Food Adulteration


The chemicals, especially phosphoric acid, used in soft drinks, should not be used. The Naval Medical Research Institute (U.S.A.) discovered that a human tooth put in soft drinks containing this chemical lost its enamel in 24 hours! Soft drinks, including so-called “fruit drinks”, ate increasingly advertized and sold, they are not free from dangerous chemicals.


We verily believe that no peasant feeding on rotten potatoes and occasionally on bread made from the bark of trees endangers more his health and often his life than those who indulge indiscriminately in the delicacies sold in neat little packages and pretty glass jars and bottles in fashionable grocery stores.

– H.P. Blavatsky. (1881)

In her journal, The Theosophist (June, 1881) H. P. Blavatsky warned against the adulteration of food and in the article quoted above she asked: do our readers ever think of the amount of adulteration the manufactures have to resort to, so as to realize some degree of profit on the articles of food they sell as genuine, at prices far below the cost-price of the raw material?

Follows an enumeration of adulterations of common foodstuff, discovered at that time by analytical chemists, till almost “everything in the household provisions is shown to be something else.” Even a packet of salt containing “powdered marble, chalk, whiting, bonedust – and salt.”

Has this situation not worsened since 1881? In 1953 we not only have our food adulterated and poisoned by manufacturers but the soil in which it grows and the plants from which it is gathered are also poisoned by chemical fertilizers and insecticides, not to forget the latest Systemic insecticides.

It is difficult for the average person to believe this; it seems incredible now, as it did when H.P. Blavatsky first gave her warning to India. We must, therefore, congratulate Indias vigilant Health Minister for her stand against food adulteration; for we read in The Times of India (Nov. 28, 1952) that Rajkumari Amrit Kaur has presented to the House of the People a Bill for the making of an all-India law to prevent the adulteration of food.

It was referred to a select committee which will report to the next session of the House, Shrimati Sucheta Kripalani, leader of the Praja Socialist Party, supported the Health Minister, saying that such a Bill was “long overdue.” Shrimati Indira Maydeo, of the Congress Party, Bombay, also gave support adding that the very nature of the measure would make it difficult to enforce, but that pure food should be made available to the people. The Health Minister assured the House that all suggestions by Members would be carefully considered and all measures, when passed, would be rigorously enforced.

This is indeed an encouraging sign and bears out the hope of James J, Delaney, Chairman of a Committee to investigate food adulteration in the U.S.A., that women would come forward and work to stop this abominable form of modern immorality.

In the July, 1952, issue of Bapu Raj Patrika, Mira Behn warns against the “injurious effects of foods processed by power driven machines.” She recommends a book on the subject by Dr. Weston Price, a “celebrated dental surgeon of America”: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, (1945) and warns villagers against exchanging their fresh home-ground wheat and home-pounded rice for mill ground products; telling them:-

You know quite well that the flour thus ground (by machine) gets very hot in the process of grinding, and that when you get a larger amount ground at one time, and keep it for many days at home, all its good qualities disappear.

In The Calcutta Municipal Gazette (Oc. 18, 1952) is expressed the view that the Bill to control and prevent adulteration of food articles will be “a welcome measure” to fight the menace of food adulteration which has grown “too gigantic to be properly tackled by local measures.”

Therefore, since the problem of food and health are now major ones, we give in this Tract some up-to-date, reliable information on the subject. We draw largely on American journals because in the U.S.A. some medical, scientific and other individuals have become so alarmed at the rapid increase of ill health, deadly disease and insanity among all classes of the people, that they have been set questioning and seeking for causes. The shocking number of young men unable to pass the few, simple physical tests for entering the armed services was a revelation. Why, with abundance of varied foods should such ill health prevail amongst the young? Why the awful increase of nervous and mental diseases? Could there be a connection between this alarming situation and the new chemicals used in food?

That Great Britain is also concerned is clearly shown by its several Ministry of Food and Minister of Health publications bearing on the subject. In one Report (1949) “The Advertising, Labelling and Composition of food,” 60 Regulations are recorded by means of which it is hoped to protect the consumer from exploitation in the present time of food shortage and in the future when highly competitive selling will recommence.

The American Magazine (July 1952) prints an article by James J. Delaney, Chairman of the non-partisan House Select Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Food Products, in which he states that now almost 1 out of 100 are mental cases in New York, making 17,000 cases in that State alone.

In the Post (Jan. 1952) “Food Poisoning Can Get You, Too” is an article by Steven M. Spencer, in which we read that the U.S. Public Health Service, which investigates only interstate disasters from food poisoning, reports about 400 of these a year, affecting more than 9,000 people; which Surgeon General Leonard A. Scheel and other authorities estimate as not over 10 or 15 per cent of the actual number occuring. Most of these are caused by food, fresh or tinned, that has been kept too long. such food may not smell or taste suspiciously or stale, for it is artificially treated, yet it may be deadly. This should give Indian importers of foreign tinned and dried foods something to think over. How can they know that what they receive and sell has not “been kept too long” even before they receive it?

Business Week, (February 1952) writing on “Tighter Food and Drug Law” states that the Committee headed by Representative J.J. Delaney of N.Y., was set up in 1950 to investigate into chemicals in foods but it found also several related problems, such as : “insecticides water flourinization and cosmetics.” Representative A.L. Miller, a medical man on the same Committee introduced a bill to apply “new drugs” procedure. It demanded that drug manufactures “convince the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) that all products are safe before the new products go on the market.” Adding that: “up to now there has been no such requirement for new uses of chemicals in food,” either. So, unscrupulous manufactures can turn a quick dollar in perfect legel safety by adulterating foods.

The British Food and drugs Act (1938 and 1950) indicates that the same problems obtain there. The following Section headings tell the tale:

Prohibition of adulterants in baking houses and mills.

Prohibition of adulterants in butter factories.

Regulations as to presumptive evidence of adulteration of milk.

The British Government has also made investigation and a Report on Food Poisoning (1949).

An article: “Peril on Your Food Shelf” by Rep. J.J. Delaney, emphasizes that there is no law to compel the testing of new chemicals, or their accumulative effect in the human body, at present; the FDA can act only after a food product is on the market. The FDA lists 704 chemicals being used in regular food supply “of which only 421 are known to be safe.” That leaves 276 chemicals that may be slowly (or quickly) poisoning us! He asks: Is it not “a tragic joke that makes a nation of 150,000,000 into test guinea pigs?” Which repeats what was written by Arthur Kallet and E.J. Schlink in their book: 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, published to warn the people in 1933.

Our food supply is being contaminated by “hundreds of new chemicals” continues Rep. Delay. Enough of them have been proved dangerous and even deadly to cause scores of noted scientists to testify that the rate at which substances heretofore foreign to our bodies are being introduced into them through food is alarming, and my be seriously endangering our health and that of our children. Doctors testify that these chemicals may be connected with the increase of cancer, polio, and the mysterious virus X. Nutritionists agree generally that no chemical should be added to food that is not definitely proved safe and which is not a substitute for a natural food.

We give below some specific instances of adulteration of common foods cited by Mr. Delaney and others:-

BREAD:

Chemical ingenuity flourishes in this field. For 25 years agene (nitrogen trichloride, a bleaching chemical) has been widely used in Great Britain and the U.S.A. in white flour. Three years ago an English chemists, Sir Edward Mellanby, discovered that bread made from this agenised flour caused epileptic fits in dogs! Dr. Anton J. Carlson, Chicago Universitys eminent physiologists and one of the worlds greatest nutritionists, announced to the American Association for the Advancement of Science his belief that agenised flour.

is at least among the contributing factors to the nervous instability among the population that could be responsible for a portion of the upcurve in public drinking. and be partly responsible for producing alcoholics. Dryson Carter. in The New World, (19 8) pointed our that although agene-treated flour may not be a quick poison, during the past 25 years there has been great increase in chronic disease such as duodenal ulcer, schizophrenia, and “allergy.” In 1949 the use of agene was prohibited in the U.S.A. But a generation of human beings had been poisoned during the 25 years of its use! And:-

In 1949, two companies alone sold 30,000 bakers 10,000,000 pounds of chemicals. They are used as substitutes for milk, butter, eggs, essential oils and organic materials.

At the very least the nutritive contents of bread is reduced by this, and who knows what further damage done? Such appalling facts are what make the whole problem so incredible, but people must know and face these facts and begin to act on them. Dr. Carlson, supported many others, holds that the eating of whole- wheat bread without any adulteration would solve many food and health problems. He writes that the demand for white bread is an ancient snobbery of the Roman Empire, when the classes ate white and the slaves ate dark bread. Also it has been found that an unadulterated loaf of the highest quality costs a bakery only 1/2 cent more to produce, and it would be a boon to both consumer and farmer alike, since it would use up the surplus milk and wheat in the U.S.A., now unused for human nutrition.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:

A food packer added thiouria to his peaches to make them look fresher. A shipment thus brightened up went out. Another peach-packer added the same chemical, but asked for a test of the fruit before shipment to the market. Rats were fed the fruit and all died within a few hours! Learning by chance of the other shipment sent out, a mad search for the poisoned fruit ensued. Fortunately all the peaches, still bright and still deadly, were intercepted before being eaten. “Other similar episodes have not ended so happily,” adds Chairman Delaney.

The insecticide DDT has been widely used, but it has only been recently discovered that it is stored in the body and has a cumulative and serious effects on the liver. Chlordane, first used commercially in 1947, another insecticide for the use on fruits and vegetables, is declared to be 4 or 5 times more poisonous that DDT, by Dr. A.J. Lehman, Director of the FDA pharmacological division. One million pounds of it was sold in the first nine months of its use for fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Carles S. Cameron, medical and scientific director of the American Cancer Society, declared that it is by no means sure that the residue of arsenic sprays on foodstuffs does not cause cancer. Eighty million pounds of arsenicals used yearly in the U.S.A. justifies investigation, in his opinion.

Selenium, another fruit and vegetable spray, has been shown to produce cirrhosis of the liver which develops into cancer when 3/1,000,000 parts are taken with food. And many other insecticides are in use whose safety has never even been tested.

SOFT DRINKS:

The chemicals, especially phosphoric acid, used in soft drinks, should not be used. The Naval Medical Research Institute (U.S.A.) discovered that a human tooth put in soft drinks containing this chemical lost its enamel in 24 hours! Soft drinks, including so-called “fruit drinks”, ate increasingly advertized and sold, they are not free from dangerous chemicals.

SALT:

Adulteration of salt has continued for decades. A salt substitute, for those on low salt diet, containing lithium chloride – killed three before it could be withdrawn from the market.

Mr. Delaneys article states: “This potentially lethal situation is due to a curious loophole in our present laws,” adding that the FDA laws must be changed – but the last time the FDA was amended it took 5 years! Open opposition to such legislation is rare, it is like coming out in favour of sin; but undercover opposition by vested interests might persuade Congress even now to let the matter die or emasculate it. He points out that women played an important part in compelling the pre-testing of drugs.

The General Federation of Womens Clubs in the U.S.A. exerted enormous pressure, and can do it again. The pre-testing of drugs amendment went through at the last moment, helped also by the dreadful news that 100 persons had been killed by drinking “elixir of sulfanilamide” into which a solvent used as an anti- freeze in motor car radiators, had been introduced! After this any unscrupulous adulteration seemed a possibility. There is no legal way to prevent such a thing happening to food. It almost happened when thiouria was added to peaches. No words of caution would seem to be too strong and Mr. Delaney and others suggest that until laws can be changed the following precautions can be taken for safetys sake:-

(1) Housewives should not ask for the products warned against: white bread; anything containing DDT; artificial fruit or other soft drinks; chemically preserved, dried, tinned or glassed foods, etc.; and fresh fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed in clean water before eating or cooking them.

(2) Labels should be carefully read and products containing chemicals carefully avoided.

(3) Complete and exact labeling on food containers giving the proportions of ingredients, should be demanded and nothing bought that is not so labeled.

(4) Clean markets containing well washed fruits and vegetables should be demanded.

(5) Whole grains, clean and unadulterated, alone should be bought.

These suggestions could all be advantageously followed in India, where many of the food markets in the cities are a disgrace to the nation; and where practice of food adulteration is increasing, and the sale of foreign adulterated food goes on.

In The New Statesman and Nation (Oct. 18, 1952) “Food We Never Eat” by Stephen W. Pollok, brings out that one thing which the Third International Crop Protection Congress, held at Paris in September, disclosed was that “nature fights back when cornered”; and he writes:

One fact emerged clearly from the Paris congress: that man, in his fight against crop pets, neglects the precarious balance of nature … at his own grave risk.

Also, an eminent French plant pathologist thought that the chief “lesson to be learned from the interchange of views of 600 guardians of crops” from 40 countries, was that man may “fatally interfere with the balance of nature.” Theosophy has long warned against this and taught:

Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance.

(The Voice of the Silence p.15)

Theosophy is naturally against such wickedness as the adulteration of food. It always gives the spiritual point of view on every problem which is also and ultimately always the most practical one. It is a false and dangerous notion in the minds of many that the spiritual view of things is an impractical one; for the spiritual view is ever the long time, natural, view, which sees the underlying unity and interdependence of all things and looks to the permanent benefit of all. Those whose vision is so limited and whose calculations are so superficial that they look only to partial, quick and temporary results are not the benefactors of themselves or their follows. The food and health problem illustrates this in the most convincing manner for all who will think it through.

William Q. Judge, a great Theosophist, wrote in his Notes on the Bhagavad Gita:-

The question never is of kinds of food, but of fitness for each particular case. The main thing to be observed is to keep the body efficient as an instrument for the soul who inhabits it, by whatever means and food may be found necessary for that purpose. Here, like and dislike are set aside and only the purpose of soul is considered.

N C Das
N C Das
Calcutta