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SUPREME COURT., Sun, Volume II, Issue 567, 3 December 1915
CLAIM FOR DAMAGES. ALLEGED DEFECTIVE FLOUR. The second day's hearing of\ the case of Cook and McKcnzie, bakers, of Clissold Street, St. Albans, v. Wood Bros., Ltd., flourmillers, of Christchurch, was continued in the Supreme Court after The Sun went to press yesterday afternoon. His Honour Mr Justice Denniston presided. Mr A. F. Wright appeared for the plaintiffs', and Messrs Gresson and Neave for the defendants. The claim was for £332 10/-, as damages for,loss of business caused by the supply by the defendants of defective flour, which resulted in a falling-off of the quality of the plaintiffs' bread. It was alleged that certain flour supplied by Wood Bros, j was affected by mucor (white mould), which gave rise to mustiness in the bread. Harry Hopkinson, foreman miller, employed, by l the defendants, described the processes of-milling. He said it would be impossible for musty grain to go through the mill without being detected. He had visited the plaintiffs' bakehouse, and had found the atmosphere excessively hot for the storage of flour. Alfred Foster, me'dical practitioner and bacteriologist, described experiments he had made with samples of flour taken from the plaintiffs' sacks, and purchased from, a grocer. He found that the flour near the outside of a sack decomposed more rapidly than flour from the centre. Moulds were invariably present in the air, and would develop in ajl Hours. He knew of no scientific proof that mucor was' a cause pf mustiness. „ Dr F. W. Hilgendorf, of Lincoln College, said that moulds were the commonest diseases of plants. H,e had never failed to produce mucor from any slice "of bread. • Any mould would produce mustiness to some extent. Mucor was frequently seen on the top of jam. High fern-: perature was favourable to its devel/ opment. The conditions in the plaintiffs' loft; were favourable for the growth of moulds. * . to Mr Wright, the witness said that he had heard that Australian wheat was being damped before milling. In England all iniIpb'rted wheat was washed. At 5.20 p.m. the court adjourned until this morning. TO-DAY'S PROCEEDINGSr When the court' resumed this morning, Mr Gresson called Alexander G. Bickerton, analytical chemist, who said that on May 7,the plaintiff Cook brought him six samples of flour and a loaf which had a musty flavour, and a peculiar glistening ap J pearance. Cook wished him to examine the -flour in order to ascertain which of them was responsible for an outbreak of mustiness in his bakehouse. After hearing what Cook had to say, the witness said that he could not help him against the millers; as it was his experience that the causes of mustiness developed where flour was stored. He did not think it' possible that they could arise in a modern flourmill, with an output of hundreds of sacks per day, and distributing all over the Dominion. He recommended Cook to go to a bacteriologist, but offered at" the same time to examine the flours, so as to ascertain which would be safe to use. Cook agreed to this. The witness therefore treated the flours with a little sterile water, and set them aside in a warm, dark place, expecting moulds to develop. In a few days he again examined them, but there were no moulds. Four of the six specimens had a strong musty smell, two of them had a slight musty smell, and a specimen taken from his own pantry as a control had an acid smell. All the specimens had yellow spots. He then examined the specimens by the microscope, and found that they were all affected by various bacteria in different degrees. The four specimens with the pro- , nounced smell were unsound, and the other two perhaps not unsound. The bacillus of the disease known as rope was present in all flours, and he had deducted from his experiments that it developed enly When the gluten of the flour became decomposed and alkaline, and thus neutralised the natural acid condition which prevented the bacillus from developing. In order to save the flour he therefore recommended an acid ferment in the baking. He got Mrs Bickerton to. make scones from the flours. Thpse made from four of the specimens were very musty, Vbut he could npt detect mustiness in the other two, or in the control scone made from his own flour, which was quite sweet. He was therefore of the I opinion that the cause of the trouble ' was that the flours had become con--1 laminated by some kind of bacteria, I probably of a putrefying nature. Such bacteria were very hard to de--1 tect. He could find no mucor in any 1 of the specimens. He took the yel--1 low spots on the flour to be colonies [ of rope, although the scones did not have the appearance ot* rope. [ To Mr Wright: Rope was latent in every bakehouse and in every sack ' of flour. There were no signs of ' rope in the bread produced. He I thought the bacillus which caused ' the trouble was a different bacillus " altogether, and one which he doupt- " ed was even in the text-books. He * had had previous experience of such ' epidemics, and he knew that they 1 were "jolly rough on the baker." " The decomposition of the gluten in , flour might possibly be due to mucor. The bacillus of rope was a ' heat-resisting bacillus, and was not killed by baking. The presence of the bacillus in flour did not cause i ropey bread, unless there were pres- ' cnt alkaline conditions in the bread which allowed the bacillus to de- , velop. J Mr Wright: Dr Pearson gave evi- . dence that lie found no deleterious organism in the flours.
The Witness: Then he was not so lucky as I was. (Laughter.) I had had previous experience of the elusiveness of such organisms. The witness went on to say that Cook at first told him, that the trouble was due to infection in his troughs. The fact that good bread had been baked from the same flour since the trouble he accounted for by the fact that Cook had probably taken his advice in the matter of acid ferment. Frank Brittan, foreman baker at Aulsebrook's, said that in March last he received a large supply of flour from Wood Bros. It was absolutely satisfactory. In October he still had a sack of that delivery left. On Thursday last he baked a loaf from this flour. The witness produced the loaf, and cut it open, for the inspection of the jury. He said there was nothing wrong with the loaf. He also produced a loaf made from flour of which one-sixth was Wood's flour taken from the plaintiffs' loft during the trouble. He could not detect anything wrong with this loaf. "I have eaten worse," was his comment. Evidence was given by several bakers that they had used flour made at the same time as that of which the plaintiffs complained. They had no complaints to make. This concluded the case for the defendants. * Mr Wright recalled several witnesses in rebuttal of evidence given on behalf of the defendants. A. M. Wright, analytical chemist, said that he had been unable to find any evidence of rope in the flour and bread he had examined. The presence of mucor was sufficient to cause the decomposition of gluten mentioned by the witness Bickerton.' As a matter of fact, mucor supplied by Dr Pearson from the flour he had treat-' cd, had actually caused suchdecomposition. _ :'-~^~~- Addressing the jury, Mr Gresson said that *the real question at issue was whether the flour was-at fault, or whether it was the bakehouse that' was the cause of the trouble. It Was most important for the jury to remember that when the plain-; tiffs' trouble began on February 15 there was not a morsel of the defendants' flour in the bakehouse. Wood's flour did not go into the loft until March 25. When the trouble began, Moir's flour was in the loft, and Moir and Co. had since paid into Court the sum of £2OO in settlement of a claim such as that which the defendants were now fighting. Moir and Co. and Wood Bros, had originally been joined as co-defendants in the present action,! and it might seem curious that one; of the co-defendants should settle while the other should decide to fight the case. As a .matter of fact, Moir and Co. and Wood Bros, had nothing to do with each other, and did not; know what flour each other supplied. What really was shown by the evidence and by the fact that Moir and Co. had settled the claim against them, was that the plaintiffs! loft had become affected by Moir's flour, and that all the flour subse-j quently put there was contaminated; He strongly repudiated any sugges4 tion that may have been made by Mr Wright that other wheat was mixed with" the Australian wheat from which the flour in question was made. Nothing of the kind had ! been done. (Proceeding.
SUPREME COURT., Sun, Volume II, Issue 567, 3 December 1915
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