Sunday, 28 August 2005
Adulterated food in Victorian London
Copper cooking pans
Victorian food was notoriously adulterated. Probably the most widespread of these adulterations was the addition of chalk to bread, used to whiten it. As flour was expensive, many times the bread would have a fair amount of potato flour in it, as this was cheap. Alum would also be added. This enabled cheaper, inferior quality flour to be used in the process of breadmaking.
Of course bakers were known for kneading the bread with their bare feet and considering the fact that in Victorian times people were said to have washed their feet only every two or even three weeks, I would say this qualifies as adulteration of food.
In 1860 the Act for Preventing the Adulteration of Articles of Articles of Food and Drink was passed. However, this act was optional and it was up to the local authority to decide whether they wanted to comply with it or not. One can imagine this was not very effective. A contemporary account informs us that by 1869 nothing had come of it.
Cooking was done in copper pans, which in itself could be extremely dangerous, leading to severe cases of copper poisoning. Of course, to counteract this, the inside of the pan was lined with tin so the food would have no contact with the copper. The downside to this was the fact that the tin layer wore off quite easily with repeated use and cleaning. Of course, the well to do could afford to have the pans re-lined with tin when this happened, but the poor could not, a fact that presented dire consequences on their health.
Posted by Anna at Sunday, August 28, 2005