AN­CIENT ADULTERANTS

History Revealed - - Q&A -

Ever since rogue An­cient Greek and Ro­man chefs added honey, salt wa­ter and lead to wine, dodgy ven­dors have tam­pered with food for profit. In the Mid­dle Ages, spices were made to go fur­ther by adding dried berries, nuts, seed, gravel, sand and even dust. Flour and milk spent cen­turies be­ing bulked out or wa­tered down, then made to look half­way de­cent with alum, chalk, plas­ter and white lead. Cheese was coloured with red lead, while flour and ar­row­root were added to cream to thicken it.

In 1820, Fred­er­ick Ac­cum, a Ger­man-born chemist, made a study of food adul­ter­ation. Pub­lished si­mul­ta­ne­ously in Bri­tain and the USA, A Trea­tise on Adul­ter­ations of Food and Culi­nary Poi­sons helped to raise pub­lic aware­ness of a prob­lem we still face. SL

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