§ Mr. R. J. RUSSELL
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Food and Drugs (Adulteration) Act, 1928, and to control the sale of cheese other than whole-milk cheese.The Bill which I desire to ask the permission of the House to introduce deals with a very simple but nutritious article of very common consumption in this country—cheese. A situation has arisen analogous to the situation which was common in this country in the days when this House found it necessary, in dealing with the question of butter, to pass an Act defining what was margarine and what was butter. The traditional composition of cheese is the coagulated casein of the milk, and contained therein is the whole of the butter fat content. That butter fat content in whole-milk may be from 45 per cent. to 55 per cent. or even higher in the dry matter, but circumstances are so developing that that butter fat content is being rapidly changed in a very large proportion of the cheese which is sold. Pro tanto, dealing with one class of cheese called half-meat 823 cheese, the manufacturer takes the evening's milk and extracts from it the whole of the cream or butter fat and puts the skimmed milk into the next morning's milk, and then manufactures it into cheese, with the result that the butter fat content drops from perhaps 55 per cent. to the neighbourhood of 16 or 20 per cent. No one objects to that being done provided the consumer knows that the product he is purchasing does not contain the food value it is supposed to contain.
What is happening in this country is, that on the same board the grocer is displaying a whole-meat cheese and a half-meat cheese. They look the same. Their processes are approximately the same, and the consumer is injured by being supplied with an article of inferior quality. The purpose of the Bill is to secure that in the future all cheese which is not made of whole-milk shall be marked as "Skimmed milk cheese." That is the first thing. In order to do that, it is necessary to amend the Food and Drugs Act. I am sure that on a technical question the House would rather have other information than I can give, so I will quote the Government report on the marking of dairy produce. In dealing with the position, the report says:The sale of cheese deficient in fat, unless identifiable and sold as such, not only constitutes a form of unfair competition with the full-cream product but also tends to bring into general disrepute, in an international market such as that of the United Kingdom, the produce of any country where butter fat content is not subject to control.It is stated further:There appears to be no offence against the Food and Drugs (Adulteration) Act, 1928, if a purchaser who asks merely for ' cheese ' is supplied with cheese made from partly skimmed milk; in common parlance, the term ' cheese ' does not appear to carry the implication of whole-milk cheese.It is therefore not possible for a prosecution to take place in respect of the sale of what is, after all, a fraudulent article. For that reason, it becomes necessary to pass a Bill such as that which I desire to introduce. The report further states:The compulsory sale of fat deficient cheese under the designation ' skimmed-milk cheese' would definitely inform the buyer that it was a deficient and inferior article. The competition in the sale of the product would be similar to that of butter and margarine, rather than that of inferior and of higher quality butter.824 It seems fairly clear, even from the report of the Government Committee, that the Bill which I ask leave of the House to introduce is necessary if we are to have justice for those who consume our product and for those who make it. The second thing in the Bill is, that we provide, for the first time in this country, a standard for cheese. The amount of butter fat in whole-milk will vary from 45 to 55 per cent. We desire for the first time, and by the unanimous wish of the cheese-makers of this country, to have a standard set, and by implication the standard in the Bill is 45 per cent. of butter fat in the dry matter.
I do not think I need detain the House in arguing that one of the very first things that it is necessary to do with regard to all food products and all our agricultural activities is to produce standardisation everywhere. We must standardise or fail. We in Cheshire, and those in Somerset, the makers of Cheshire cheese and of Cheddar cheese, have done all that is possible in that direction. We have formed for years a federation. We have a grading system. We have employed people to go round and grade the cheese, trying to secure a higher standard. Now we come to the Government and say that we have done all we can; we ask you to let us have this Bill in order that we shall be able to bring up those who do not produce the highest product to the same standard as those who do. This is the third time of asking. Is it too much to hope that this Bill, which comes with the unanimous desire both of the producers and of the distributors of cheese, will, while we are doing so much to reconstruct the conditions applying to agriculture, find itself wedded to the Statute Book?
§ Major COLFOX
I rise to oppose the Bill, because in his speech in support of it the hon. Member has shown a lament-able ignorance of cheese. He has confessed, by implication, to an ignorance of what is, in fact, the finest cheese in the world, namely, blue vinny cheese, which is made in Dorset of skimmed milk. He has just told us that cheese made from skimmed milk is an inferior article. That is not so. At any rate, this particular cheese is vastly superior to such articles as he mentioned, namely, Cheshire or Cheddar cheese. Further, I object to this Bill on the ground that 825 it. is a still further interference with the liberty of the subject, and a meddling with farming affairs. It is entirely unnecessary, because, as I say, cheese made from skimmed milk is vastly superior, and I strongly object to the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. R. Russell, Major Carver, Sir William Edge, Mr. Lambert, Brigadier-Geneial Makins, Mr. McKie, Sir Joseph Lamb, Mr. Llewellyn-Jones, Mr. Remer, Sir Samuel Rosbotham, Mrs. Ward and Mr. Somervell.