26 MAY 1939, Page 24



THE dietitian and the social worker who as the result of a decade spent in trying to improve the standard of diet in great Britain are pessimistic about the outcome of their efforts may well rise from the perusal of this book, saying "Nevertheless, it moves ! " The undoubted impression given by the authors in their survey of the food habits of the last five centuries in Great Britain is that things have vastly improved. Possibly only in one respect do they think that a retrograde movement has been made, and that is in the change over from stone-ground to roller-milled flour, from whole-meal bread to " synthetic " brown bread, and from bread made with whole meal from which the bran has been screened to bread made from the white flour resulting from the second and third " break " in the roller process of milling wheat. Upon that point, which is a minor point, there may be two opposing points of view in the dietetic world, but at least this will be granted: that, if a man knows what he is about, it does not matter whether he eats whole-meal or white bread. The trouble is that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he does not know, and that in many this lack of knowledge is a detriment in the feeding of the individual, the family and the nation. How can we set about the education of the nation in dietetics?

Quite the most exciting and interesting part of this book is the chapter in which the authors dose their "Looking Back- ward" down the arches of the years and sum up the position today. There are there many striking and provocative state- ments with which, however, nearly everyone interested in dietetics will agree. They are provocative only to those who from ignorance, apathy and an official-minded hatred of doing anything new would leave the problem of the feeding of the people well alone. Here are two such provocative statements juxtaposed. "It is fair to say that there is no problem of nutrition in England today." "An astonishing feature of the many discussions on nutrition which are heard on all sides today is the reluctance on the part of some of the experts, and a not inconsiderable proportion of the higher ranks of administrative officials, to admit that malnutrition is respon- sible for poor physique and ill-health among the working- classes today." The authors mean by this that we know enough about nutrition to say what is an optimal diet and what is not; that there are means which need but energy, drive and a knowledge of economics and agriculture by which the foods necessary for an optimal diet could be produced and brought to the people, and that it is only ignorance and inertia in high quarters which prevent that being done. It is an unescapable conclusion that we must educate our masters.

This is by no means an original remark. It was made m connexion with dietetics in the final report on Nutrition of the Technical Commission of the League of Nations. Until we educate ourselves and our politicians in the principles of dietetics we shall never be able to get a sound nutritional policy for the nation. Should anyone think this a wild and extra- vagant statement, he is invited to read the chapter in this book entitled The War, when he will realise that nothing but the outspoken memoranda of the Royal Society Food (War) Committee saved us from the disastrous food policies adopted by the Central European powers and Italy, where officialdom overrode the scientist even more than it does in Great Britain. Among the other subjects raised in this last chapter

The Englishman's Food, A History of Five Centuries of Diet. By J. C. Drummond and Anne Wilbraham. (Jonathan Cape. us. 6d.)

of the book are the overwhelming case to be made outfor the compulsory pasteurisation of milk and the attitude of the Board of Education (circulars No. 1347 and 1443) to the pro- vision of free milk to children coming from families with incomes below a definite level. We are still rubbing our eyes over the pusillanimity of our rulers in the face of the oppo- sition to compulsory pasteurisation and their inhumanity in regard to free milk. The authors rightly state "The experts are convinced that the national physique and general health would be greatly benefited by a large increase in the con- sumption of dairy produce, fruit and vegetables, and it is probable that they will before long express the unanimous opinion that there is a national obligation to sec that no child goes without these essential foods because its parents are too poor to buy them."

The campaign for physical fitness is only another example of the way in which those who " run " us put the cart before the horse. Since half the people in this country are wrongly fed—i.e., are in a state of physiological malnutrition—any imposition of physical training upon them will push them still further below the normal level, for if there is anything certain in physiology and in preventive medicine it is that nutrition is the basis of physical fitness. There is a dearth of teachers of physical training, so a training college is en- dowed to meet the artificially created demand, but we hear nothing of the much more urgent need for the endowment of schools for the training of teachers of the principles of nutri- tion! If any thought is given to the matter it is assumed, perhaps, by the Ministries of Education and Health that the colleges of domestic science are adequate and that between them and the newspapers we learn enough of nutrition.

But how are we to educate ourselves in dietetics? That the people are thirsty for it is evidenced by the spate of books published on the subject and by the way they crowd to any lecture on diet. Of provision for sound teaching of dietetics to the people in this country there is practically none. Between the research worker in dietetics in the laboratory and the man in the street there are no liaison officers ; there are few who can translate the technicalities of proteins, calories, in- organic elements and vitamins, into terms of chops, tomatoes and milk puddings. Mons. Emile Aymoz, maitre chef des cuisines of the Dorchester Hotel, in an address to the Chil- dren's Minimum Council, said, "There is for the Ministry of Health and the Minis-try of Education the urgent problem of educating the masses in the science of nutrition. Oxford and Cambridge should establish Chairs in the science of Nutri- tion, Gastronomy and Food Economy, and send out into the world men and women qualified to teach these subjects to the young girls in elementary schools, secondary schools, and in girls' public schools." While we can agree with what so eminent a practical dietitian as Mons. Aymoz says, may we add that it is rather in the younger universities in the great cities that such chairs are needed, and that it should be understood that the holders of such chairs should not be content to speak merely ex cathedra, but should go down into the market place, and the welfare centres, and the schools and the factory canteens and preach sound nutrition? It is true that we are slowly, all too slowly, building up a group of people, the British Dietetic Association, who can in their spare time spread the lmowkdge of nutrition ; but at the present time our main need is endow- ment by benevolent millionaires of schools of dietetics with full-time liaison officers in food education. Only so can we hope to enlighten the people ; only so can we educate our masters.