Abstract

This examination of milk safety before the Second World War focuses on the manner in which government regulation was shaped by the agricultural lobby, acting through the Ministry of Agriculture. Dairy farmers used their market strength to resist the introduction of many regulations which were regarded as desirable and even essential from a public health perspective. These included compulsory pasteutization, favoured by the Ministry of Health and the BMA, but successfully resisted by farmers in the 1930s on commercial grounds and so not actually realized until 1949. This episode crystallized the three related conflicts of interest—between rural and urban areas, the needs of agriculture and public health, and the Ministries of Agriculture and Health—which restricted the expansion of state regulation, ensuring that milk still remained a potentially hazardous and occasionally lethal commodity in the late 1930s.

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