream substitute, artificial cream, reconstituted cream and imitation cream, and we have seen the words "synthetic cream" on the Order Paper. There are an awful lot of ways of getting tummy ache.

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I will give the further example of "cream rice," which I understand is sold in great quantities, sometimes in tins. I believe it is made with nothing other than rice and milk.

I have had considerable experience of the great difficulties in seeking even minor changes in the written language, but the difficulties there are nothing compared with the difficulties of changing the spoken language. If members of the public are accustomed to using certain designations, it is hopeless for us to expect that, as a result of our passing an Act of Parliament, they will alter those designations. If they use those designations it will be wrong for the House to seek to make the sale of a commodity, in response to such a demand, an illegal action. I hope that the Minister will meet us on the Amendment.

Dr. Hill

In dealing with substances which resemble cream, there are some important words in the last few lines of subsection (2). The Clause does not apply to the sale, or offer or exposure for sale, of any substance … under a description or designation which … indicates that the substance is not for use as, or as a substitute for, cream. There are two criteria to apply to the substance which is not cream in the full sense; first, whether it resembles cream, and secondly, the qualification which I just read.

Let us apply those criteria to the various examples given. Everything depends on the example in question, but I should have thought that, in general, the cream cracker and the custard cream would not be regarded as containing a substance which resembles cream or a substance which was not covered by the proviso which I have just read. The cream bun, yes; let us be frank about it. It may be a bun which has as an obvious element, a substance resembling cream and the bun is described as a cream bun. It will have to be made plain, where such a substance is sold or offered for sale or exposed for sale, that the cream is cream or reconstituted cream or imitation cream.

It is agreed that it is desirable to take this action, in general, and if we admit that, then it is extremely difficult to exclude such articles as cream buns where the substance resembles cream very closely. Salad cream would be excluded, quite clearly, by the words which I read out. The description "cream of tomato soup" could surely be regarded as one which does not suggest that it is a substitute for cream. The same applies to cream of rice and cream of tartar.

I should be lacking in candour if I did not say that in the case of a cream bun or strawberries and cream there is a requirement to make it plain to the intending purchaser whether it is real cream or imitation cream or reconstituted cream.

Mr. Higgs

Will the Minister agree that not only must that be made clear in such words as "these buns contain artificial cream or substitute cream or reconstituted cream," but the buns must be sold under such a designation; they must be called, for example, "reconstituted cream buns."

Dr. Hill

That is a matter for the courts to decide. If these delicacies are unlabelled in the window, it might be sufficient if a notice appeared stating, "the cream in this establishment is reconstituted cream or imitation cream." That will be for the courts to interpret. The purpose of this Clause is to secure that, in fact, the substance in question is accurately described under one of the three headings.

This problem arose in the beginning through margarine being described as butter. Names resembling those applied to butter were used to describe it. In France they began to use quite a different word, and there has grown up the clear distinction between the terms butter and margarine. That may well happen in these cases, and there may come into use a word which implies that a substance has no resemblance to cream in any way.

Mr. Higgs

I think that the discussion on this Amendment has served its purpose, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Mitchison

That is vanishing cream.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.