Adulteration and food law, 1899–1939

Phillips, J. and French, M. (1998) Adulteration and food law, 1899–1939. Twentieth-Century British History, 9(3), pp. 350-369.

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Contemporary concerns about food safety and regulation have important historical antecedents in the Victorian debate about food adulteration which led to the 1875 Sale of Food and Drugs Act, the basis of British food law until 1955. This article reconsiders the optimistic historiographical view of the Victorian food legislation, emphasizing its limited impact on the general process of food production and distribution before the Second World War. In the 1930s adulteration was still a significant commercial ploy. The analysis centres on State-business relations, drawing comparative perspectives from the manner in which big food companies shaped the regulatory framework in the USA. In Britain the government assumed a limited regulatory role, persuaded in the 1920s and 1930s that market forces and the commitment of large producers to quality and scientific research were better guarantees of safety than statutory legislation. But this was a risky strategy: big producers were only responsible for a minority of overall output, and the State made no effort to examine wider manufacturing conditions.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:French, Professor Michael and Phillips, Professor Jim
Authors: Phillips, J., and French, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Twentieth-Century British History
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1477-4674

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