15 AUGUST 1958, Page 14

Consuming Interest

Egging Them On

By LESLIE ADRIAN Naturally the egg marketing authority, now that it has got a monopoly, tends to get the blame : in my opinion, rightly. The authority is never tired of telling its critics that its lion trademark• does not guarantee an egg is fresh : merely that it was fresh when it left the packing station. But the same authority does not scruple in its advertising to pretend, or at least to imply, that the trademark is a protection to the public : and, of course, it is nothing of the kind. All it is is a symptom of a mismanaged marketing monopoly.

Mismanaged because, it is my belief, if these monopolies are to be permitted they should be run for the benefit of the consumer : and this one is not. It refuses to allow eggs to be stamped with the date they are -packed (which would give us some guarantee); its arguments for not doing so are feeble, but as it is a monopoly there is nothing we can do about it. Yet at the same time it refuses to apply sanctions to shopkeepers to compel them to keep the eggs in proper conditions to ensure that the eggs do not deteriorate quickly.

Why, you may ask, was such a monopoly estab- lished by a Government which pretends to be in favour of free competition? Partly for admin- istrative convenience (the same argument that was used in favour of the Shops Bill, before ridicule killed it); partly as a sop to the NFU. A Royal Commission sCt up to investigate marketing methods ten years ago came down firmly against the kind of marketing arrangements which have since been adopted for eggs. But the present Government is sensitive to the National Farmers Union, as a pressure group; and here was an easy and cheap (for the Government—not the con- sumer) way to please it. So now we are saddled with eggs that are no better than we had before, but are more expensive: and on top of that we have to put up with hypocritical rubbish from the marketing monopoly that it is all for our benefit.

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Although I have always believed pepper tasted better when freshly milled at the table, I have never been fussy about salt, and the 'instant' packet variety has sufficed. But when I was given a French wooden salt-mill recently I felt it was too pleasant a piece of tableware to ignore. So began thes jearch for gros se l. Possibly I was unlucky, but I tried endless numbers of conti- nental delicatessen and Soho alimentations before I found some at Waissells, in Old Compton Street—and then discovered it came from Maldon, in Essex.

The Maldon Crystal Salt Company's product is apparently the only gros sel sold in this country and is a 99.617 per cent. pure sea-water evaporation from the Black water estuary. The firm is hundreds of years old, and Mr. Cyril B. Osborne, the present proprietor, tells me that since the fashion for the table salt-mill has spread he haS been swamped with orders. The salt has a splendid flavour : sharp as the taste of salty fingers after a sea bathe. It can be ordered direct from Maldon in rather nice old-fashioned boxes which bear a testimonial from the Lancet of January, 1884. The price is 4s. 6d. for approxi- mately three pounds, and if you do not possess a mill, Mr. Osborne tells me you can crush it with your fingers quite easily.


The latest issue of Which? contains the good news that membership of the Association for Consumer Research continues to expand rapidly : it is now around the 70,000 mark. There is no reason why it should not go on up into six figures. I 0,e to think that anybody who reads this column already a member, but if not, the subscription (including four issues of Which?) is 10s.; and the address, 7 Great James Street, London, WC1.

The current issue has a number of useful articles, some of them again showing that the best value goods may be among the cheapest. It is a pity that the information on sun-tan preparations did not come out before in the last issue, as it has appeared just too late to have stopped many people wasting their money on well-known brands which are here revealed to be virtually worthless. There is also useful advice on how to avoid un- necessary outlay on washing machines, ball-point pens and, of all things, income tax.