This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Respecting Milk when turning sour, and its treatment by unscrupulous persons to arrest the sourness artificially, an explicit mention has been already made here. The preservatives employed for such a purpose, and for other similar ends, are salicylic acid, borax, boracic acid., and formalin, these being germ-destroyers, but at the same time strong, and mischievous drugs. The sulphites, and fluorides are also brought into use nowadays for keeping meat, and game, from becoming putrid when stale. Borax, and boracic acid, if introduced into the human system through milk, meat, game, or fish, tend to liquefy the blood, and to act as poisons; furthermore, boric acid will cause baldness, besides grievously impairing the digestion. Benzoic acid, another of these preservatives, induces gastric catarrh; plants watered with a solution of it wither away. In larger doses it will produce vomiting, and acute inflammation of the kidneys, which have to eliminate the poison. Physicians are inclined at the present time to believe that the widespread, and wholesale consumption of this preservative with beer, cider, canned goods, etc., is to be held accountable for the increasing prevalence of Bright's disease (albuminuria) in the United States of America. All these preservatives, whilst obviating the growth of micro-organisms in the food-substances to which they are heedlessly added, and so preventing manifest decomposition therein, also check the development of wholesome digestive ferments, and thus materially lessen the digestibility of the foods with which they are served; consumers will do well to remember this physiological fact.
Whatever drug hinders fermentation, whether such drug be antiseptic, or disinfectant, it also cripples digestion, which is in itself much of a fermentative process. The habitual use of foods containing either antiseptics or preservatives of the character just described, will invariably result in stomachic, and intestinal derangements. Good milk, sweet butter, sound beer, and pure wine can be secured without the injurious addition of antiseptics to these essential articles of daily nourishment. Nearly all of the said modern preservatives are based chemically on methylal, or formaldehyde, both of which are useful antiseptics for disinfecting, and of value also for embalming dead human bodies, but not desirable for making mummies of living persons. The use of milk preserved by such adulterants invariably leads to disorders of the abdominal organs. If the practice is continued for years, as is often the case, these disorders may become of a fatal nature; for, what is more probable than that the continual irritation of the delicate lining membranes of the alimentary canal by these poisons should lead to lesions resulting (as doctors testify) in malignant growths about the stomach, or its outlet, the pylorus?
Again, salicylic acid, from the Winter Green, or the Willow, has been long employed for giving a fictitious age to beer by taking away the rawness thereof when newly-brewed. But of late years salicylic acid has come into further uses than for alcoholic adulterations. Preserved foods of various kinds are adulterated with this salicylic acid, whilst jams, and jellies are treated with glucose. The manufacturers who sell these compounds assure us that they are harmless: they declare that salicylic acid is known to be "good for rheumatism"; also that glycerine is chemically made within the human stomach during the process of digestion, so how can it be harmful? Speaking chemically these assertions may be supported, but practically they are false. It is true that salicylic acid is used by doctors for treating rheumatism; but it is administered cautiously by physicians, otherwise they find the heart's action becomes irregular, or the digestion suffers severely. And if this is the experience of watchful doctors, who can withhold the drug directly unfavourable results begin to attend its use, how can food manufacturers expect to give an unsuspecting purchaser salicylic acid with his dinner repeatedly, and without any watchful supervision, and yet avoid doing him grave mischief? And the same mode of reasoning holds good with regard to glucose.
It is true theoretically that during digestion starchy foods become transformed into glucose, and onwards into dextrin! But it is also true that the glucose produced in the human economy differs from commercial glucose in some way yet undiscovered. The fact remains, nevertheless, that commercial glucose causes the human subject to suffer severely. And these are the serious risks which a large number of persons now run. Countless men and women complain of never feeling quite well, of nervous prostration, of headache, and of all the long line of ailments, which the circumspect doctor knows to be the effect of a slow, and cumulative poisoning, due mainly to the adulteration of foods. Furthermore, as already said, the question naturally presents itself as to how far the growing prevalence of appendicitis to a most alarming extent, both in this, and in other countries, may be mainly due to the same pernicious causes.