"Dr. Halliday Sutherland is a born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better” – G.K. Chesterton
The Centenary of Dr Sutherland’s speech Consumption: Its Cause and Cure occurs on 4th September 2017. Here is an excerpt in which Dr Sutherland laments the failure to prevent deaths of 10,000 from tuberculous milk and indifference to the problem.
Tubercule bacilli in the milk of tuberculous cattle cause half the cases where this disease attacks the bones, glands and joints of children. Tuberculous milk kills 10,000 children every year and creates an amount of child sickness, suffering and sorrow so widespread as to be incomprehensible to a finite mind, and no more natural than if their food had been poisoned with arsenic. Yet in London to-day, one out of even eleven churns of milk arriving at our railway termini contains this death-dealing virus. Under these deplorable conditions it is well to know that tuberculous milk is harmless after being heated to 160 Fahrenheit for half an hour, that these forms of the disease in children, when diagnosed in time, are very amenable to tuberculin treatment, and that intervention is becoming less and less necessary.
To deal next with the danger, fortunately less, of infection from tuberculous meat, the Government authorities responsible appear to be indifferent to the magnitude of the evil. May I illustrate this? When I desired to know the number of seizures of tuberculous carcases exposed for sale in butchers shops throughout the country—still a very trivial offence for which small fines are sometimes inflicted hard-hearted magistrates—I wrote to the Board of Agriculture, who did not know, but referred me to the Local Government Board, who did not know, but referred me to the Home Office, who did not know. Nobody knows.
But there is the Milk and Dairies Act of 1914, which does not come into force until after the war. Even when it does, it will leave much undone because it deals with advanced disease in cattle, although long before the animal has become emaciated, or its udder diseased, tubercle bacilli are in the milk, but the necessary test is both difficult and expensive, and for the ordinary dairy farmer—to whom the discovery would mean financial loss—where ignorance is bliss, ’twere folly to be wise.
And yet it is possible by means of the tuberculin test, to distinguish between tuberculous and healthy cattle, and, by separating diseased from healthy to eliminate the disease from any herd in a few years. That is what they do in other countries: for example, in America, whose Federal Government Inspectors are stationed at British ports for the purpose of preventing our diseased animals from crossing the Atlantic. Moreover, in America half a million free doses of tuberculin are distributed to dairy farmers every year, while in the state of New York all milk is graded. Grade A for infants and invalids, is from cows that have passed the tuberculin test; and Grade B for adults, is from animals concluded to be healthy after physical examination. These grades are sold raw and pasteurised; and they must also conform to standards of cleanliness and of bacterial purity: Grade C for cooking, must be free of the grosser and more obvious impurities. These vital elements are ignored in our Milk and Dairy Act. No free doses of tuberculin are sent out by our Board of Agriculture; and yet twenty years ago the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis recommended the official use of this test throughout the country. Is it not time and more than time, that these things were done?
Let us maintain, by all means, our Baby Week, but when we are instructing the poor for seven days about the care of infants for England’s sake, let us remember that 10,000 children are poisoned every year by milk from English cows, that for twenty years we have ignored the recommendation of a Royal Commission and that we have failed to do for our children what other countries have done for theirs.
Photo credit: Life Of Pix