HC Deb 24 January 1956 vol 548 cc13-4W
94. Viscount Hinchingbrooke

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in what circumstances a consignment of imported Chinese eggs, alleged to contain paratyphoid germs, was impounded in Weymouth recently, and declared to be Crown property; who were the importers of these eggs; and what action is being taken to investigate whether the importation, distribution and attempted sale of the eggs contravenes Acts relating to public health and the sale of food.

Mr. H. Nicholls

The consignment of frozen whole egg to which I presume my noble Friend refers was not impounded but was taken back at the request of the trader to whom it had been sold by my Department in accordance with its normal trading practice when a valid complaint is made about quality. The goods had been imported by my Department through the agency of private traders. There is no question of the importation distribution or sale of this egg-product contravening any Act of Parliament.

The facts are as follows. Last December the local Medical Officer of Health arranged for the sampling of a parcel of 80 tins of this product held in store in Weymouth. One tin was found to be infected with salmonella of the paratyphi variety and 10 other tins with other varieties. When the results of these tests became known, my Department took immediate steps to suspend the distribution of the remaining stock of the same type of pack included in the shipment from which the 80 tins were drawn. In addition, further issues of Ministry stock of the same type of pack from all other shipments have been suspended until arrangements can be made for the examination of all these packs before release. My Department has acted throughout on the advice of the Ministry of Health so far as concerns the public health aspects of the matter.

Special arrangements have been made with the public health authorities concerned to sample new consignments on arrival in this country, but the facts as at present known do not justify any wholesale condemnation of frozen whole egg or an embargo on sales. I am assured by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health that the local authorities will take any precautions that may be necessary where they have evidence of risk to the public health.