Bread (Wheat Extraction Rate)

Oral Answers to Questions — Food Supplies – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st March 1945.

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Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West 12:00 am, 21st March 1945

asked the Minister of Food whether the Scientific Advisory Committee, the Special Diets Committee of the Medical Research Council, or the Nutrition Committee of the Ministry of Health or his Ministry were consulted before the extraction rate of wheat was reduced below the 1942 standard.

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

No, Sir. The Committee consulted was the Standing Committee on Medical and Nutritional Problems.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

Can the Minister tell the House why the committees which were set up for the express purpose of advising the Minister on this subject were not consulted?

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

The hon. Lady is under a misapprehension. The committee to advise on a subject like this is the one to which it was referred. The Special Diets Committee only advises me on diets for invalids. The main Scientific Advisory Committee does not consist of nutritional experts but of scientists of all kinds, while the Nutritional Committee of the Ministry of Health has had its place taken during the war years by the Standing Committee to which I have referred, and to which this matter was referred.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

Were the members of the committee which the Minister consulted unanimous in their view?

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

I do not think it is ever right for a Minister to disclose the nature and source of advice tendered to him. The Government take the responsibility for the decision. However, the advice given was that it would not appreciably affect the nutritional value of the loaf.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

Have the members of this committee ever tried their diets on themselves?

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

We all do that. I certainly do.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

asked the Minister of Food (1) to what extent his expert medical advice has indicated that white bread is deficient in nutritional content, and that since the introduction of the national loaf there has been a marked decrease in the incidence of anæmia and a reduction in the sale of aperients;

(2) whether he is aware that owing to the less satisfying properties of white bread it is in the interests of the millers to press for the abolition of the national loaf and against the interest of those consumers who cannot afford to supplement their diet with food rich in vitamins; and what further action he is taking as a result.

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

I do not know whether the hon. Lady is referring to the present whiter loaf, which is mainly composed of the new National Flour of 80 per cent. extraction. If she is, I should explain that according to the advice given to the Government before the extraction rate was altered, and according to the tests since taken, there is no appreciable loss in nutritional value compared with the previous loaf. The Government does not intend to reduce the extraction rate further unless and until it is satisfied that the reduction would not be detrimental from the nutritional point of view.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the highest scientific authorities have advised him and his Department that this action is not in the interests of the poorest section of the community, who are unable to supplement their diet with the richer food which contains proteins; and that this action is probably in the interests of the middle and the upper classes, and will be detrimental to the lower income groups?

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

It is certainly not in the interests of the millers. During wartime the millers are paid a management fee, so their remuneration does not depend on how much is sold as flour and how much as feeding stuffs. In fact, if that were so, they would be getting £16 per ton for flour as against £8 12s. 6d. per ton for feeding stuffs, and if they were paid in those proportions the higher the extraction rate of flour the more money they would be making. In regard to the distinction which the hon. Lady drew between the richer and poorer classes of the country, as I have informed her, the Government were satisfied, before they reduced the extraction rate, that there was no loss of nutritional value, because in the experimental station we have found new methods so as to get the germ and the endosperm into the flour, and preserve the nutritional quality. We must really march with the times and take advantage of new scientific discoveries which come to our notice.

Mr. Douģlas:

What was the nature of the tests to which the Minister referred?

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

From every mill which is milling flour samples are sent to the Ministry's cereal research station. They are tested by the experts there to see how much of these different vitamins they contain—I admit I do not know how they do it but everybody says they can—and then I get the results.

Photo of Mr William Leach Mr William Leach , Bradford Central

Will the Minister take note that most people prefer white bread, and that bakers are very sceptical of the virtues, so called, of the brown loaf?

Photo of Professor Archibald Hill Professor Archibald Hill , Cambridge University

asked the Minister of Food how many more tons of wheat are required annually in the United Kingdom to mill flour of 80 per cent. extraction than of 85 per cent. extraction; and whether, in view of the grave short- age of food in Europe, and the admitted fact that the 80 per cent. is no more nourishing than the 85 per cent., this extra wheat will be saved.

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

About 325,000 tons but thereby the same tonnage of animal feeding stuffs is provided, an amount which would otherwise have to be imported in some form in order to maintain our essential livestock.