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Adulteration

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ADULTERATION of Food and Drugs has been made the subaect of legislation in the Food and Drugs Acts of 1875 and 1899. These Acts are the authority in ca.ses of adulteration generally, and will be explained in this article. But with regard to questions arising in respect of special commodi ties, reference should also be made to other appropriate headings in this work, such as BEER ; BREAD ; FERTILISERS AND FEEDING STUFFS ; HOPS; M/RGARINE ; BUTTER ; MILK; SEEDS; and TEA. We will now proceed to the Acts, which, it may be here stated, extend as well to Scotland and Ireland as to England.

The term " food " includes every article used for food or drink by man, other than drugs or water, and any article which ordinarily enters into or is used in the composition or preparation of human food ; and also includes flavouring matters and condiments ; the term " drug " includes medicine for internal or external use. To decide whether an article is a drug or not, would appear to be whether it were sold for medicinal use. Thus in the case of a grocer who sold adulterated beeswax, though it was proved to be used in the preparation of medicine, and appeared in the " British Pharmacopoeia," it was decided that the article was not a. drug ; and upon appeal, one of the judges seemed to imply that if the sale had been by a chemist the case might have been different &' arsenical soap not containing arsenic is not a drug.

Offences.—No person shall mix, colour, stain, or powder, or order or permit any other person to mix, colour, stain, or powder, any article of food, or any &lig with any ingredient or material so as to render the article injurious to health, with intent that the same may be sold in that state ; and no person shall sell any such article or drug so mixed, coloured, stained, or powdered, under a penalty in each case not exceeding fifty pounds for the first offence ; every offence, after a con viction for a first offiice, shall be a misdemeanour, for which the person, on conviction, shall be imprisoned for a period not exceeding six months with hard labour.

It should be noticed that hereunder the offence is the mixing with in jurious ingredients. Selling a 1 lb. bottle of peas containing 3 grains of sulphate of copper has been held to constitute an offence. A descriptive label is no defence ; but if, in respect to the sale, the person charged can prove absence of knowledge of the adulteration, and that he could not with reasonable diligence have obtained that knowledge, ho is not liable to conviction for any of the above offences.

No person shall sell to the prejudice of the purchaser any article of food or any drug which is not of the nature, substance, and quality of the article demanded by such purchaser, under a penalty not exceeding twenty pounds: Provided that an offence shall not be deemed to be committed hereunder in the following cases ; that is to say, (1) Whe7 any matter or ingredient not injurious to health has been added to the food or drug because the same is required for the production or preparation thereof as an article of com merce, in a fit state for carriage or consumption, and not fraudulently to increase the bulk, weight, or measure of the food or drug, or conceal the inferior quality thereof; (2) Where the drug or food is a proprietary medicine, or is the subject of a patent in force, and is supplied in the state required the specification of the patent; (3) Where the food or drug is compounded as in the Acts mentioned ; (4) Where the food or drug is unavoidably mixed with some extraneous matter in the process of collection or preparation.

This sectioh is most important, as by far the greater number of prosecutions are instituted thereunder. According to the general law a master is criminally responsible for the acts of his servants or agents only when there is reasonable evidence of an expressed or implied, actual or constructive, authority on his part for the commission of such acts. If this were otherwise tradesmen or other persons could always evade the law. But in cases within the above section a master is liable for those acts of his servants or agents, or even of strangers, although in fact such acts are unauthorised by him, and even expressly forbidden. The servant is also liable to conviction as the actual seller. If the seller brings to the purchaser's knowledge clearly and unequivocally that the article comes within the offence of the above section, he cannot be convicted. The prosecution need not specially prove that the purchaser was prejudiced or damaged. Whether the article sold is the article demanded by the purchaser is a question of fact for the justices to consider ; and they are entitled to use any special knowledge they may possess as to what is known commercially under a particular name, even in the absence of evidence on that point.

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