History Of Food Adulteration

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Mr. Frederick Accum was the very first person to raise the alarm regarding food adulteration. He was a German chemist who came to London in 1793 and quickly established himself as a chemical analyst, consultant and teacher of chemistry. By 1820 he became aware of the problem through his analytical work and this led him to publish.1 A treatise on adulterations of food and culinary poisons made him realize that the art of counterfeiting and adulteration had developed in England to such an extent that spurious articles of all kinds could be found almost everywhere, but he regarded that the adulteration of food and drink is a criminal offence. 'The man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the highway is sentenced to death', he wrote, but 'he who distributes a slow poison to the whole community escapes unpunished.2 Having tea and coffee had become quite popular in England but, on being imported, were costly and as the fashion spread cheaper varieties were required for the masses. Most of those were not genuine tea or coffee but were made to look like real by chemical treatment. While the adulteration of tea and coffee were fraudulent so those products were not as dangerous as some of the substances that were added in beer and porter (stout). Accum has described a substance called 'bittern' which was sold to brewers of bitter beer in huge quantities. A mixture of ground coriander seeds was also there, with Nux vomica and quassia, to impart bitterness to the brew. Since those poison’s sale was illegal under an Act of Parliament which was passed during the reign of George III, there weren’t any test to rely on for those vegetable poisons before the 1820s and so the law was not strictly and properly applied therefore only a few... ... middle of paper ... ...analysis, carefully recording the names and addresses of the vendors and the dates of purchase. He then did a detailed analysis of each sample and published the results in The Lancet as reports of the Analytical Sanitary Commission. Hassall analyzed the samples first with a microscope, and then with chemical tests as necessary. Before Hassall's time the microscope had been ignored as an analytical tool, but it proved invaluable for identifying foreign vegetable matter, living or dead insects, minute traces of adulterants, and crystals of foreign organic matter for which no chemical tests were available. Hassall's work showed that adulteration was the rule rather than the exception and that adulterated articles and goods were sold often as genuine. He was meticulous both in his scientific work and in accurately recording where and when the samples had been purchased
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