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50 Years ago: Food adulteration

As food is produced for profit, it follows that where the incentive for profit exists, there is always a possibility of the capitalist taking full advantage of it, and in a way that is directly detrimental to those who are dependent on food supplied from factories, restaurants, shops, etc., in fact from all sources except the very small amount which is grown in our gardens or allotments.

To-day, whether we like it or not, nearly all our foods are adulterated, for the simple and very good reason (from the capitalist standpoint) that it is profitable to adulterate food. Coffee is frequently mixed with chicory because coffee costs about 5s a lb., while chicory about 6d. per lb. Sausages are adulterated with bread, and fish cakes with potatoes. If either were found to be adulterated with caviar the capitalist responsible would need his brains tested. So great is the quantity of bread in some sausages that we scarcely know whether to spread mustard or jam on them.

Nearly all our jams are coloured with aniline dyes (a coal tar product) to give "eye appeal." so important in selling. Tinned peas and other green vegetables have copper sulphite mixed with them to enhance their colour, because all tinned green vegetables soon lose their colour, and therefore don't look fresh. Most of our kippers are put through a bath of creosote to give them a golden yellow colour.

For us socialists who don't want to enter into food reform arguments, we say that so long as food is produced under Capitalism, so long will it be adulterated, refined, processed, dyed and artificially faked. Only when food is produced solely for consumption and nourishment¾in a word for use¾will food be free from harmful adulteration and supply the human body with the right kind of nourishment. There will then be neither need for food reform nor possibility or incentive for adulterating food.

(From article by H. Jarvis, Socialist Standard, February 1951)