Food Poisoning, Policy and Politics

Food Poisoning, Policy and Politics

Corned Beef and Typhoid in Britain in the 1960s

David F. Smith, H. Lesley Diack, T. Hugh Pennington


Boydell Press



Study of the 1963/4 typhoid outbreak, highlighting issues and debates which are strikingly relevant today.
The problem of food poisoning and food-borne infections is currently one of vigorous debate, highlighted since the 1980s by numerous outbreaks and scares involving salmonella in lettuce and eggs, listeria in cheese, the links between vCJD and BSE, E.Coli 0157 in cooked meats, and foot and mouth disease. Yet, as this book shows, the various issues involved were important as early as 1963/4, when there were serious typhoid outbreaks in Harlow, South Shields, Bedford, and Aberdeen, traced to contaminated corned beef imported from Argentina. Based upon extensive research, using archives which have only recently become available, private papers, and interviews as well as secondary literature, the book analyses the course of the outbreak and looks at the responses of politicians, officials, health professionals, business interests, the media and the public. It also considers the difficult issue of the weighing of food safety against international trade and other business and economic interests; conflicts between government departments; rivalry between professionals such as doctors and veterinarians; the effects upon and influence of victims and local communities; and the conduct of and responses to an official enquiry. Overall, it draws out generic lessons for how such epidemics should be handled, adding an historical perspective to contemporary debates.


July 2005
5 line illustrations
348 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843831389
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Fascinating, detailed and articulate. (...) A thoroughly researched and intensive study into a very overlooked episode in British public health. BULLETIN of the HISTORY of MEDICINE (US)
(A) handsome book...thoroughly researched and carefully written book helpfully extends our understanding of food policy. MEDICAL HISTORY
Carefully planned, clearly written, and meticulously researched, it offers an intriguing if unedifying insight into the operations, considerations, and negotiations extant in the corridors of British power. (...) Despite the authors' expressed hopes for the new British Food Standards Agency, their final sobering observation is of the potential similarities between 1964 and current issues of trade with China and the risks presented by avian influenza. THE JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES
This well-constructed book is informative and extremely readable; it is an ideal tool for the undergraduate or postgraduate scholar studying food history or public health. Strongly recommended. RESEARCH CENTRE FOR THE HISTORY OF FOOD & DRINK

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