§ 17. Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food why sales of rock containing a carcinogenic agent were allowed to continue for a period of approximately two years after the danger to the public consuming the substance had been ascertained and an order prohibiting further manufacture had been made by his Department.
The Colouring Matter in Food Regulations, 1957, prohibited the sale of food containing any colouring matter not scheduled in the regulations. For retail sales this prohibition came into force on 30th June, 1959. This was because the risk to health was not thought to be such as to require the destruction of existing stocks of food.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Is my hon. Friend aware that what concerns the public is more the question of what is and what is not allowed to be retailed to the public than the question of what is allowed to be manufactured and sold to the retailer? Further, is he aware that this appears to be a loophole in the existing regulations which is causing considerable concern?
§ Mr. Hale
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it has been widely reported in the Press that this mixture is liable to cause cancer, that it is an extremely injurious food and that it was so dangerous that the whole stock had to be destroyed, and yet the Minister had specifically authorised the continued use of this ingredient in sales of sweet meats to children over a period of two years after the Act was passed in order that it 15 should be possible to dispose of existing stocks without loss to merchants in the industry? Is that true or is it not true? I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that it was.
§ Mr. Speaker
That supplementary question is out of order, because, when analysed, it is inviting the Minister to confirm or deny some statement made in the Press. That is certainly out of order.
If my right hon. Friend's predecessor had thought at the time the Order was made that this colouring matter, which I think hon. Members have in mind, constituted a danger to health, special prohibitions would have been provided for. I think that my hon. Friend's Question has a bearing on a case which is now before the courts, and, if hon. Members agree, I should prefer at the present moment not to say any more on the subject.
§ Mr. Rankin
Despite what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, is it not possible for him to assure the House that steps will be taken to ensure that when confections of this nature are put on sale they will be certified as being fit for human consumption?
If I understand the hon. Gentleman aright, he is thinking about a colouring matter which is prohibited.
I can assure the House that a sub-committee is further considering the question of colourings and additives, which we have permanently under review.