HC Deb 19 March 1956 vol 550 cc819-20
30. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what quantity of orange juice has been disposed of by his Department because of deterioration since 1st January, 1954; to whom it was sold; how much it realised, and how this compares with the cost price; and what was the condition of the orange juice when sold by his Department.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. D. Heathcoat Amory)

About 520,000 gallons were sold because the juice contained preservative making it unsuitable for distribution under the Welfare Scheme. The price realised was £41,000. Payment to the suppliers amounted to £740,000. The condition of the juice varied considerably and the sales were made without warranty. It is not the practice of my Department to disclose the names of buyers.

Mr. Dodds

If this juice was not suitable for human consumption, why did the Minister sell it, as was done in the case of the condensed milk? Would it surprise him to know that plans are now well advanced for the sale of nine million bottles of orange squash to the general public? Why does not the Ministry of Food protect the public when this stuff, which is not fit for human consumption, is being sold?

Mr. Amory

I have no reason to suppose that this juice was not fit for human consumption. It was unsuitable for welfare use. [Laughter.] That is technically sound. I have no quarrel with the hon. Member for raising this issue, because these operations have led to a deplorable result, and he is quite right to be vigilant, but I hope that he will reserve a modicum of his indignation for his right hon. colleagues, because this orange juice was bought in the days of the Labour Government.

Mr. Hastings

In what way had the orange juice deteriorated? Had it lost vitamins? If so, is not this loss equally undesirable for adults as for children?

Mr. Amory

That is not my technical advice. I think the actual loss is undesirable, whatever the cause, but my technical advice is that this orange juice was not unsuitable for human consumption in any way.

Sir R. Boothby

Is any warning given to the public when they are invited to purchase deteriorated orange juice or do they, as it were, buy it blind?

Mr. Amory

My hon. Friend can quite safely drink any of this orange juice that he wishes to drink.

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