The Aberdeen typhoid outbreak of 1964 was the largest in Britain since 1937. The first patient became ill on 12 May 1964, and was admitted to hospital on 16 May; eventually more than four hundred cases were identified, and three fatalities recorded.[a]The pathogen was later identified as Salmonella typhi, phage type 34, a variety common in South America and Spain, but virtually unknown in Great Britain. Dr Ian MacQueen, the Medical Officer of Health for Aberdeen, made great use of the media to promote proper hygiene among the local population during the epidemic to control the spread of the disease, but came in for criticism for what some regarded as his “scaremongering”.
The outbreak was eventually traced to contaminated tinned corned beef from Rosario, Argentina and sold in the city’s branch of the Scottish grocery chain William Low. Pollution from the waters of the Uruguay River appeared to be the source of the contamination, probably through water entering a defective tin through a small puncture.[b]In three earlier outbreaks of typhoid at Harlow, Bedford and South Shields in 1963, the only common factor was once again Argentinian corned beef, and one brand in particular, produced at a packing establishment at which the water used for cooling the cans of meat after sterilisation was unchlorinated river water. The infected meat then contaminated William Low’s meat-slicing machine, and the bacteria multiplied in other sliced meats when they were placed unrefrigerated near a window and exposed to sunlight.
The consumption of corned beef in Britain fell “drastically” in the wake of the outbreak, leading to a significant increase in the wholesale prices of other meats, and some concern about a possible shortfall in their availability.
The reputation of Aberdeen as a safe city to visit, live and work in was briefly harmed by the media coverage of the outbreak. In July 1964, following the end of the epidemic, Queen Elizabeth II made a high-profile visit to boost morale and help rehabilitate the city’s reputation.
An official enquiry into the outbreak, commissioned by the Secretary of State for Scotland and headed by Sir David Milne, concluded that a single six-pound (2.7 kgs) can of corned beef had been contaminated by cooling water during its manufacture in Argentina, and that the infection had spread to other produce at the shop where it was sold via implements, surfaces, and hands. A series of recommendations were made, aimed to prevent such a re-occurrence.
Argentina was sensitive about accusations in the British press that its meat had caused the typhoid outbreak, and in response to a temporary ban on the import of Argentinian beef threatened to withdraw from an agreed purchase of British military equipment. But after all meat processing plants adopted the use of chlorinated water, as trust was regained so the consumption of corned beef began to recover.
In three earlier outbreaks of typhoid at Harlow, Bedford and South Shields in 1963, the only common factor was once again Argentinian corned beef, and one brand in particular, produced at a packing establishment at which the water used for cooling the cans of meat after sterilisation was unchlorinated river water.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.