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Grace Carlson

Add a Dash of Poison!

(1 March 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 9, 1 March 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

All of the big commercial bakers tell the suffering public that their product is “unique” – that it is baked according to a special “home recipe”; that it “stays fresh longer; that it contains some “priceless ingredient.” The facts are, of course, that the ordinary loaf of packaged white bread is uniformly soggy and tasteless. And recent medical studies indicate that it may be uniformly dangerous to its users.

In the December 14, 1946 issue of the British Medical Journal, the famous nutritional expert, Sir Edward Mellanby reported that bleached flour gives dogs fits. Since that two groups of American scientists have verified Mellanby’s findings. Their reports, published in the November 22, 1947 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association gave the experimental evidence to prove that bleached flour poisoned dogs, cats, ferrets and monkeys. In each case, the symptoms varied with the species.

Nine-tenths of the bread eaten by the American people is made out of bleached flour. For the past 30 years, most of our bleached flour has been “agenene-ized.” Agene is the trade name for nitrogen trichloride – a substance added to flour during the milling process. With the agene treatment, the flour is not only bleached, but is made inedible for weevils. Thus, it keeps for a much longer time in the bakeries and warehouses.

On the subject of agene and its possible dangerous effects on human beings, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council has made the following recommendations:

  1. Investigation of the effects of agene-ized flour on human subjects.
  2. Exploration of alternative processes of flour treatment to make sure that flour is free from toxic effects.
  3. Reduction of the use of agene by commercial bakers.

Agene gives fits to dogs. What it does to human beings is still a matter of speculation. Experiments now under way indicate that agene may change some of the wheat protein into a nerve poison, which, in turn, may cause alcoholism or some other personality disorder.

But the mere discussion of the “agene” question is giving all of the flour trusts and the profit-hungry bakeries fits. Because all of their bread recipes call for the addition of “a dash of poison.”

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