HC Deb 05 May 1958 vol 587 cc832-3
17. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that apples for sale in Coventry recently were found to be contaminated with arsenic and lead; and if he will make a statement on the report submitted to him from Coventry.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Richard Thompson)

Yes, Sir. This particular shipment, which was from the Lebanon, was sampled for analysis at Southampton on 12th March and the results were communicated as soon as possible to the local authorities concerned. I understand that the Lebanese authorities, to whom representations were made in February, have arranged for consignments of apples to be inspected before export.

Miss Burton

Will the Parliamentary Secretary look at that again from the viewpoint of his statement that the local authorities concerned were informed? Is he aware that the chief public health inspector in Coventry said that the inquiries had revealed that neither the local authority nor the wholesaler was aware that these apples were contaminated and that that was the reason for the submission of the report?

Mr. Thompson

Yes, Sir. The history is that on 15th March, on receiving the results of the analysis, Southampton port health authority notified the local authorities to whose areas consignments found to be contaminated had gone. Owing to a misdirection, Westminster City Council, which is responsible for Covent Garden, did not receive its letter until Tuesday, 18th March, after most of the apples had been further distributed. Birmingham City Council was informed the same day, and Coventry was informed on 20th March through Meriden Rural District Council.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the Parliamentary Secretary ask his right hon. Friend to make a statement concerning the possibilities of adulteration of vegetables and fruit from fertilisers and sprays in this country and abroad?

Mr. Thompson

That is another question, but no doubt my right hon. and learned Friend will take note of what the right hon. Lady has said.

Mr. Nabarro

They should have bought the apples in Worcestershire in the first place.