How Housewives are Defrauded when they Buy "Coffee" - Tea-dust Frauds - Butter and Margarine - Bread - "Home-made Jam " Frauds- "Black Currant Jam " made of Apples - Adulterated Pepper- Bottled, Potted, and Tinned Goods
In this article I propose to deal with food frauds practised by some grocers, provision merchants, and others, whose business it is to retail the food upon which the people live, and I shall endeavour to show the purchaser how she may avoid the fraudulent, and often the dangerous, article palmed off upon her by unscrupulous shop-keepers when she goes a-shopping.
First I will take an article which is purchased by nearly every housekeeper-coffee.
My readers know that when chicory is mixed with coffee the mixture must be labelled accordingly, and must not be sold as pure coffee.
How, then, you may ask, can there be any difficulties about that? Surely we know that we get either coffee or chicory, or a mixture of both ! The law says the packet must be so labelled - what more do we need?
But, please, just a moment.
How do you know that the stuff mixed with the chicory is coffee, even though it be labelled so ?
As a matter of fact, there have been cases tried in the police courts which show that, in spite of the vigilance of public inspectors, there are unscrupulous tradesmen who, if they think they are not likely to be found out, will mix anything with chicory, and call it coffee and chicory.
Recently, the Inland Revenue Commissioners prosecuted a London grocer for selling as coffee something that was very, very different from the real article. Having received complaints from one or two customers, an inspector visited the man's shop. Stowed away in the cellar he found a huge quantity of carefully packed coarse brown powder; it was alleged to be coffee. Investigation brought to light the fact that the powder was a concoction from Germany made from burnt vegetable matter, and that, beyond a deceptive flavouring, there was no trace whatever of the coffee bean in it. Of course, the grocer was heavily fined, as he deserved to be, but that did not alter the fact that a large number of housewives in the neighbourhood had actually purchased from this fraudulent shopkeeper the German mixture, which he had sold for the purpose of making more than legitimate profit.
Neither is tea free from the evil work of the unscrupulous trader, although in this case he practises his nefarious work upon the poorer classes only, who purchase tea-dust because they cannot afford tea. But very little of that dust is tea ! The factors and tea-blenders sell cases of tea-dust which is perfectly wholesome, but the dishonest shop-keeper is not satisfied with the profit he may make upon this- he sweeps his own shop floors, and adds the darkest of the sweepings to the chest ! What dangers to health must lie in those sweepings !
Butter was formerly an article that was the subject of endless fraud upon the unwary shopper; but vigorous work on the part of inspectors has brought about a much better and more frequent exhibition of margarine labels.
The Standard bread agitation has probably done more than any other food movement of recent years towards purifying bread, for in the lace of so much attention, both millers and bakers have doubtless been doing their best to "keep their houses" in order, lest the searchlight of the public eye be turned more particularly upon them as individuals than upon bread as a product of food for human consumption. For the moment we may therefore leave bread to the shopper's own discretion, with the note that the concensus of opinion, both medical and otherwise, is that Standard bread is the correct, most nourishing, and natural article.
Of jam, however, a serious note of warning must be struck, and in saying that 1 do not allude to the products of the several firms whose names are household words, and who have good names to lose, names valued much too highly to be risked for the sake of a little extra profit. The "jam fraud" - if so I may call it - is a particularly artful and pernicious one, one which amounts to a conspiracy between unscrupulous traders and manufacturers.
This is how it is worked.
A jam manufacturer buys the cheapest fruit he can get; sound or unsound, he does not mind, so that it may be called fruit. If apples are the cheapest fruit he can get, he buys apples and proceeds to turn them into black currant and other kinds of jam. The apples are dealt with in the ordinary jam-making machinery, and then coloured and flavoured with black-currant essence. Pieces of peel and finely chopped core take the place of the small things you expect to find in black currant jam which are in the genuine article - the skins of the fruit. Even the currant essence itself has most likely had very little acquaintance with the fruit after which it is named- it is more often than not a chemical concoction.
You see, in the case I have quoted here-an actual one, by the way, which was before the police-court - that the manufacturer by these nefarious methods multiplies his legitimate profit on jam-making many times, for whilst the apples may cost him only about a ton, the black currants would probably have cost him more like £20 ! Dishonest Labelling
But this class of jam-maker does not put labels on the jars into which he packs his fraudulent "black currant" jam. He has a better way of distributing it than under the cover of his own or firm's name. Instead of this he deliberately sets about conspiring with grocers throughout the country. His travellers go round and offer the retailer the jam at a low price, with the privilege of putting on his own name, and calling the concoction "home-made" !
This is just the scheme that pleases the dishonest grocer, for he wants to buy cheaply, he wants to push his name in the district, he wants to make his customers believe that he makes the jam himself-that he has a fruit farm in the country, and a jam factory in town, and so on. And if he be an unscrupulous man he takes the jam with little or no inquiry as to its quality, providing that its taste will pass muster on the palate. Here he is tolerably safe, for, after all, jam is largely purchased for the children. Well, that is the story of how many shoppers are defrauded when they set out to purchase jam.
Of course, if you know your grocer to be a man of integrity, with a well-established family connection in a district where he values his name, you will be proof against this kind of fraud. But do not be led away from the man you can trust by a wondrous display of cheap "home-made jam." Pay . a little more and obtain the article which has a reliable name upon it as a guarantee of good quality.
There is no item apparently too small for the attention of the adulterator, for we find cases on record of grocers being fined for selling pepper adulterated with ten per cent, of a foreign powder that had no more relation to pepper than a battleship has to a boot.
And so the tale might be continued until we had included nearly every item of food and drink.
But the examples I have given will, I think, serve to bring home to women who go a-shopping the great care which they must exercise in making their purchases. They should remember that a penny saved is, in reality, ill spent if the result be a long doctor's bill for one of the children particularly fond of jam.
"But," you may ask, "how am I to know when my shopkeeper is defrauding me ? The provisions he gives me look all right."
My answer is this :
Firstly : Don't rush too eagerly to the cheapest market. Remember that a good article cannot be produced for nothing.
Secondly : Deal from a tradesman who has a name to lose, and who has a personality that impresses itself upon you as that of a fair-dealing man.
Thirdly : Make open complaint to your tradesman the instant you suspect him of foul dealing. That will warn him if he is in the wrong; it will be fair to him if you are mistaken. In any case, it will show that you are not the sort of person to be imposed upon with impunity.
Fourthly : Remember that it is a public duty for you to communicate with your local food inspector if you are certain that your tradesman, is defrauding you. Your public-spirited action will be of service to others as well as yourself.
Fifthly : In the case of bottled, potted, or tinned goods, buy only the products of well-known makers who have names to lose.
In case of complaint, such firms are usually willing to act with all fairness and proper consideration.
The following are good firms for supplying materials, etc., mentioned in this Section : Messrs. Godiva Carriage Co. (Baby Cars); Thomas Keating Keating's Powder); Price's Patent Candle Co., Ltd. (Clarke's, "Pyramid" Night Lights).
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