Food adulteration – not simply a product of the recent horsemeat scandal! From our ‘Victorian Commons’ section…

The Victorian Commons

The recent scandal about beef and other ready meals containing horsemeat has shown how food can quickly become a hot political topic, with consumers and the media putting pressure on retailers and politicians for action. Following the publication of its report on 14 February, the Select Committee  on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has continued to hear evidence on food contamination this week. However, such scandals are nothing new, as this blog about adulteration in the Victorian period explains.

The adulteration of foodstuffs and beverages was rife in the nineteenth century, an indication of the difficulties in feeding a rapidly growing population. Pressures on food supply were one reason why politicians were increasingly favourable to free trade measures that removed barriers, including tariffs, to food imports. The repeal of the corn laws, the statutes which regulated the importation of foreign cereals, in 1846 was widely heralded as securing…

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