In several previous blogs I have looked at the alarming number of incidents in which, In Victorian Britain, people found themselves poisoned by food that they have treated themselves to believing them to be mouth-wateringly delicious.
There was, for example, the poisoned lozenges case at Bradford in 1858.
This was quickly followed the the case of the poisoned Bath buns which afflicted several people in Bristol in 1859.
The South Wales Daily News, on Thursday the 29th of November 1885, carried the story of another case in which people appeared to have been poisoned, this time with ice cream:-
THE WHOLESALE POISONING WITH ICE CREAM IN LAMBETH
“In connection with the extraordinary case of poisoning of some twenty persons in Lambeth, the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department, under the active supervision of Detective-inspector Chamberlain, of the L division, have been busily engaged all the week in trying to throw some light upon the matter, but have been unable to do so.
The Italian, Luigi Feretti, who resides in Back-hill, which is situated in the Italian colony at Holborn, has been seen, and he states that for the last eight years he has always stood with his ice cream stall in Lambeth-walk, and sold his ice creams which he made himself every morning.
ALWAYS MADE IN THE USUAL MANNER
He has, he says, always made his ice creams in the usual manner, and that there was never anything put in it of a poisonous nature.
Indeed, he gives the names of all the things with which it is made and coloured; and the ingredient used for colouring, which is purchased from a respectable tradesman in the neighbourhood, was free from anything that was injurious, and, if it had not been so, then some hundreds of persons would have been poisoned, for he had been using what he purchased for the past fortnight.
IT COULD HAVE BEEN SWEETS
On Sunday he served some 200 persons, adults and children, with ice cream before any complaint was made, and that upon Monday some of the persons who had on the day previous purchased ice creams from him, and had been treated for illness afterwards had informed him that they had partaken of some sweets that they had purchased off some barrows in the neighbourhood, and that these might have caused the illness.
THE FIRST ACCUSATION
The Italians who sell ice cream in the streets of London number nearly 800, and they state that this trade has been carried on now for twenty years, and that this is the first time during that period that such an accusation has been brought against their business, which they believe is due to some poison in the sweets, and not in the ice cream, except when the cream was being made in the street, as all the Italians made their ice creams outside their street doors, some one out of spite to the man Luigi Feretti placed the poisonous matter into the cream unobserved.
THEY CAN’T SELL THEIR ICE CREAM
In consequence of the reports that have appeared, the Italians now found it next to impossible to sell any of the cream in the streets, besides which they are much abused by persons calling out to them, “Poison, poison!!” and many of them, it is stated on good authority, have returned home several days without having been able to sell a pennyworth of cream.
TO BE ANALYSED
The police have been asked to obtain some of the cheap sweets sold in the neighbourhood, and which, it is alleged, are far from being pure, and to have them analysed as well as the ice creams.”
ALLEGED POISONOUS ICE-CREAMS
The South London Press, in its edition of Saturday, 11th July, 1885, reported on the outcome of the anaysis:-
“The Sanitary Committee reported that Inspector Baxter submitted certificates of analyses by Dr. Muter of three samples of ice-creams, purchased at an ice cream barrow in Lambeth Walk, on Wednesday, June 10.
The certificate states as follows:-
After a most exhaustive and careful examination, I have come to the conclusion that nobody could suffer any injury from this article, through anything unusual in its composition.
NO POISONOUS MATTER
It contains no poisonous matter, and the only unusual thing found was a very slight trace of zinc (doubtless from the vessel in which it was made), but so minute as to be perfectly without influence, and indeed I have found much more in ordinary London water stored in cisterns.
The respective amounts of aniline colour and flavouring essence are so small as to be quite innocuous, and two of the samples actually contain fruit.
DIRTY AND CORRODED ZINC PAIL
It was, however, desirable that the inspectors should keep their eyes open, because a dirty and corroded zinc pail might give off a dangerous quantity of metallic matter.
The mere fact of the hasty consumption of ice upon hot day and empty stomach would in itself frequently cause unpleasant results, even if no poisonous article was present.”
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