Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"Death In The Pot!" Part I



“There is death in the pot!”[1]  The book of 2 Kings records that this was proclaimed, by several prophets, in response to the poisonous stew served to them.  The warning allowed Elisha to add flour to the stew, and so doing, remove the harmful effects rendered by poisonous gourds.[2] 

This dire warning was reprinted boldly, in capital letters, on the front cover of chemist Fredrick Accum’s 1820 book A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons.  

Accum's book cover.  Isn't it gorgeous?
As those who know me have discovered, I love food.  It’s no surprise, really, that I was so captivated by Accum’s graphic book cover, frontispiece, and words.  As an MA student many, many years ago, I even found myself nodding along to statements such as: “of all the frauds practiced by mercenary dealers, there is none more reprehensible, and at the same time more prevalent, than the sophistication of the various articles of food.”[3] 

Food adulteration, he wrote, was an “unprincipled and nefarious practice.”[4]
Accum's sense of drama was amazing.

Today we worry about consuming GMO corn, artificial foods, antibiotic and/or hormone-filled meat while fondly trying to recall the golden years when food was real food. 

In 19th century England, they were – more or less – trying to recall those days too.  Londoners, you see, were purchasing and consuming foods contaminated with everything from alum to opium to Prussian blue dye.  Indeed, food adulteration during the Victorian era was fraught with fraud, deaths, cover ups, and scandal and many accounts read like mystery or detective novels.

By mid-century there were a plethora of popular and scientific texts that warned the public about the harmful nature of the foods they were consuming.  Both the popular and professional texts indicted the law for its ineffectiveness and castigated the men who knowingly sold adulterated food.

This included such things as adding chemicals to foodstuffs to make colours more vibrant or to make textures lighter, and even adding cheaper substances to foodstuffs without alerting the customer.

Public patterns of consumption played a very, very important role in increasing food adulteration.  For example, tea coloured with Prussian blue, a mixture of ferric ferrocyanide, lime sulphate and turmeric, was prized for its appearance.[5]  Not only that, but adulterated beer was preferred by workmen to pure beer!  The workmen found that the adulterants – hallucinogens and other narcotics – provided effects that the unadulterated drink could never match.[6]

George Dodd, in his 1856 treatise The Food of London, mentioned repeatedly that the public was partially at fault.  The love of aesthetically pleasing foods, he believed, prompted merchants to adulterate products so that it would be both appetizing and affordable.  This practice was surprisingly widespread. 

Bread, for example, was adulterated with alum so that it appeared white.  Copper was added to pickles so that it appeared green.[7]  Dodd reprinted the text of a Times article which stated that “anatto is used only in the cheese destined for London; that it’s use is a mere conventionalism, like that of very white bread.”  In response, he concluded that “our absurd taste for richly tinted cheese thus tempts men to adulterate.”[8] 

He blamed adulteration not only on “absurd” city tastes, but on a “love of cheapness” as well.[9]  Londoners were far more willing to purchase goods that were impossibly inexpensive.  Thus, articles such as milk and coffee were mixed with cheaper substances – water and chicory respectively – to allow and encourage the London consumer to purchase them.

Most of the popular and scientific works decried this love of inexpensive and seemingly fancy goods.  They labeled food adulteration in legal terms, simply calling it cheating or fraud.  This language was most often used by the popular press, who was outraged particularly by the monetary losses of the consumer, more specifically, the already poor consumer.[10]  As an 1851 article stated succinctly, “if a person asks for oatmeal and pays for oatmeal, he has a right to expect oatmeal.”[11] 

Health, too, was a major concern.  First, Londoners lost nutrients due to food substitutions and second, were made to eat and drink poisonous or unhealthy substances in their food. 

In the case of the oatmeal, for example, the most common adulterant, barley, was not only substantially cheaper than oatmeal, but it possessed significantly less nutritive properties.[12] 

Likewise, another journal likened the mixing of water with milk to “committing murder by pinpricks” and “starvation administered in small doses.”[13]  More specifically, the author stated that adulterated milk did not provide the nutrients required for healthy life, thus “enfeebling the young, pinching the underfed, and stinting the sustenance allowed to the sick and aged.”[14]  Adulterating milk, in effect, preyed primarily on those most helpless in society.

Wealth, however, did not mean exemption from the dangers of impure or tainted food.

Not even chocolate was exempt.
An 1856 article in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts contrasted a culinary day in the life of a wealthy family and a poor, labouring family.  It found that both the rich and poor suffered greatly from the adulterations of foodstuffs.  

The poor Delver family, for example, purchased brown bread adulterated with “potatoes, bone-ashes, and clay,” while the wealthy Smith’s family purchased fine, white bread that was adulterated with alum, “Indian-corn, rice, gypsum, plaster of Paris, and chalk.”[15]  While the wealthy fared poorly, because the adulterants used to make fine white bread were far more harmful to one’s health, the poor suffered because they lost valuable nutrients in the meager meals they could afford.

Fredrick Accum was one of the first scientists to speak out against food adulteration. He cited the use of lead as causing “terrible diseases” and that “wine adulterated with the minutest quantity of it, becomes a slow poison.”[16]  The scientists writing on the topic decades later followed in his footsteps and were quick to point out the poisonous nature of the foods being consumed. 

Charles Cameron, a physician, stated that “several of the substances used in food sophistication are far from being harmless in their effects.”[17]  The eminent Dr. Hassall, for example, brought to attention that both invalids and children suffered early deaths due to adulteration. 

Everyone, he wrote – no matter how healthy one felt – was susceptible to harm as “the fact must be borne in mind that some of the metallic poisons used are what are called cumulative.”[18] 

Tune in on November 4th for Panacea’s 1st blogiversary and the second installation of Death in the Pot.  We’ll look at how investigations of food adulteration inevitably furthered the cause of science by demonstrating to the public that science had beneficial – and practical – applications.

Let me know what you think here or on Twitter – I’m @medhistorian.


[1] 2 Kings 4:40, NIV.
[2] 2 Kings 4:38-41.
[3] Fredrick Accum, A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, London (1820), 5.
[4] Ibid.
[5] F. B. Smith, People’s Health 1830-1910, New York, N.Y.: Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc., (1979), 210.
[6] Ibid., 211. 
[7] Fredrick Accum, A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, London (1820), 308.
[8] George Dodd, The Food of London, reprint of 1856 edition, New York, N.Y.: Arno Press Inc. (1976), 311.
[9] Ibid., 419.
[10] See: “Tricks of Trade,” Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts 510 (Oct. 1863), 238; “Milk,” All the Year Round 13,306 (March 1865), 128; “Facts and Scraps,” Ragged School Union Magazine (Nov. 1873), 263.
[11] “Oatmeal and its Adulterations,” Reynold’s Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science, and Art 7,164 (Aug. 1851), 88.
[12] Ibid.
[13] “Milk,” All the Year Round, 128.
[14] Ibid.
[15] “The Poor Man at Market,” Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts 128 (June 1856), 373.
[16] Ibid., 107.
[17] Charles Cameron, Lectures on the Preservation of Health, London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin (1868), 97.
[18] Arthur Hassall, Food: Its Adulterations and the Methods for Their Detection, London: Longmans, Green, and Co. (1876),  837.

14 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dr. Sam has really made me so much believe in him by getting me cured with his herbal treatment. I really appreciate you Dr. Sam for bringing back happiness to my life again. thank you so much, friends join me to thank him for what he has actually done for me I pray to you all for a good life and good health, and most especially to you Dr. Sam THANKS.

      I have been suffering from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) disease for the past four years and had constant pain, especially in my knees. During the first year, I had faith in God that I would be healed someday. This disease started circulating all over my body and i have been taking treatment from my doctor, few months ago i came on search on the internet if i could get any information concerning the cure of this disease, on my search i saw a testimony of someone who has been healed from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) by this Man Dr. Sam and she drop the email address of this man and advise we should contact him for any sickness that he would be of help, so I wrote to Dr. Sam telling him about my (HERPES Virus) well after all the procedures and remedy given to me by this man a few weeks later i started experiencing changes all over me. I am nowhere to testify that i am no longer a herpes patient, I have experienced a total transformation in my life, for all herpes patients get your herbal medicine to cure your sickness. And there has been rapid improvement in my health, I no longer feel pains and I wake up each morning feeling revived. So friends my advise is if you have such sickness or any other at all, you can contact him. (Supremecurehome@gmail.com) Website: http://www.supremecurehome.blogspot.com
      CANCER
      EPILEPSY.
      GENPILENCIN.
      HIV AIDS.
      DIABETICS
      STROKE.
      EXPANDS OF PENIS BREAST
      H.P.V TYPE 1 TYPE 2 TYPE 3 AND TYPE 4. TYPE 5.
      HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS.
      HERPES.
      SYPHILIS.
      HEPATITIS A B and C.

      Email: Supremecurehome@gmail.com Or WhatsApp number +2347087462033

      Delete
    2. Hello, everyone! I,m here to explore blogs and forum about the wonderful
      and most safe cure for HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS (HSV).
      I was positive to the deadly virus called HERPES and i lost hope because i
      was out casted and rejected even by my closet friends.
      i searched on-line to know and enquirer about cure for HERPES and i read
      someone testimony on how he was cured from HSV-2 so i decided to contact
      the same herbalist Call Dr Edidia because i know that nature has the power
      to heal everything.
      i contacted him to know how he can help me and he told me never to worry
      that he will help me with the natural herbs from God!
      after 2 days of contacting him, he told me that the cure has been ready and
      he sent it to me via UPS SPEED POST and it got to me after 3 days!
      i used the medicine as he instructed me (MORNING and EVENING) and i was
      cured!
      its really like a dream but i am so happy!
      thats the reason i decided to also add more comment of Him so that more can
      be saved just like me!
      and if you need his help, you can email him on dredidiaherbalhome@gmail.com
      or whatsapp +2349074505296
      here is the Dr Blog page
      http://dredidiaherbalhome.blogspot.com

      https://herbalcureforhbv.blogspot.com


      I,m rosesharon and you can get intouch with me via rosesharon915@gmail.com

      Delete

    3. I was having serious relationship problems with my boyfriend and it had resulted in him moving out to his friend’s apartment. Everything got worse because he started going to bars and strip clubs frequently with his friend, getting drunk and passing out. He always threatens me on phone whenever I call him because of all the bad advises that his friend has given him. I really love him and we had been dating for 6 years which gave us a beautiful daughter. I had also lost a lot of money on therapists until I was introduced to Dr. Okaya by a friend whom he helped to marry her childhood boyfriend; this gave me total confidence and strength to get him back. I did all he asked and after 48 hours my boyfriend called me and rushed back home, things just changed between us emotionally. He has a job and stopped drinking and keeping irrelevant friends. It’s a miracle I never believed was possible because I had lost all hope until I found Dr.Okaya. So that’s why I promised to share my testimony all over the universe. All thanks goes to Dr.Okaya for the excessive work that he has done for me. Below is the email address in situation you are undergoing a heart break, and I assure you that as he has done mine for me, he will definitely help you too. OKAYASPELLHELP@GMAIL.COM call/Whatsapp +27814506790

      Delete
    4. Hello viewers all over the globe I am caroline from USA, I have been suffering from HPV virus for the past 2 years now, I have went to several hospitals taking different treatment from doctors but still yet no improvement, I have done research on internet seen different testimony how some people get cured but I don’t believe does testimony again because of what happened to me I have contacted so many doctors online, they all ask for is money I was scammed by 3 different doctors over $2000 still yet I was not cured so I tell a friend of mine about my problem she tells me to contact dr oso that his very good in healing people with his medicine that she was cured from herpes by this some Dr oso I don’t believe her on thing she showed me her results on how was cured she gives me his Email few weeks later I contacted him and tell him about my problem he tell me not to be worried that his going to prepare the medicine and send to me through EMS delivery so after some days I received the medicine and I was take it as he Instructed me few weeks later I go for check up to no if I’m finally cured, could you believe me when the results come out I was negative I jump up I was very happy. Please my dear friends if you have any kind of diseases or virus please contact Drosohaberhome@gmail.com/ dr.osoherberhome1@outlook.com or WhatsApp +2348162084839. you can email me to for more info about dr oso . toddcaroline79@gmail.com. Thank you so much Dr oso I’m forever great full please my dear friends don’t believe on does comment online they all fake doctors. only Dr oso I see real. Please beware of scammers...

      Delete
  2. That is..the Lord God ...(not od) oops!

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is..the Lord God ...(not od) oops!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for this. As myself and my husband have been investigating GMO foods more and more and wondering if it is a deliberate pot to kill of many unsuspecting consumers, the Lord od suddenly shouted in my spirit 'There is death in the pot.'
    I read the scripture again today, googled it and came up with your article.Most interesting. We have become unwitting victims of food adultery, which surely must be a sin. Before we naively continue to put poison in our pots, as the sons of the prophets in 1 Kings 4:39 did, (since they picked the wild gourds and did not know what they were), so we must strive to know more about what we are eating if we want to avoid eating ourselves to death.
    Regards
    Janet

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dr. Sam has really made me so much believe in him by getting me cured with his herbal treatment. I really appreciate you Dr. Sam for bringing back happiness to my life again. thank you so much, friends join me to thank him for what he has actually done for me I pray to you all for a good life and good health, and most especially to you Dr. Sam THANKS.

    I have been suffering from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) disease for the past four years and had constant pain, especially in my knees. During the first year, I had faith in God that I would be healed someday. This disease started circulating all over my body and i have been taking treatment from my doctor, few months ago i came on search on the internet if i could get any information concerning the cure of this disease, on my search i saw a testimony of someone who has been healed from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) by this Man Dr. Sam and she drop the email address of this man and advise we should contact him for any sickness that he would be of help, so I wrote to Dr. Sam telling him about my (HERPES Virus) well after all the procedures and remedy given to me by this man a few weeks later i started experiencing changes all over me. I am nowhere to testify that i am no longer a herpes patient, I have experienced a total transformation in my life, for all herpes patients get your herbal medicine to cure your sickness. And there has been rapid improvement in my health, I no longer feel pains and I wake up each morning feeling revived. So friends my advise is if you have such sickness or any other at all, you can contact him. (Supremecurehome@gmail.com) Website: http://www.supremecurehome.blogspot.com
    CANCER
    EPILEPSY.
    GENPILENCIN.
    HIV AIDS.
    DIABETICS
    STROKE.
    EXPANDS OF PENIS BREAST
    H.P.V TYPE 1 TYPE 2 TYPE 3 AND TYPE 4. TYPE 5.
    HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS.
    HERPES.
    SYPHILIS.
    HEPATITIS A B and C.

    Email: Supremecurehome@gmail.com Or WhatsApp number +2347087462033

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was having serious relationship problems with my boyfriend and it had resulted in him moving out to his friend’s apartment. Everything got worse because he started going to bars and strip clubs frequently with his friend, getting drunk and passing out. He always threatens me on phone whenever I call him because of all the bad advises that his friend has given him. I really love him and we had been dating for 6 years which gave us a beautiful daughter. I had also lost a lot of money on therapists until I was introduced to Dr. Okaya by a friend whom he helped to marry her childhood boyfriend; this gave me total confidence and strength to get him back. I did all he asked and after 48 hours my boyfriend called me and rushed back home, things just changed between us emotionally. He has a job and stopped drinking and keeping irrelevant friends. It’s a miracle I never believed was possible because I had lost all hope until I found Dr.Okaya. So that’s why I promised to share my testimony all over the universe. All thanks goes to Dr.Okaya for the excessive work that he has done for me. Below is the email address in situation you are undergoing a heart break, and I assure you that as he has done mine for me, he will definitely help you too. OKAYASPELLHELP@GMAIL.COM call/Whatsapp +27814506790

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello viewers all over the globe I am caroline from USA, I have been suffering from HPV virus for the past 2 years now, I have went to several hospitals taking different treatment from doctors but still yet no improvement, I have done research on internet seen different testimony how some people get cured but I don’t believe does testimony again because of what happened to me I have contacted so many doctors online, they all ask for is money I was scammed by 3 different doctors over $2000 still yet I was not cured so I tell a friend of mine about my problem she tells me to contact dr oso that his very good in healing people with his medicine that she was cured from herpes by this some Dr oso I don’t believe her on thing she showed me her results on how was cured she gives me his Email few weeks later I contacted him and tell him about my problem he tell me not to be worried that his going to prepare the medicine and send to me through EMS delivery so after some days I received the medicine and I was take it as he Instructed me few weeks later I go for check up to no if I’m finally cured, could you believe me when the results come out I was negative I jump up I was very happy. Please my dear friends if you have any kind of diseases or virus please contact Drosohaberhome@gmail.com/ dr.osoherberhome1@outlook.com or WhatsApp +2348162084839. you can email me to for more info about dr oso . toddcaroline79@gmail.com. Thank you so much Dr oso I’m forever great full please my dear friends don’t believe on does comment online they all fake doctors. only Dr oso I see real. Please beware of scammers........

    ReplyDelete

  8. I was in trouble when my doctor told me that i have been diagnosed with
    herpes and i know my family will face a serious problem . when i am gone i
    lost hope and wept most of the time, but one day i was surfing the internet
    i saw Dr. omohan herbal home contact number online i called him and he
    guided me. i asked him for solutions and he started the remedy for my
    health thank God,now everything is fine i am cured by Dr. omohan herbal
    medicine am very thankful to Dr. omohan and very happy with my hobby and
    family email him on (dromohanherbalmedicine@gmail.com) call/whatsapp number +2348164816038

    He can as well cure the following disease;

    Herpes,
    Asthma,
    Cancer,
    HSV1, &
    HSV2,
    Hepatitis B,
    HIV/AID ETC.

    ReplyDelete