1801 First food standards regulations

Governor Philip Gidley King introduced Australia’s first food standards regulations in 1801. The regulations concerned the baking of bread and were, in part, designed to address a scarcity of grain. The composition and price of bread was to be controlled, as was the price of wheat. The standard established for making bread was that each 100 pounds ( around 45kg) of meal should consist of 24 pounds of bran and 76 pounds of wheat flour. Bread made for ships was to be half Indian corn and half wheat meal.

The standard size for a loaf of bread was set at 2 pounds 1 ounce (935g) when new or 2 pounds when it was  a day old. The deputy commissary and the quartermaster (officers responsible for controlling and distributing food supplies) conducted an experiment to determine the amount of wheat and flour required to produce the standard loaves. It was reported that eight pounds of flour would make ten pounds of bread.

King’s regulations also pegged the price of wheat and the charges for milling. Maize (Indian corn) was the cheaper option at 4 shillings per bushel, while wheat was to sell at 8 shillings per bushel. The charge for grinding wheat into flour was to be no more than £1 per bushel.

These first food standards regulations were followed in 1806 by the introduction of licences for bakers, a measure to restrict the consumption of bread after devastating floods in the Hawkesbury region.  At that time, bakers were forbidden to bake “any cakes, biscuit, not any kind of pastry whatever”.

Food contamination and adulteration was an ongoing problem throughout the 19th century, and was addressed by a number of Pure Food Acts in the early 1900s.

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