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‘Poison in the milk’: typhoid, pure foods, adulteration and sanitation in nineteenth century Tasmania

Moran, FA 2018 , '‘Poison in the milk’: typhoid, pure foods, adulteration and sanitation in nineteenth century Tasmania' , Tasmanian Historical Studies, vol. 23 , pp. 1-22 .

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Abstract

In the autumn of 1880, an editorial in Launceston's Cornwall Chronicle noted that the 'fair but dirty' capital of the island colony was '"doing" another scare'. The cause was attributed to a 'touch of typhoid' with the suggestion 'that the poison is in the milk'. Yet, the articled continued, Hobart 'slumbers on in sanitary matters'. The editorial formed part of a heated exchange of words debating the connection between a recent typhoid outbreak and milk from a particular dairy. Although furiously contested by doctors, government officials, and concerned citizens, those involved were united in calling for increased government intervention and regulation. As one concerned citizen wrote, various perspectives expressed 'the same sentiments in different language', arguing that 'the City Council or the Government are certainly responsible', with a lack of regulation meaning that 'Every one inclined to cheat and to poison... [could] do so with impunity'. The discussions around milk, typhoid, adulteration, contamination and sanitation played out in Tasmania's newspapers, shaped by theories from overseas. The case reveals Tasmania to have been intimately connected to international sites through flows of ideas that shaped understandings of milk and food adulteration. Moreover, it is argued that this episode played a direct role in increasing government regulation and intervention, most notably in the making of the colony's first broad legislation to protect food.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Moran, FA
Keywords: Tasmania, food safety, milk, typhoid
Journal or Publication Title: Tasmanian Historical Studies
Publisher: University of Tasmania, School of History and Classics
ISSN: 1324-048X
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