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SUMMARY OF THE TESTIMONY OF VICTOR C. VAUGHAN
MR. VAUGHAN: I am thoroughly desirous that something should be done to regulate the use of preservatives in foods.
MR. BURKE: Where would you draw the line? Where would you fix the point beyond which it would be dangerous to go in the use of benzoic acid, as to quantity?
MR. VAUGHAN: That brings up a very interesting point. * * * It seems to me that that ought to be settled by a commission of experts, as to what preservatives could be used and in what amounts they could be used, and in what foods they might be used.
MR. STEVENS: In other words, you want a board or bureau of standards?
MR. VAUGHAN: I think so.
MR. BURKE: Have you not an opinion of your own in regard to the matter?
MR. VAUGHAN: Yes; I have an opinion of my own, but that opinion might be changed by further study of the subject. I am sure that benzoic, acid in the quantities in which it is used in tomato catsup, sweet pickles, etc., does not do any harm. I should be opposed to the use of formaldehyde in milk in any quantity, or the use of any other preservatives in milk. I have testified repeatedly against the use of sulphite of soda on Hamburger steak. I am thoroughly in sympathy with the Hepburn bill. It does seem to me, however, that it is the part of wisdom not to say that preservatives shall not be used at all, but to find out what foods need preservatives, and in what quantities they might be used with safety.
MR. BURKE: Is not formaldehyde used very generally now in preserving cream and milk?
MR. VAUGHAN: I do not think it is used generally. It is used to some extent.
MR. BURKE: Where cream is gathered up and shipped some distance to a creamery they use some preservatives, and usually formaldehyde, do they not?
MR. VAUGHAN: I do not know. I have not found much formaldehyde in cream. Borax is used some, and one-half of one per cent of boric acid is used. Formaldehyde is used to some extent.
MR. MANN: Do you understand that the Hepburn bill absolutely forbids the use of preservatives?
MR. VAUGHAN: No, Sir; but I find that it puts into the hands of one man, or of one Department, at least, the question of deciding as to the harmfulness of preservatives.
MR, MANN: You say in the hands of one man or of one Department. Eventually it must be put into the hands of somebody to decide the question, in your opinion, I take it?
MR. VAUGHAN: Certainly, certainly.
MR. TOWNSEND: Right there I want to ask you this question; as I understand, some experiments have been made with benzoic acid to determine whether it is harmful or not, by giving doses of pure benzoic acid to patients. What have you to say in regard to that method of determining the safety of benzoic acid--whether it is harmful or otherwise?
MR. VAUGHAN: The experiments upon benzoic acid, I understand, have been finished by Dr. Wiley, but there is no report on them up to the present time. Dr. Wiley has made a report on boric acid as to preservatives, and while I am a personal friend of Dr. Wiley's, appreciate him very highly and think greatly of him, his experiments have shown that boric acid in large amounts disturbs digestion and interrupts good health, but they have not shown that boric acid in the small quantities which would be used as a preservative, if used at all, has any effect on the animal body.
MR. ADAMS: About what do you mean by "small quantities"?.
MR. VAUGHAN: I mean one-half of one per cent.
Dr. Vaughan then engaged in a somewhat animated discussion with members of the committee in regard to what kind of board should be provided for in the law to decide all these questions. At the end of this discussion the following questions were asked:
MR. BURKE: When benzoic acid is taken in excessive quantities what is the effect?
MR. VAUGHAN: In large quantities it irritates the stomach. In very large quantities it causes acute inflammation of the mucous membranes of the stomach, nausea, and vomiting.
The maximum medical dose of benzoic acid is about ten grams, or one hundred fifty grains, and larger amounts are likely to cause inflammation of the stomach.
MR. MANN: How much benzoic acid could one eat, day after day, year after year, without injury?
MR. VAUGHAN: I could not answer that.
MR. MANN: Have you any idea about it? How much can you eat wholesomely without injury?
MR. VAUGHAN: I should say certainly that the amount that is found in your own body, which is from one to ten grains a day.
MR. MANN: That is formed in addition to your own body. I asked how, much can you eat?
MR. VAUGHAN: I would have to answer only in a general way and say a grain or two, I am sure, taken day by day for one's life, would not do any harm.
MR. MANN: Do you mean one grain or two grains?
MR. VAUGHAN: One grain.
MR. MANN: Would two grains do any harm?
MR. VAUGHAN: Well, I do not know. I would not like to set up my dictum. I do not know enough about it.
MR. MANN: I appreciate your position, Doctor; but still, as far as you can, we would like to have your opinion.
MR. VAUGHAN: Well, I should say one grain would be perfectly safe. I do not know whether two grains would be or not.
It is not at all surprising that at the end of this examination by Mr. Mann, Dr. Vaughan had put himself in a most ticklish position. He was arguing for some amendment to the bill which would permit the use of benzoic acid in food products, but he, was under the impression that even one grain a day for every day would be safe, but by eating two grains a day for all one's life it might not be safe. As two grains a day is a most minute quantity of benzoic acid, a quantity which would be exceeded if benzoic acid were used in foods in general, it is evident that such a course of reasoning could have little effect upon a deliberative body.