Food Poisoning, Policy, and Politics: Corned Beef and Typhoid in Britain in the 1960s

Front Cover
The problem of food poisoning and food-borne infections is currently one of vigorous debate, highlighted since the 1980s by numerous outbreaks and scares involving salmonella in lettuce and eggs, listeria in cheese, the links between vCJD and BSE, E.Coli 0157 in cooked meats, and foot and mouth disease. Yet, as this book shows, the various issues involved were important as early as 1963/4, when there were serious typhoid outbreaks in Harlow, South Shields, Bedford, and Aberdeen, traced to contaminated corned beef imported from Argentina. Based upon extensive research, using archives which have only recently become available, private papers, and interviews as well as secondary literature, the book analyses the course of the outbreak and looks at the responses of politicians, officials, health professionals, business interests, the media and the public. It also considers the difficult issue of the weighing of food safety against international trade and other business and economic interests; conflicts between government departments; rivalry between professionals such as doctors and veterinarians; the effects upon and influence of victims and local communities; and the conduct of and responses to an official enquiry. Overall, it draws out generic lessons for how such epidemics should be handled, adding an historical perspective to contemporary debates. vernment departments; rivalry between professionals such as doctors and veterinarians; the effects upon and influence of victims and local communities; and the conduct of and responses to an official enquiry. Overall, it draws out generic lessons for how such epidemics should be handled, adding an historical perspective to contemporary debates. vernment departments; rivalry between professionals such as doctors and veterinarians; the effects upon and influence of victims and local communities; and the conduct of and responses to an official enquiry. Overall, it draws out generic lessons for how such epidemics should be handled, adding an historical perspective to contemporary debates. vernment departments; rivalry between professionals such as doctors and veterinarians; the effects upon and influence of victims and local communities; and the conduct of and responses to an official enquiry. Overall, it draws out generic lessons for how such epidemics should be handled, adding an historical perspective to contemporary debates.
 

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A factual history on the side of the official action and statistics, as well as the causes and legal medical and industrial changes made as a result. The overview is of an epidemic which was according to the text, 'hushed up', so as, 'not to offend Argentina', a main meat exporter who's imports to Britain were significant. What is surprising is the widespread cases all over Britain, in view of the little known history. It is claimed there were no fatalities, but this is not verified convincingly, considering the number of victims in 1963- 4, alone. Individual case histories are not detailed, nor the extent of the infections and how bad. A valuable record which was long overdue (by decades). 

Contents

The 1963 corned beefassociated typhoid outbreaks in Harlow
38
The Aberdeen typhoid outbreak
58
The medical officer of health the media and the public in
96
Ministers officials and the Aberdeen typhoid outbreak
127
The Milne Committee of Enquiry
158
the priority of politics over
220
British action to encourage improvements in Argentine meat
253
Summary and conclusions and food safety since 1964
287
Recommendations of the Milne Committee
310
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Page 312 - Catering and Dietetics British Medical Association. Report of the Committee on Nutrition. 1950. Department of Health and Social Security, Welsh Office, Scottish Home and Health Department. Study of Work in Hospital Kitchens to Determine Staffing Ratios. Management Services (NHS) 7. (HMSO). 1973. Harris, Ann. A Textbook of Hospital Catering. (Barrie & Rockliff).

About the author (2005)

David F. Smith is Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Aberdeen University, Scotland.

H. Lesley Diack is Research Fellow at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

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