Spanish Oranges (Thiourea)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1954.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton 12:00 am, 3rd May 1954

asked the Minister of Food what local authorities have now informed him of evidence of the thiourea contamination of oranges and of any legal action they are taking; if he has inquired how far further importation of such oranges has taken place; and why he is not willing completely to prohibit the importation of affected oranges.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

Twenty-three food and drugs authorities have reported samples of oranges found on analysis to contain thiourea. So far, the Derbyshire County Council and the Nottinghamshire County Council have instituted proceedings against importers. The importation of oranges containing thiourea is already prohibited.

As I informed the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) on 15th April, the Spanish authorities have warned all their fruit inspection offices that this prohibition must be strictly enforced.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton

While thanking the Minister for his encouraging reply, may I ask him how it was that after the statement he made in the House, drawing attention to the ill-effects of thiourea. oranges were still being sold in the streets in some districts? Why was that allowed to happen?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

As the hon. Gentleman may remember when I was asked this question before, I said then that as far back as last January I circularised all local authorities and port health authorities warning them of the possibility that oranges which had been treated with thiourea might be coming into the country. As a result of the warning letter which I sent out, the local councils have taken the action they have done, for which I am very glad. I also got in touch with the Spanish authorities and, as a result, they have drawn the attention of their fruit exporters to the undesirability of exporting any oranges treated by this method.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

Can the Minister say whether this substance is sprayed on the orange? If so, presumably it is dangerous for one to suck an orange but not to eat an orange if one peels it.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

This is a spray which is used to prevent the growth of fungus on the orange. It does go through the skin into the orange itself —it makes no difference at all—but I might say, in order that the House should not get too alarmed about this matter, that a child would have to eat six to a dozen oranges in a day before they would have any ill-effects at all, and that all the inquiries that have been made of local authorities up to now have shown no single sign of ill-effects in any part of the country.

Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether any cases of injury to health by poisoning have arisen in this country from eating such infected oranges?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

No, Sir. The only information I have from inquiries that have been made is contained in the answer of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health who, in reply to a Question some time ago, said: … we have had no reports from medical officers of health on the matter or from any general practitioner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 1775–6.] I am glad to say that, apparently, there have been no ill-effects.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton

I appreciate the action taken by the Minister, but can he explain why it was that after his original statement to the House, warning the public about these oranges, and after this particular investigation, oranges were sold in the streets?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Newcastle upon Tyne North

Every orange is not treated with thiourea and there is no question of stopping oranges. All the authorities who discovered oranges which had been treated with thiourea did so as a result of the letter sent out by my Ministry, and I got in touch immediately with the Spanish authorities. Oranges which are so treated ate prohibited in this country. As I told the hon. Gentleman on the last occasion, if I thought that was not sufficient, I can take action to prevent them coming into the country altogether.