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How Paris Beals with Food Adulteration., Issue 7915, 24 May 1889
How Paris Beals with Food Adulteration.
Among the many promises which General Boulanger made before his recent election was the one that if he came to power he would do away with the Paris Municipal Laboratory. This institution is most cordially detested by the Parisian shopkeepers, because its principal function is to detect adulteration in food and drink, and to hand over the offenders to punishment. Adulteration is most severely punished in France. In all cases conviction on a first offence entails a fine and imprisonment; convictions for repeated offences bring with them a loss of civil rights, besides other penalties. It is this loss of civil rights which makes the convict smart most. M. Girard is certainly the most unpopular man of Paris. He is the hMe noir of the grocers, wine dealers, and milkmen of Paris. Here are a few extracts from a report of a recent interview with him
“ You have been a good deal attacked of late ? ” —“ Yes, apropos of this election ; but not more than usually. It is natural enough that tho swindling tradesmen whom we have handed over to punishment should bear us a grudge, is it not ? It is a good sign ; and tho more we are attacked the more clearly is it proved that our institution is necessary for the public service, the public safety.” “These charges of blackmailing ? ” —“ Are about as serious as these anonymous letters, threatening me and my staff with all the terrors conceivable. Of these we get scores each week, and you see the importance I attach to them. I need hardly exculpate myself, I think ; but I will say that never since I left the institution of the laboratory in 1881 has a single in however humble a position, been convicted of connivance with fraudulent tradesmen —never once.”
“ Will you tell me something about the organisation of tho service?”—“Certainly. It is a double service. In the first place there are our official inspectors, twenty in number. Each of these inspectors has an allotted beat to go over each week, and it is his duty to enter any shop where he may suspect that adulterated goods are sold and to seize a sample. This sample lie divides into two equal parts. Each part is then and there sealed up under the eyes of the tradesman, who keeps one, while the inspector brings the other to the laboratory. This is to prevent any charge of substitution being made against the inspectors; and if, after an analysis of the sample brought us by our employd, the tradesman wishes it, his own sample can be analysed, provided always that the seal on the packet or bottle is found intact. As soon as the analysis and the counter-analysis, which is usually demanded, are completed, if the sample is found to be adulterated, a report is addressed to the Public Prosecutor, from whom the defaulting tradesman gets to hear. If it is a first offence he usually gets off with a fine of 50 francs, a week’s gaol, and costs. A repeated offence is very heavily punished. A penalty which is frequently applied, and which is found very efficacious, consists in posting on front of the shop of the adulterator a notice to the public giving particulars of his offence and conviction. He is bound under heavy penalties to leave the notice well in sight for a fortnight.” “ You spoke of two services ?”—“ Yes ; the exterior and the interior service. The latter is worked in this way : Tho laboratory is open to the public, and any person wishing to have a sample analysed can bring it to us for the purpose. Our analyses are of two kinds—quantitative and qualificative. The first analysis merely establishes if the sample submitted is (I) good, (2) bad, or (3) injurious to health. Such an analysis is gratuitous. Suppose that you suspect your grocer of selling you adulterated sugar, you bring some of it here. You enter the public room there on your right and you hand it to one of the clerks, lie invites you to fill in a form with your name and address, as well as the name and address of the tradesmen from whom you bought the sugar. He then gives you a number which corresponds with the number on the printed form, which meanwhile has been attached to your packet. In three or four hours you return, and in exchange for your number you receive a white paper, in which is printed ‘ The director of the Municipal Laboratory certifies that the sample handed in under No. is ’ good, bad, or indifferent. This information costs you nothing, and you now know whether or not to continue trading for sugar with that grocer. You must not, however, be tempted to make use of the document to bring discredit on tho tradesman. That exposes you to heavy penalties, and a warning to that effect is printed at the bottom of the form.” “ But supposing you tell me my sugar is injurious to the health, or in return for my four dollars give me particulars as to how much sand it contains—how do I get even with the grocer?’—“That is our business. You have done all that you may do in your defence. The law is in our hands. You will remember that in depositing your sample you gave the grocer’s address. Well, if the sample is found bad, before the analysis is in your hands two of our inspectors are already on their way to the grocer’s shop. Here another sample of the sugar you have complained of is seized, and if it is found to be as bad as yours, that grocer’s address is sent to the Public Prosecutor for immediate attention.”
“ In this way every Parisian has the most efficacious weapon conceivable against the adulterating fraternity in his hands?”— “ Exactly, and if everybody would avail himself of it, a great gain in the cause of public health would be made. Unfortunately, most people are indifferent.” “ What articles are most adulterated in Paris ?”—“ Wine chiefly. _ Many of the samples submitted are not wine at all, but a decoction of spoiled raisins. But most of the wine is ‘wetted’—as we call it—with 50 per cent, water. To this some vile alcohol and equally vile coloring matter are added to give it the necessary body and appearance. The quality of the 4 cognac ’ sold in most of the wine shops won’t bear talking about. Milk also, lam sorry to say, is shamefully adulterated. We are particularly severe in cases of this kind, because the lives of so many little children depend upon the purity of their only food. We allow an addition of 20 per cent, of water, but any addition beyond that, or any admixture of such substances as bullocks’ brains, for the purpose of giving the tbin stuff color and body, we show up for condign punishment. We also look out for injurious paints on children’s toys. Beer we chiefly test for boric or salicylic acids." “Now, what is the matter with these sardines ? ” touching a box which bore the label: “ Warranted Sardines Preserved in the Finest Olive Oil. The Sublime Brand. Manufactured expressly for the English Markets.”—The Finest Olive Oil’ mentioned has proved itself to be a very vile kind of sesamum oil. The goods are not what they profess to be, and that is a case for prosecution.” “Do you have any complaints about American goods imported into France ? ” “Chiefly in the way of the substitution of cotton-oil for lard. I can show you some American lard which is three parts cotton oil condensed. Cotton oil crops up every now and then under the most surprising names in American samples. Then there is the canning of fruits, lobsters, and so on. We often find traces of lead-poisoning in these."
How Paris Beals with Food Adulteration., Issue 7915, 24 May 1889
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