Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Erith Rotary (food canning)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Erith, Kent
Source: Erith Observer, 2 February 1951
Editorial comments: Evening?
Importance ranking: Trivial
Word count: 452



Food canning was developed commercially in the middle of the 18th century by John Hall, founder of the famous Dartford ironworks, and his associate, Bryan Donkin. They paid £1,000 to the first man to discover the process of preserving food, a Frenchman named Nicholas Appert. He did not patent or commercialise his process.

This was revealed by Miss Margaret Roberts, M.A., B.Sc., (prospective Conservative candidate for Dartford), in a talk to Erith Inner Wheel, at Erith, on January 24.

Miss Roberts' subject was “Food Research,” and she discussed the various problems which confronted those who studied the science of dietetics and nutrition.

Appert used glass vessels, she said, while Hall and Donkin were the first to use metal containers. They set up a new factory to carry out their process, thereby giving Britain a completely new industry.

At first canned food was used in ships only and large contracts were obtained to supply the Royal Navy, while several polar expeditions carried stocks of canned foods.

One dump of tinned foods (pea soup and beef) was found 87 years later, brought back to England, and when opened in a research laboratory was found to be sound.

At first everything went smoothly for the new industry, then as it was expanded, difficulties arose. They came up against scientific phenomena. Thus the research chemist began to go back to the source of the raw materials of the canning industry; back to agriculture, because the type of soil, climate and mineral content made a tremendous difference to wheat, or to the vitamin content of vegetables, their toughness, etc. It was the scientist who determined how much fertiliser was needed by the soil to increase the vitamin C content of the produce.

One discovery was that the state of fatigue of an animal at the time of killing had a direct effect on the toughness of the meat.

Dried Egg Problem.

Miss Roberts also spoke of the problems associated with the dried egg. It was found that the chemicals in the white and the yolk warred on each other in the dried state, and so bacteria destroyed the protein in the egg. Consequently, it was necessary to add chemical to fight the bacteria.

“Do please observe the instructions on the packet of dried egg,” pleaded Miss Roberts, “especially that relating to the time it can be kept.”

She also spoke of the determining of particle size in flour, and the elaborate precautions taken to ensure the purity and uniformity of products. Not only did the chemist test raw materials, but tests were made at every stage of the production of foodstuffs and even after production—frequently in conditions similar to those where food was stored in the ordinary household.