Mr. Robertson to Mr. Uhl.
Hamburg, October 29, 1894.
Sir: I have ascertained, in a semiofficial way, that a movement is now being set on foot by the Imperial German Government, and is already engaging the attention of the authorities of this city, and, I presume, of the other cities of the Empire, looking to the complete exclusion, under the imperial law regarding the traffic in articles of food, etc., of May 14, 1879, of dried and evaporated apples from the United States, which are found on arrival in Germany to contain more than a specified quantity of metallic zinc, arising from the drying of the apples on zinc plates or frames.
Each locality determines for itself what quantity of zinc the apples consumed therein can contain without being detrimental to health; but the tendency would seem to be to exclude the fruit when found to contain any zinc whatever. The laws of Hamburg prohibit the sale or offering for sale of apples having more than 0.01 per cent of metallic zinc. By metallic zinc is meant the actual amount of the metal left after separating the chemical combination of zinc and the acid of the apples.
For a number of years dried apples, in the form of slices, pieces, or rings, have been imported into Germany from the United States, and it has been observed that this fruit often contains zinc in such quantities that, according to medical authority, the consumption of the same may prove detrimental to health. The German authorities have, in consequence, since about five years ago, endeavored by every possible means to prevent the importation of American dried fruits containing zinc, and to bring about the judicial punishment of the venders of such merchandise.
In many cities—as, for instance, Hamburg—large quantities of dried American apples containing zinc have been confiscated by the police authorities or forcibly reexported. The courts have, in many cases, unequivocally decreed that the sale of dried apples containing zinc must be regarded as an offense against the German food law, in so far as the consumption of articles of food containing zinc shall be liable to injure human health.
The opinion of the medical authorities regarding the contents of zinc of the dried American apples is that the smallest quantities of zinc may lend articles of food qualities detrimental to health.
Of late, the control of dried American apples in Germany has become more rigid, on account of an appeal of the German chancellor to the federated governments, requesting them to instruct the respective authorities to supervise the traffic in these goods; to have samples [Page 308]examined by food chemists, and, if found necessary, to lodge complaints against the sellers of goods injurious to health.
The sequel to these investigations is not unlikely to be the issuing of an order forbidding the sale in Germany of apples containing zinc.
There is no doubt that the American trade in dried apples would suffer severely through such a measure, and the only way for the purchasers of such goods to protect themselves against losses would be the removal of the causes for the existence of zinc in the apples.
It is safe to assume that these causes are not attributable to any condition of the soil, but that the zinc gets into the apples during the drying process on zinc plates or frames, the acid of the apples chemically absorbing zinc.
Although through the employing of zinc plates or frames the dried apples retain a fine, light color, it would not seem to be advisable to employ such means for the sake of a comparatively small and purely external advantage.
Backs or frames of wood can be used just as well as those made of metal, or the apple slices might even be strung upon strings or cords. These methods are often employed in Germany, and, therefore, the brownish color of the products obtained through them would not put them to any disadvantage so far as their importation into Germany is concerned.
The above are almost the literal ideas of a gentleman here with whom I have conversed fully on the subject, and who has given me much valuable information.
While the object in making this report is to warn our exporters of dried fruit and other food products that it is all important that, at this particular juncture, the articles sent by them to this country should be so prepared in every way as to offer no grounds for complaints on the part of either German officials or competing dealers here, such as might be successfully used to injure or destroy our trade, I do not feel disposed to admit, by any means, without further proof, the full extent of the alleged defects in our food products that are being claimed here.
Exporters who really send to this country unhealthy and inferior articles must, and ought to, expect disadvantages for their goods when competing with purer ones; but I feel convinced that our Government, upon the proper representations, will take all the necessary steps to protect the healthful and unadulterated wares of our exporters from unfair and unreasonable interference, when offered for sale in the markets of Germany, and that it will use every means to prevent any restrictions being imposed upon them here, save such as are actually justifiable from a sanitary standpoint and such as are applied to similar articles when produced here or imported from other countries than the United States.
I am, etc.,