Orders of the Day — Food Standards (Ice Cream)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th May 1959.

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9.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Labelling of Food (Amendment) Regulations, 1959 (S.I., 1959, No. 471), dated 19th March, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th March, be annulled.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I understand that this and the other three Motions on the Order Paper in the names of Members of the Opposition, relate to ice cream. If it suits the convenience of hon. Members, on both sides, they can be taken together.

Mr. Wiley:

I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that that course will commend itself to the House.

The Regulations are concerned with a matter of some importance. We have only to realise that 100 million gallons of ice cream are consumed annually. We are now eating three times as much ice cream as we were before the war. Before I deal with the Regulations themselves, however, I would say by way of preface that I have some sympathy with the Minister. This is a question that was raised several times in the House and I am satisfied that the Minister has given it serious consideration and made a genuine effort to reach a compromise in the controversy between the Milk Marketing Board and the National Farmers' Unions and, on the other side, the Ice Cream Alliance and the Wholesale Ice Cream Federation.

To put it shortly, the case of the Milk Marketing Board is that the Regulations will allow ice cream to be sold without any cream content and, indeed, without any milk, whereas before the war ice cream was a genuine dairy product. What the Milk Marketing Board has been pressing for has been that the designation "ice cream" should be confined to the genuine dairy produce, and that when a substitute ice cream contains vegetable oil it should be known by some other name.

If we consider the Milk Marketing Board's case, we must admit that we are the only English-speaking country which allows this substitute to be sold as ice cream. Again, if we consider the Board's case, we must agree that generally speaking, the powers should know what they are buying. This is a matter that I have raised previously in the House concerning foodstuffs.

Against those claims, the Minister has struck a compromise. He has designated dairy ice cream as being the ice cream containing milk. That is a compromise which he has reached after a good deal of thought, but it is a compromise which has been rejected by both Milk Marketing Boards and the National Farmers' Unions. I have some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman, because although I have been referring to ice cream as a substitute, it is a substitute which reaches adequate nutritional standards. The Food Standards Committee itself declares that: The difference in food value between vegetable fat and butter fat is very small indeed.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

The food value in this context means, of course, the calorific value and it does not include protective substances which are essential to health.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I am obliged to my hon. Friend, but I would ask him in future to give me notice of such questions. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be adequately briefed to reply.

The second point I make in favour of the Minister is that this substitute has been known as "ice cream" for fifteen years, but although I recognise that this dilemma is not of the Minister's own making the blame for it rests on the Government's shoulders. In 1950, the Food Standards Committee, when it recommended an interim standard, said: In the long term the description ice cream' should be restricted to a dairy product containing a high proportion of milk-solids. This has not been done and the blame for it must be accepted as being that of the present Government. They are the achiteots of their own dilemma.

It was because the Government had not done anything that the Food Standards Committee, when it reported in 1957, recognised that the substitute ice cream had been known as "ice cream" for a considerable time and had been accepted by the public. But although the blame cannot fail to fall upon the Government's shoulders, I accept the position that at present the Minister can call in aid the Food Standards Committee, the enforcement authorities with, I believe, one exception, and, I assume, the Food Hygiene Advisory Council, which, I notice, has been consulted and, I assume, has accepted the present Regulations.

As far as one can gather, the public, at any rate, accept the present ice cream and the manufacturers have some case that they have installed plant to meet this increased demand and at the time they were installing that plant this apathetic Government did nothing about standards. Therefore, I concede that the Minister was facing a dilemma. But there are two factors, which have not been sufficiently argued, that make the Regulations regrettable. The first is one in relation to which there is again a considerable measure of blame upon the Government.

We have to recognise that during the term of office of the present Government the consumption of fresh milk has fallen. This is very deplorable. The consumption of full-price fresh milk has fallen by 4½ per cent. overall and the per capita consumption has fallen by far more. should have thought that, quite apart from the considerations which I have mentioned, the Government would have recognised that ice cream is a good medium for the encouragement of milk consumption. We talk about our own consumption being three times what it was before the war, but we must recognise that in the United States it is far higher, and the people of the United States enjoy real ice cream. One of the mediums for the consumption of milk in the United States is ice cream. I should have thought that for that very good reason the Government would have been reluctant not to encourage the full use of ice cream as a means of milk consumption.

The other factor is not unimportant, either. It is that the butter fat which went into ice-cream came largely from New Zealand. Now, the Government have been in considerable difficulties with New Zealand about the imports of butter and properly took steps to aid the New Zealanders. Here again, I should have thought that that was a good reason for the Government seriously looking at the question of ice cream and recognising that this would have been a factor which would have helped the Government in their difficulties with New Zealand.

Apart from those broad considerations, I have some points to raise about the Regulations, of which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is well aware because they have been raised with him by the Milk Marketing Board. I invite the hon. Gentleman to reply to some of the points of criticism which have been raised about the Regulations.

The first is that the wrapper will state that the substitute contains vegetable fat. I wonder why it was not possible to meet the Board and to put it the other way round by stating that it contains no cream or milk fat. Again, with regard to the size of the letters of the warning notice, if I may so describe it, I am surprised that the Government have not been able to accept the Board's case. I agree that they moved a little way about the size of the lettering, but I should have thought that on this matter it would have been possible to meet the Board's argument that more attention should be drawn to the fact, because here we are doing something which is inherently objectionable.

We cannot avoid this conclusion. We are allowing a substitute to be sold as the genuine article. That being so, if we say that there are reasons which justify it in this case, we should go out of our way to ensure that as far as possible public attention is called to it. Again, I can see there are practical difficulties, but I wish the hon. Gentleman would explain to the House why he was not able to meet the case of the Milk Marketing Board on ice cream mixes and cones and wafers sold without wrappers.

My main objection to the Regulations is not so much on these points, but on the question of the standards. This is deplorable. We are not only having a substitute foisted on us as the genuine article because the Government have been dilatory over the past few years. That is bad enough in itself, but we have the Food Standards Committee asking as long ago as 1950 that the standards should be progressively improved, without the Government doing anything about it.

Why can we not say now that whether we have substitute ice cream or not, it will be of a better nutritional standard than it is now. This view was taken as long ago as 1950, and we have the position obtaining today that some organisations such as the Association of Municipal Corporations, are making representations to the Government and saying that the present standards are not nearly adequate.

Why can we not say that we are not so short of materials now as we were immediately after the war, and that in any case the standards for ice cream will be progressively improved? There may be technical difficulties about this. If there are, it is the Government, by their dilatory action, who have allowed these difficulties to arise. If they had only said, a few years ago, that they intended to improve standards, these difficulties could have been avoided.

I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman was in a dilemma. I complain not against him, but against the Government, who have created their own dilemma. I recognise that the various bodies that the Minister has consulted support him in his present action, but I regret that the opportunity was not ambitiously taken to promote milk consumption. In spite of some of the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman there are objections still outstanding to the Regulations themselves. The main objection is that no real effort has been made to improve the standards.

It is for these reasons that I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say that, having laid these Regulations, he will nevertheless keep them under review and will keep in consultation with the bodies which have advised him. Also, that he will keep in consultation with the producers' organisations and assure the House that if necessary, in the light of such a review, the present Regulations will be revised.

9.51 p.m.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

I beg to second the Motion.

I know that the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates the importance of our discussion. The figure of 100 million gallons of ice cream a year for Great Britain is a very large one, but it is likely to grow, particularly if the quality of the product is improved. If we were able to persuade the Government to improve the standard as soon as possible naturally people would want more of this most attractive food. Not only is it attractive but it is valuable to the health of the community.

This is not a new product. Marco Polo brought a recipe for ice cream back from the Far East. Certainly there is mention of it in the literature of the ancient Roman Empire and there are a number of recipes for making ice cream in eighteenth century cookery books. Today we are in a situation where the supply of milk, particularly in spring and early summer when a flush of milk occurs, is great. This would be an opportunity to use the same techniques as are used in America where most of the milk used in making ice cream comes in during the spring and early summer months. At that time of the year the milk is most valuable from the health point of view because it contains appreciable amounts of vitamin D which is necessary for the prevention of rickets.

Although the Parliamentary Secretary is no longer in the Ministry of Health, he will be interested to know that among our children, and certainly among the poorest section of the population, the consumption of codliver oil, which is the main supply of this protective substance, has fallen dramatically during recent years. That is a serious matter which brings with it the danger that rickets may appear again among children.

If we were able to supply at reasonable prices ice cream guaranteed to be made from milk and cream, and it reached the population in large quantities, I cannot imagine that children would refuse it. In that way they would get the type of protection that codliver oil was designed to give.

I am told that in the United States of America some 2,000 million quarts a year are consumed, but if that figure is compared with that given by my hon. Friend, it will be seen that average consumption in America is not much greater than ours, for 100 million gallons is 400 million quarts and we are only 50 million people against roughly 200 million people, so that we consume eight quarts per person per year as against ten quarts per person per year.

One would obviously like to see that figure increased. I am not giving these facts or stating these opinions because I have to placate the farmers in my constituency, because I am not sure whether I have a farmer in my constituency. A few years ago, when I last inquired, I found that there was one in my constituency. I am making this case quite sincerely because I believe that dairy produce, cream, butter, milk and eggs, are medically the most valuable and important part of the food taken up by the general public. Anything which can be done to encourage an increased take-up of those foods by the community is bound to be good for us all.

I hope that I am not boring the House with figures, but this is interesting. I tried to discover the value of one serving of ice cream, about two-thirds of a small cup.

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

Will my hon. Friend explain quite clearly what he means by ice cream, because we have ice cream, milk ice, cream ice, and Kosher ice?

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

I mean real ice cream, that is dairy ice cream, the type common in America because they allow no other. We shall obviously have to teach everyone to ask for dairy ice cream and my hon. Friend has complained that that should be necessary. I shall have something to say about that later. It is an obligation which we should not have to impose on the population.

One serving of ordinary vanilla dairy ice cream, about two-thirds of a cup, would give about half as much protein and calcium as would be found in half a pint of milk. That means as much protein as would be found in one egg, or half the amount of calcium needed for one's daily requirements. That shows how valuable a food ice cream can be. In addition, it would give about one-fifth of another protective substance, with whose name I Shall not trouble the House because these words tend to get misspelt, but which is an important protective sub- stance of the vitamin B variety, and nearly as much vitamin A, a most important vitamin to health, as is obtained from half a pint of milk.

That is enough to show that what we are discussing is a matter of preventive medicine and therefore of very great importance. In view of the amount of this valuable foodstuff which is consumed by the public, it is worth spending a little time discussing the iniquities of the Government in this matter.

In Section 47 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, we read about cream substitutes. I remember this Section very well, because it was not so worded in the original draft of the Measure. I raised the subject when we discussed the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" when the right hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said that he would withdraw and redraft the Clause. As it now stands, the Section refers to the misuse of the designation "cream" in relation to cream substitutes. It refers to imitation cream as being …a substance which, not being cream or reconstituted cream, resembles cream in appearance and is produced by emulsifying edible oils or fats with water… If we speak of such cream as imitation cream, why cannot we label this substitute material as imitation ice cream and leave it at that? If we divided it into ice cream and imitation ice cream everyone would know what to ask for. As it is, the Ministry of Food asks the public to be able to distinguish between dairy ice cream which is good ice cream, milk ice cream which is an inferior ice cream containing milk fats and solids, and this imitation stuff which is also called ice cream but will have words on the label stating that the fats are from vegetable sources. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can say why he did not have recourse to this simple method of getting out of what is truly a dilemma.

There are two reasons why the Parliamentary Secretary comes to impose legal standards of the kind mentioned in these Regulations. I have already said how valuable is ice cream as a food and it is also fair to say that there is another Statutory Instrument, not mentioned tonight, which has reference to heat treatment and will completely guarantee, so far as science can, that this food will remain safe to eat and will not be polluted by organisms. If there are organisms, they will be killed by pasteurisation or sterilisation, and we are glad that these steps have been taken. There is no medium we know which will grow pathogenic bacteria quicker than ice cream.

I am glad to say that this good ice cream is always available to us in the House of Commons where no other kind is sold, and I have here details of the ingredients and how it can be made. For nine gallons or 100 lb. of mix the Milk Marketing Board suggests this recipe. One gallon 4½ pints of cream; 6 gallons 3 pints of milk; 5 lb. 4 oz. of separated milk powder; 13 lb. of sugar and 8 oz. of gelatine. This will provide something which is much better even than the standard ice cream. There will be, not 5 per cent. of butter fat but 10 per cent.; not 7½ per cent. of serum solids but 11·5 per cent.; and 13 per cent. of sugar and 35 per cent. of total solids.

The cost of manufacture would seem to be a little less than 6s. a gallon, and so it is possible to get delectable ice cream at reasonable prices unless too high a profit is demanded. I hope that will not happen because it is important that this sort of ice cream should be as popular as possible.

In addition to cream and sugar and such other things, air is also added. Why is there no control over how much air is added to puff up the ice cream and make it smoother and more desirable? Such a regulation exists in America. It is done by establishing what should be the minimum weight of a gallon of ice cream. I am advised that almost any amount of air can be introduced into the ice cream. There must be some air, which is called over-run, and the amount varies from 30 per cent. to 100 per cent. I am advised that an amount of 70 per cent. is thought desirable by the Milk Marketing Board. If there were no air at all in the ice cream it would appear heavy and solid and would not be very pleasant to digest. If there were 100 per cent. over-run, it might result in the customer paying a good deal for air which should be free, as it is in garages. The Parliamentary Secretary may have some reasons that he could tell us why he did not include such a provision in the Regulations. We complain that the standards are too low. As my hon. Friend has said, it is 5 per cent. for butter fats in dairy ice cream whereas in the United States the average varies from 8 per cent. to 14 or 15 per cent.

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

Will my hon. Friend tell me whether the standards laid down here are much lower than the standards he talked about in the cookery book of the eighteenth century and even in Marco Polo's ice cream?

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

I can only give my personal opinion on that, because analysts in those days were not so accurate as they are now. I am certain that the standards then were very high except for cleanliness, but however good the ice cream was then, I would not have eaten it under any circumstances, because there were no pasteurisation or sterilisation processes.

Why cannot the standards be higher? It is almost certain that the Milk Marketing Board would prefer them to be higher and would encourage and advise all manufacturers to make them higher and look upon that as absolute minimal. By these standards it is not as good a food as it should he. It is not nutritious. If the standards were higher, I would be prepared to campaign for ice cream being supplied to children in the schools instead of milk. Then we should have no complaints from the children. It might be a very interesting project so long as we could guarantee its absolute purity. I am sure they would like it in summer, and knowing what rascals young children are, they would eat it every day in winter, too.

We are left with this situation. The Government say caveat emptor. They say that the public must find out what they are buying and if they buy the wrong thing because they do not give the right name and say only "ice cream", it is their own fault because they should have asked for "dairy ice cream". I do not think that is very fair. I think that there could be a better way to have done this. The Regulations as they stand open the door to the provision of a safe food. They give some encouragement to the dairy industry which we should like to encourage as much as possible. But we are left with the fact that those of us who have anything to do with public life must act as propagandists in encouraging and teaching people what to ask for, and in demanding from the manufacturers that the minimal standards, which I think are too low, should be increased by them voluntarily. We must urge the Government as quickly as possible to raise the standards at least to those which are prevalent in the United States.

10.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roger Cooke Mr Roger Cooke , Twickenham

Despite the rather cold ice bricks that have been thrown at the Government's head in this little debate tonight, I think that we ought to congratulate the Minister and his hon. Friend on making a workmanlike effort to find a compromise in this extremely difficult question of the labelling and standard of ice cream.

My only interest in this matter is that having been brought up in the engineering industry, where standards are precise, I am extremely shocked to say that the nearer one gets to the public the more imprecise the standards and specifications are. It seems to me that matters are running away with themselves in a number of directions.

Only the other day, on the topic of champagne grown by the French for hundreds of years in a certain part of their country to a precise standard, where the word "champagne" means what the word "Rolls-Royce" means to us, one found a rather slushy sparkling wine grown in Spain also bearing the name" champagne". I could walk down the road and buy what I might think the best Cheddar cheese, until I note underneath the name, the words, printed in very small letters, "Made in Holland".

The farmers and the Milk Marketing Board are right to urge that ice cream should be made of the genuine products of milk fat. After all, the expression "ice cream" has been far too loosely used for twenty years. It applies to all sorts of products made of vegetable fat, whale oil and other things. We ought to aim at the expression "ice cream" becoming once again applied only to creams made out of dairy fat. We have to recognise that there are large companies that have specialised in this market and have made ice cream very palatable and very popular. Naturally, they cannot go the whole way with that aim. I hope, however, that those large companies, who are really responsible people, will, over the years, agree to a tightening up of the regulations on standards, labels, and so on.

Consumer research has shown that the public do not know what they are buying at all. I do not think that they know what ice cream is made of. I was given only today examples of the sort of confusion that even now, under these Regulations, can exist. The description cream ice" must refer to something that contains milk fat. On the other hand, if somebody advertises "Wilson's ice cream" it need not contain any milk fat. On the contrary, it might consist partly of milk fat and partly of vegetable oil, or have no milk fat at all. "Dairy ice cream" must be all milk fat and so must "dairy cream ice." Take the case of a company advertising on its label, "Milkmaid Cream Products Company, Limited. Super ice cream." That, again, does not have to contain any milk fat. So there is obviously a case for tightening up the Regulations as we go along.

I wanted to ask the same question as has been asked from the other side of the House. What is the position about ice cream sold in cones and wafers? There is a case for bringing that under control, also. The manufacturer could put the name of his company in very large letters. It might be, "Dairy Cream Products, Limited and although the words" containing vegetable oil "are on the wrapper, the name of the company could be advertised in such a big way as to take away the effect of the words "vegetable oil." I hope that responsible companies who make such products will look at all this labelling in a proper fashion so as not to deceive the public.

I congratulate the Minister upon bringing forward these Regulations. We ought to keep a jealous eye on these things, review them from time to time in the light of experience and perhaps, after two or three years, tighten them up.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) sits down, may I ask whether his point would be met if, instead of the words "contains non-milk fat", the reading were "manufactured from the same ingredients as soap"?

10.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Hayman Mr Frank Hayman , Falmouth and Camborne

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) seemed to be very confused. At first, he congratulated the Minister on having done so workmanlike a job and then for the rest of his speech he proceeded to criticise the Minister. In paragraph 6 (3) of the Statutory Instrument No. 572, we read: Where a person sells any food to a purchaser in response to a request for ice-cream or for a composite article of food containing ice-cream he shall be deemed to sell ice-cream or, as the case may be, a composite article of food containing ice-cream unless he clearly notifies the purchaser at the time of sale that the food is not or, as the case may be, the composite article of food does not contain ice-cream. What it all means I really must admit I cannot follow. Surely, here the Minister is trying to cover up the fact that he has surrendered to the big interests which have been selling their products under the name "ice cream" for many years when, in fact, milk cream as we have always known it has been absent. The Minister has missed a great opportunity of giving great stimulus to the farming industry, to which, after all, we pay enormous sums every year—about £250 million. With milk production increasing, perhaps by retaining the simple name "ice cream" for milk fat ice cream he could have given a stimulus to the production and sale of milk.

I must admit that I cannot visualise any person who goes to buy an ice cream being aware whether he gets real ice cream or one of the substitutes provided by one of the huge organisations of manufacturers. As the hon. Member for Twickenham said, they have quite efficient machinery at their disposal. I understand that they also have very great financial resources at their disposal. It seems that they could quite well have adapted their methods to have dealt with milk, as produced in Cornwall in very fine style and great quantity, and used that product instead of going overseas to buy vegetable products.

I am sorry that the Minister has surrendered to those interests and not benefited the agricultural industry which he represents in this House.

10.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Mathew Mr Robert Mathew , Honiton

As one who has consistently and persistently badgered my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend the Minister on this matter, I should like to add my welcome to these Regulations. I certainly shall not follow the rather ungenerous remarks of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman). I should add that milk is not only produced in Cornwall. I understand that the main product of the West Country is Devonshire cream.

Photo of Mr Robert Mathew Mr Robert Mathew , Honiton

In any event, there is no doubt that these Regulations will be warmly welcomed by producers, and indeed, by the British public.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

Surely the hon. Member knows that the Milk Marketing Board and the National Farmers' Unions have protested against them.

Photo of Mr Robert Mathew Mr Robert Mathew , Honiton

I was talking about the producers, not the producers' organisations. The protests to which the hon. Member referred are limited protests.

I was about to explain that my welcome to the Regulations is limited to the extent that I very much regret that the Minister has not seen fit to go the whole way, because this misnomer—and it is a misnomer—of selling vegetable fat cold ice or animal fat cold ice arose as a result of war-time restrictions and has continued. The manufacture has been refined over the years until a very pleasantly tasting product has been produced. I have no doubt that the average purchaser of ice cream today believes that he is eating dairy produce when he is eating nothing of the sort.

I hope that in due course it will be possible to go the whole hog and to see that the words "ice cream" mean what they say. I cannot follow the comparison which my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) made with Spanish champagne, because persons who are fortunate enough to be able to buy champagne see who the shippers and the growers are and can tell the difference between the Spanish and the French names. When we buy ice cream it ought to be what it says—ice cream.

The fact that the Regulation on labelling is restricted to prepacked ices seems to me unfortunate, because there is much sale, in public places from barrows and at agricultural shows, for example, of both the cornets to which my hon. Friend referred and also our old friend the ice cream slide, of which most of us were very fond when children. Is it not possible to cover these cases by having a notice displayed at the point of sale, on the barrow or the tub, or wherever the ice is sold? This would make clear what was the nature of the product which the public were buying.

In general, however, I welcome these Regulations and thank my lion. Friend for them I feel that in future the public will be less misled than in the past. I would point out to hon. Members opposite that during the last year the large manufacturers of ices have experimented by introducing ice cream containing a proportion, sometimes 100 per cent., of dairy products, with great commercial success. I have no doubt that once the public know that there is a difference between the dairy product and the product made of vegetable or animal fat they will opt for the better product, even if it is rather more expensive.

10.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

I welcome the Regulations. As a Member for a Devon constituency I am as interested as any other Member in seeing that as much use as possible is made of the milk and cream products for which Devon is well known. Nevertheless, I always describe politics as the art of the possible, and I certainly do not think that we can steamroller through something just because we think it is right. For instance, I have tried to convince my four-year-old daughter that it is better for her to have a dairy ice cream when she prefers an ice lolly. She insists upon having an ice lolly, arid all the propaganda which I put to her telling her that the dairy product will do her far more good cuts no ice with her at all, and she finishes up with an ice lolly, which has no nutritional value but Gives her a certain amount of satisfaction. That is one of the things which we must recognise.

There are a number of large organisations in the country—I do not want to advertise them—which sell ice cream purely upon the name of the product. If we laid down in Regulations that it must be stated on each wrapper that the product contains vegetable fat but no milk fat: whatever, the average member of the general public would still not notice those words on the wrapper. They are buying the products of Messrs. Walls, El Dorado or Lyons on their labels, because these organisations have built up a name for their products, and people are willing to pay for the name.

It is important to remember that each of these large organisations has also developed a line which incorporates dairy products in their ice cream. They advertise that these lines contain pure dairy fat, milk products and so on, and these lines are the subject of advertising campaigns, in the cinemas or wherever it may be, in which particular attention is drawn to the fact that they have on sale a genuine dairy Product at a slightly higher price than the normal vegetable fat article.

I believe that that is the right line to adopt. We in this House hope that we shall soon reach a point in which the sales of ice cream will cover a very large proportion of diary products, but to insist in regulations that these organisations should use only dairy products is asking for trouble.

Photo of Mr Frank Hayman Mr Frank Hayman , Falmouth and Camborne

Surely, we are not asking them to change their methods? All we are asking is that, when they say they are selling ice cream, they will in fact be selling proper milk ice cream.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

That, of course, is a proper point which should be raised, but, after all, we have to remember that these organisations have not been able, through circumstances beyond their control over a long number of years, to incorporate dairy products into their ice cream. Throughout the war and during the period of the Socialist Government, they were either not allowed or did not have the opportunity to introduce into their products those ingredients which we should normally expect them to contain. Therefore, they had to make certain that in selling their products they were maintaining the name. In maintaining their name, they would naturally never go in for vegetable fat and that sort of thing until after a great deal of research, in order to make certain that the value of their name would be maintained, where the consumer is concerned. Therefore, these organisations went into the vegetable fat market only because conditions which were beyond their control forced them into it.

All I am saying is that, now that dairy products are available, we hope that these large organisations, which are actively engaged in an extensive advertising campaign on I.T.V., in the cinemas and so on, should incorporate milk fat in developing their products. I should have thought that these organisations were doing their job in trying to make certain that they can convince the general public that dairy ice cream is the best buy. After all, they have to convince the normal purchaser, just as I have to convince my youngster, that it is in his or her own interest to buy the better product.

I think the right hon. Gentleman has gone the right way about it by making certain that those retailing dairy ice cream include a certain proportion of dairy products in their article. As I say, for many years the manufacturers have not been able to obtain the dairy product but, now that it is available, they are doing all they can to convince the public that it is the better product. The Regulations are in line with what we want to achieve.

10.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

I can give these Regulations but a half-hearted welcome, although it would be churlish not to say that they represent a real advance on the present position. I appreciate that there may be historical, practical and commercial reasons that make it not possible to go as far as many of us would like, but I hope that the Minister, if only to cultivate a climate in the industry, will indicate quite clearly that these Regulations are regarded by his Ministry as merely a step towards establishing very much more stringent and specific standards for the milk content of products sold as ice cream.

It seems somewhat anomalous that those in this industry should be able to conform to standards much more lax than those relating to the sale of cream buns—or, for that matter, to the sale of cream of milk. I should like to see the manufacturers and retailers of dairy ice cream placed in the same position as other persons who choose to market products with the designation "cream." I should also have been happier had a division been created between dairy ice cream, milk ices and ices—the description "ices "being made to refer to any of these products that did not contain a dairy product. To have done that would have simplified things very considerably.

The only other matter to which I want to refer is the anomaly produced by the Regulations in relation to cones and wafers.

I hope that before long the Minister will see fit to introduce supplementary regulations giving a clear indication to the purchaser, when purchasing not only prepacked products but also cones and wafers, whether he is buying the dairy product. My main point is that the Minister should give a clear indication to the industry and to the public that he regards the Regulations as merely one stage in the tightening up of standards in this direction.

10.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

I do not welcome the Regulations. They are a pity. I have never been able Ito understand exactly the argument why it was not possible to call an ice cream an ice cream—that is to say, something made from the dairy product. I have heard the argument against it many times but have never been quite convinced by it.

The Regulations are certainly second-best. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) that they represent an improvement on the existing position. I also agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) and Totnes (Mr. Mawby) that this is not a big manufacturers' "racket ", because there is considerable evidence that in the last few months the big manufacturers have been spending considerable sums on advertising the dairy product, much more so than on their own traditional product. It was no fault of theirs that the public became accustomed to eating the inferior product during the war and immediately afterwards. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes has pointed out, a whole generation of children has grown up on the inferior product and, in fact, prefer it to the proper dairy product.

My reference to soap was not entirely facetious, because the products from which ice cream has in recent years been manufactured are exactly the same kind of non-milk fats and vegetable fats that go into the production of soap. If the public once got hold of the idea that what they were asking for was the same product as soap, they would be a little more attracted by the dairy product.

Photo of Mr Frank Hayman Mr Frank Hayman , Falmouth and Camborne

The hon. Member will, I think, agree that the big manufacturers have attempted to bring dairy cream into their manufacture only since we have had criticism of the proposed Regulations in this House.

Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

Perhaps the hon. Member will also remember when talking about soap that before the war, when we had a Conservative Government. we used milk for making buttons.

10.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The Minister will recollect that I have raised this matter with him privately on a number of occasions on behalf of the northern Dairy Shorthorn breeders. For the benefit of any hon. Members who do not know this breed, let me explain that it is probably our best dual-purpose breed of cattle. It should certainly be encouraged a good deal more than it has been in the past. The milk that it produces has one of the highest butterfat contents. I hope that before long the Minister will get round to paying for this milk on a quality basis. That, however, is another point.

I give a limited welcome to the Regulations. They do not go nearly as far as I would wish, but at least they do something. They do two things. In future, the purchaser of ice cream will know the origin of the fat that it contains, and minimum requirements for fat content are being specified. Those are two limited advances, and as such I welcome them. Nevertheless, they are not nearly sufficient.

I feel strongly that no product should be sold and called ice cream which has nothing whatever to do with the name. I hope, with the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), that the Regulations will be regarded as intermediate Regulations, merely as a step forward to a goal, which I hope we shall reach before long.

10.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

We have had a most interesting debate on the Motion which is before the House and which, I must remind the House, is a Prayer to annul these Regulations. It is a Prayer which, I think, was moved without great fervency from the point of view of expecting that it would succeed. I think we can acknowledge that in moving it the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) merely wished to bring out a number of points and that he was not really hoping to persuade the House that the Regulations should be annulled. I accept that as a necessary way of discussing the matter, and I am glad that we have this opportunity tonight of doing so.

I hope to be able to show the House why these Regulations should be given an opportunity to show their worth. Incidentally, I would say straight away that having listened carefully to all the arguments that have been adduced tonight I think that the simplest way to reply to the debate would be to read from beginning to end the Report of the Food Standards Committee on which the Regulations are based, because it deals most effectively with every single argument put forward this evening.

I was glad to note that at the beginning of his speech the hon. Member for Sunderland, North paid a real tribute to the Government when he spoke about the increased standard of living of the people. They are, in fact, eating three times as much ice cream now as ever before. That is a tribute which I accept and welcome from the hon. Gentleman as evidence of the benefit resulting from sound Conservative administration.

The criticisms made of these Regulations seem to be based largely on the feeling that we have not gone far enough; that the Regulations are good as far as they go. Had we gone further and decided that the words "ice cream" be used only for dairy ices a number of hon. Members would, apparently, have been happier. My right hon. Friend gave most careful thought to this point before coming to his decision and bringing forward these Regulations. But he felt that, after all, the words "ice cream" have now been used for nearly twenty years to denote a commodity which has been roughly, in its present form and which has not contained milk fat, though I would not go so far as the hon. Member for Sunderland, North, who said that it contained no cream or milk. I am sure he would realise that it contains an element of milk in the solids-not-fat, of which there is a minimum requirement of 7½per cent. Nevertheless, it does not contain milk fat.

My right hon. Friend felt that having been so long on the market in this form it would be unrealistic at present to expect the public to be looking for or expecting that what they were buying was, in fact, nothing but a milk product. However, my right 'hon. Friend saw the strength and substance of the claim that there should be some designation reserved for the product where the fat was restricted to a milk product. In this, he took exactly the line which the Food Standards Committee recommended when it proposed that we should use the term "dairy ice cream." That, in fact, as a number of hon. Members have said, has already been taken up by certain manufacturers, and, I believe, with great success.

There is an indication that there is a very real demand for this. It is significant, however, that it does, by its very nature, cost a bit more than other ice cream. That is one more reason, perhaps, why we should not have restricted the term "ice cream" merely to that product, because we do not want to restrict those who are, perhaps, not able or willing to pay the extra for the other commodity. We think it better to leave the existing nomenclature to cover that aspect.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North spent quite a lot of time referring to the Food Standards Committee's Report of 1950. He is always a bit out of date. I am basing my remarks on the Committee's Report of 1957. It is much better. It is, after all, the same Committee which has brought its views up to date. I suggest that the House, too, should be up to date and not delve in the backwoods, as the hon. Gentleman has been delving.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I referred to the 1950 Report only to point out that nothing had been done and that something ought to have been done a long time ago.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I would remind the hon. Member that the Labour Government were in power in 1950. Therefore, if his Government did not take any action he must not blame us for not having taken any, either. I do not wish to make a strong point of that at all. I was merely pointing out that we believe in taking the latest advice, and that is the advice on which we have based the Regulations.

The hon. Member mentioned two factors which he said should have some bearing on our attitude to this matter. He referred to the consumption of fresh milk having fallen. I agree that there was some fall when more foods of other types became available, but I think that he will agree, and will be glad, that consumption is rising now. The second factor was that we should be helping Commonwealth countries, particularly New Zealand, by the use of butter. One of these arguments on its own is sound, but used together they do not apply.

If the hon. Member is saying that the use of more home produced milk in making ice cream is the way to stimulate the consumption of milk, that is a perfectly sound argument. If he is saying that the use of New Zealand butter would be a help to that country and that if it had been used in ice cream, it would have been fine. But he cannot expect the House to believe that both would happen. Ice cream manufacturers would utilise one or the other, but not both.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I do not want to pursue this further. This is one of our difficulties. We have to consider our own and Commonwealth production, particularly in the case of New Zealand, which depends upon our market for its dairy products. Therefore, we cannot divorce ourselves from Commonwealth production. It may be difficult for us, but we have to consider our own milk production with New Zealand's dairy production.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

That is perfectly sound. There is nothing between us on that. I was merely trying to draw the distinction in the hon. Member's argument.

Generally, it is recognised that in these Regulations we seek to give people an opportunity, if they so wish, to have a dairy product for which they are willing, if necessary, to pay a little more. It will be available to them under the name "dairy ice cream." That is guaranteed to it and anyone buying it can be sure that it is a dairy product. To those like the daughter of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), who prefer a little of what they fancy, the ordinary ice cream is available. Its quality, too, is safeguarded by the standards laid down in the Regulations. Those who wish to consume it are also safeguarded by the fact that it is to be clearly designated as containing fat other than milk fat. That must be displayed on the packaged ice cream.

One or two hon. Members have pointed out that that which was wrapped had this safeguard, but cones and wafers had not. That is a difficulty. I am sure that no one wishes that we should have a rubber stamp placed on ice cream as it comes out. The same hon. Members suggested that we should require that a placard, or something of that nature, should be displayed. But a lot of this ice cream is sold from barrows which have something displayed on them. Those barrows are covered to the extent of any advertisement.

The Regulation on labelling states: No person shall publish, or be party to the publication of, any advertisement for ice-cream which includes any word or pictorial device which refers to, or is suggestive of, butter, cream or milk or of anything connected with the dairy interest unless the ice-cream to which the advertisement relates contains no fat other than milk fat… Any vendor's display must comply with that Regulation and that, to some extent, covers this point. I think that that is the answer to several hon. Members who raised the point.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

Does the description "ice cream" itself come into that category?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I think that the description of ice cream on the barrow will have to be qualified in some way, so as not to suggest the dairy. I think that the hon. and learned Member will see that that is being done in some cases already.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

Is there not another safeguard, that if anybody in the street goes to the barrow and asks for dairy ice cream and gets something which, on analysis, is found not to contain any dairy products, there is a very severe penalty? Is there not?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I am grateful to the hon. Member. That is perfectly true. If anybody asks for dairy ice cream he must be given dairy ice cream, which contains only milk fat.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

Assume, for example, that the barrow simply displays the caption "ice cream "and it does not contain any dairy product. Do I understand that that is in itself an offence?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

Yes. I think that where there appear merely the words "ice cream "a warning would appear somewhere on the barrow that it is of non-milk fat. That is my interpretation. I will ascertain that, and write to the hon. and learned Member if I am wrong. I am now told that I am not right. It is only if some description relating to a cow appears that the term "ice cream" in itself is not sufficient. I am sorry that I was mistaken. I did not wish to mislead the hon. and learned Member on the point.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

That means that if the term "ice cream" is on the barrow, and nothing else, there is nothing at all to indicate what kind of fat that ice cream contains.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

That is perfectly true. That was the point the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) was seeking to ascertain, and which I have now verified as the case.

However, the House should remember that if we are specifying dairy ice cream as being a kind which is guaranteed to be a dairy product that in itself is a safeguard, and those who are selling dairy ice cream will wish to see that the public are quite aware that that is a kind which contains dairy products, and people will be able to see that other ice cream is a separate product.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North also discussed the question of standards which, he claimed, should be high. That is a very valid point to have brought out, and I can quite understand the view which he expressed, and which has been expressed by other hon. Members tonight. It may well be said that now that more supplies are available it is reasonable to raise standards.

Here, again, I would say that the Food Standards Committee showed quite clearly its view on this. This ties up with the very complicated question of over-run, to which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) referred. As the Food Standards Committee said, till we can solve effectively the method of dealing with over-run and of being able to check effectively how it can be controlled, there is little paint in trying to deal with this question of higher standards.

In paragraph 25 of its Report the Committee set out the position clearly, that a number of The nationally distributed brands of ice cream…already contain 10 per cent. or more of fat in the mix and would readily conform to the extra standard. The small manufacturers, however, who do not blow it up with so much air, use a lower percentage of fat, yet because there is not so much air in the mixture there is actually more ice cream in the tub. Therefore, to impose higher standards at the moment, until we clear up the question of over-run, would be to legislate in favour of larger firms against the smaller ones, and would not safeguard the consumer.

The last sentences of paragraph 25 read: To increase the minimum requirement for the mix without taking any account of overrun would really have the effect of compelling one type of manufacturer to conform to a higher standard than his competitors. To offset this he might well be obliged to increase the overrun and thus there would be no ultimate benefit to the consumer. We do not, therefore, think that an increase in the standard unrelated to overrun would be justified. The current standard of 5 per cent. in practice provides the public with a reasonable measure of protection and, until such time as the problem of overrun can be satisfactorily dealt with, we recommend that no change should be made in the present provision. That puts in a nutshell the reason why we have not set the increased standards. If and when we are able to deal with the question of over-run, we will be very willing to look at this question again.

A working party has been set up by the Food Standards Committee to thrash out this difficult problem of over-run. When the working party reports, we shall certainly be willing to consider the matter again, but this is a difficult problem and we do not expect to receive the report for some time. Indeed, the Committee says in its Report that two or three years is likely to be the time.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central had an agreeable suggestion to make when he said that ice cream could take the place of cod liver oil for children. As one who had to consume a great deal of cod-liver oil in his youth, I have a great deal of sympathy with that point of view. He has medical knowledge which I do not have, and if he thinks that dairy ice cream is a satisfactory substitute, I hope that he will publicise that as widely as possible. However, I do not feel that we can think of it in terms of the Government providing it as a free supply to school children, popular though that might be.

The hon. Member also mentioned cream buns and referred to Section 47 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, made it clear, when moving the Second Reading of that Measure, that ice cream was not covered by the then Clause 47 because it was not a substance which physically resembled cream, and I do not think that Section 47 can be invoked on this issue.

I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that dairy ice cream is readily available in the House of Commons and that hon. Members make use of it. I entirely agree that once one has tasted dairy ice cream, there is little doubt about one's preference for it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has an unusual menu—champagne, Cheshire cheese and dairy ice cream—but I do not think that champagne or Cheshire cheese can be discussed under these Regulations. I note his point, but the important thing is that we should publicise dairy ice cream as being the genuine product, and I think that that largely meets what he had in mind. His other point, about possibly misleading advertisements, is covered by the reference to Section 2 (3) of Statutory Instrument No. 471, which lays down the details of advertisements which would be misleading.

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) puzzled me with his reference to surrendering to big firms. I have never heard greater nonsense than that, if he will forgive me for saying so. There has been no question of surrendering to big firms. We have found a practical and sound compromise which will work and be effective and not be more favourable to the big firms than to anyone else.

Photo of Mr Frank Hayman Mr Frank Hayman , Falmouth and Camborne

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that a moment ago he was commending dairy ice cream as one of the finest things available in the House of Commons? If it is good for the House of Commons, why not for the general public, so that it could keep its old name of ice cream?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

We want it not only for the House of Commons, but for the general public. We are not a distinct race here. We think that it is good food for the general public, too. Firms large and small are producing dairy ice cream and selling it to the general public, and good luck to them. I do not think that there is any point there at all.

I have attempted to deal with the other points which have been raised, except that of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), who referred to breeds of cattle. If he expects me to agree with him he will be disappointed. I have to be impartial in these matters, although, representing a Lincolnshire constituency, I have my own views about breeds. I do not know whether he is suggesting that types of ice cream should be related to the breed of cattle from which the milk was obtained. I should not want to see "Aberdeen Angus ice cream" on sale, or anything of that sort.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The breeders of cattle which produce milk with a high butterfat content are anxious to see these Regulations carried further. If the Minister does not agree with me, he should visit Westmorland and Durham and see some of the farms where this excellent dual-purpose breed is produced.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I observe that the hon. Member was not aware that I was in that part of the country recently. It would appear to be of little use my travelling about if he is not aware of it.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the invitation or not?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I cannot pursue that matter any further.

While I am grateful for the points which have been raised, I believe that these Regulations are a fair and just compromise. Once the public gets to know the different grades of ice cream they will be readily distinguished, and this should go a long way to meeting the need, although I have indicated that as and when the question of over-run has been solved we will be willing to look at the point again.

With that information, I hope that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North will be willing to withdraw the Motion.

11.2 p.m.

Mr. Wiley:

The House is obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his careful and courteous reply. He has stated that the Regulations will be subject to review, particularly so far as standards are concerned. He has suggested, with his usual Parliamentary acumen, that I might be willing that the Motion should be withdrawn, and, if the House will allow me, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.