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MILK DANGERS AND REMEDIES
T may with justice be said that in no depart
ment of applied bacteriology is more activity apparent than in that which has for its object the building up of a scientific basis for dairy practice. Although this is undoubtedly true, yet, unfortunately, unlike its continental neighbours, the British public, with whom practically rests the control of our dairy industries, has hitherto held itself strangely aloof, evincing little or no sympathy in researches which, even if they fail to interest, should surely impress with a sense of the great hygienic importance attaching to them. But this apathy is not only to be deprecated in the interests of health, but also on economic grounds.
We have only to turn to the reports issued by the Board of Agriculture to realise what this characteristic British apathy has brought about in the dairy industry of this country. Thus in the year 1898 we are officially informed that we imported 359,425,136 pounds of butter, the little country of Denmark alone sending over to us
163,883,360 pounds! Our cheese imports reached the enormous total of 262,018,624 pounds, whilst 817,274 cwts. of condensed milk and 10,691 of milk and cream were supplied to us from without.
If we glance at the energy and enthusiasm displayed by other countries, and notably Denmark, in the prosecution and scientific development of the dairy industry, we shall not wonder at the high standard of excellence achieved, or at the readiness displayed by Great Britain to absorb their produce. Thus, whilst in England it may be questioned whether in a single dairy the artificial souring of cream by pure cultures of bacteria is carried out, in Denmark the use of so-called special bacterial butter-starters is rapidly gaining ground. Thus, whereas in 1888 at the Odense Exhibition not a single sample of butter was exhibited in which pure bacterial cultures had been employed, in 1894, 46.7 per cent. of the samples shown were thus produced, in 1896, 89.2 per cent., in 1897, 94:4 per cent., 1898, 95-9 per cent., and in 1899, every sample, and since this year nearly every dairy of importance in the country employs special bacterial butter-starters.
The Danes are enlightened and shrewd enough to realise that in order to retain their existing markets and acquire fresh ones, it is necessary to take advantage of every improvement in methods
of manufacture which scientific research has placed at their disposal, and their reward is justly reaped in the prosperity of their dairy industry and the high reputation enjoyed by their produce. If we contrast the adaptability and elasticity of the continental mind in regard to new discoveries with the crude conservatism of the British manufacturer, then, indeed, is the success of our rivals and corresponding decline of our own prosperity most perfectly intelligible.
Again, we are informed that the recent visit to London of a deputation representing Russian agricultural interests is already bearing fruit, and contracts have been signed for the regular importation of large quantities of Russian dairy produce. The English market is already well supplied with Russian eggs, but an opening has now been found here for the disposal of Russian butter and cheese.
Finland, again, the total population of which is less than half that of London, exports to this country no less than 12 million marks' worth of butter annually.
As a writer recently put it: "Foreigners and colonists have captured our butter markets; if the consumption of milk sterilised in bottles becomes the fashion, they will likewise capture our milk markets.” And this is no fanciful suggestion, for whilst the production of Pasteurised milk does not
involve any considerable outlay in apparatus, its transport may be effected with the greatest ease. Indeed, frozen milk has been introduced into England from Norway and Sweden. It is first Pasteurised, then frozen in large wooden boxes, and shipped in the congealed condition, in which state it remains unchanged for a long period of time.
But it is undoubtedly with the public that the responsibility really rests, for as long as it does not care to create the demand for Pasteurised dairy products all the efforts of enlightened agricultural authorities in this country must inevitably end in failure.
On the Continent and in America dairybacteriology, as already pointed out, has made enormous strides, and has practically revolutionised the conduct of dairy work; and if we could but rouse ourselves from our lethargy we likewise should be able not only to boast of progress, but also to better hold our own ground in this important branch of agriculture; and one result would be that dairy troubles, which for so long have been accepted as more or less necessary evils, would yield here, as they have done elsewhere, to a more rigid attention to details, the significance of which scientific research has so successfully shown.
Some of the most easily preventable, but at the same time most aggressively assertive, dairy troubles are undoubtedly directly dependent upon the conduct of milking operations.
In the first place, the cow itself is only too frequently in an uncleanly condition, and as its coat offers exceptional facilities for the harbouring of dust and dirt, the danger of foreign particles falling into the milk is always present unless precautions are taken to negative, or at least minimise, all such chances of contamination.
Professor H. L. Russell, of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, cites in his little volume on Dairy Bacteriology an instructive experiment which brings home very forcibly the importance of such precautions. A cow pastured in a meadow was selected for the experiment, and the milking was done out of doors, so as to eliminate as far as possible any intrusion of disturbing foreign factors into the experiment, such as the access of microbes from the air in the milkingshed. The cow was first partially milked without any precautions whatever being taken, and during the process a small glass dish containing a layer of sterile nutrient gelatine was exposed for one minute beneath the animal's body, in close proximity to the milk-pail. The milking was then interrupted, and before being resumed the