File No. 7661/29–30.

Chargé Wilson to the Secretary of State .

No. 638.]

Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 629, of October 16 last, and to previous correspondence on the same subject, I have the honor to inclose herewith duplicate copies of the “Boletin del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores,” No. 107, upon page 196 of which publication will be found the correspondence between the British legation in this city and the Argentine Government concerning the presence of boric acid in imported animal food products, and explaining the chemical processes employed in the government laboratories to discover the presence of this acid.

I also inclose duplicate copies of a translation of the article in question, as it may be of interest, in view of the difficulties raised by the Argentine Government in regard to the importation of Underwood’s deviled ham.

I am, etc.,

Charles S. Wilson.

boric acid in imported animal products.

His Britannic Majesty’s minister presents his compliments to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs and has the honor to inform his excellency that he has been directed by the secretary of state in the foreign office to obtain information in regard to the methods employed by the Argentine sanitary authorities to discover the presence of boric acid or like substances in animal products imported from abroad. It has been brought to the attention of His Majesty’s Government that the government analysis offices of South American Republics have discovered on various occasions the presence of boric acid in meat, in which the British Government analysis offices have been unable to do so, and it is thought that if the methods employed abroad were known it would be desirable to adopt the same in the United Kingdom.

The bills of lading which accompanied the shipments of ham which were refused entry in the ports of Buenos Aires and Rosario give details about certain cases recently brought to the attention of His Majesty’s Government. They are inclosed, in order that their nature may make clear the object of this request.

Mr. Townley will be obliged to Doctor Zeballos if his excellency will be so good as to try, if possible, to have the proper Argentine authorities furnish him with the desired information, in order that he may submit it to Sir Edward Grey.

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Referred to the minister of agriculture, with the request that he will put this department in a position to satisfy the wishes expressed in the preceding note verbale, provided there be no objection. Acknowledge the receipt.



Referred to the division of animal industry.

E. Ezcurra.


Referred to the inspector-general regarding the process employed in the chemical analysis of products of imported animal origin.

A. Lanusse.

Referred to the veterinary inspector, charged by the section of chemistry with the inspection of imported animal products, Dr. Manuel V. Casal.

Desiderio Davel.


Division of Animal Industry, Zoology, and Veterinary Police.

Mr. Inspector-General: In accordance with your request for information as to the different methods employed in determining the presence of boric acid in the different foodstuffs analyzed in this office, I have to inform you as follows:

The foodstuffs submitted to this test are various, and the same procedures are followed, more or less, in each case, namely, with chlorics, found in every laboratory and which determine the compositions.

First. Foodstuffs such as ham, poultry paste, etc., are generally submitted to calcination, the largest possible quantity being so submitted, the cinder being washed in hot water in the presence of a base (sodium potash), and the bath evaporated, or the volatile matter being driven off over ashes acting at 4.504 degrees with amyl alcohol in order to obtain the green flame characteristic of boric acid. This method is that of Haffelin.

The Gladding method or that of Dupasquier, known as the volumetric method.

The method of Haffelin for meats, that is, action on meats or hams without fat, and finely powdered muscle, glycerine, alcohol, water, and drops of hydrochloric acid, according to its author, in the reaction on turmeric paper produces red, after being dried in the Bunsen flame.

The Thadduff method or the old method of Bersiliusis, developed by producing an action on the substance to be investigated by the addition of pure potash and an excess of hydrofluoric acid. This method is very good but long on account of time required.

I could give you more ample processes, but any laboratory can inform you of this which is common to all, reviewing the observations referring to the matter.

This is all that I have to report to your excellency,

M. V. Casal.


Mr. Chief: I return to you this dispatch with the foregoing report, which can be passed to the chemical office of the division of agriculture in order that it, on its part, may indicate the process followed relative to the point which gives rise to this consultation.

The chemical analysis of imported animal products takes place when the veterinary inspectors in charge of the service deem it necessary, and after those products have been submitted to an organoleptical revision and the previous presentation of the sanitary certificates of origin in due form.

P. Bidart.


Mr. Minister: This department has effected the analysis of imported animal products in the manner cited, page 5, by Doctor Casal, in charge of said service, [Page 34] who has only recently been in charge of the same since July 1, therefore it would be necessary to pass this dispatch to the department of agriculture in order to request reports from the chemical office of that department, which is the division which has intervened from the beginning in the analysis of those products.

God guard your excellency.

A. Lanusse, Chief Official.


Referred to the agricultural department for purposes indicated by the division of animal industry in its former report.

P. Ezcurra.

Referred to the chief of the chemical section for his information, as he should have for an antecedent the date sent by this division to the department of animal industry relative to the systems employed in the analysis of animal products.

E. Fynn.

Chief of the Division of Agriculture.

Dr. Enrique Fynn: Authorized in September, 1903, to investigate the presence of boric acid or its compounds in salted meats prepared in this country, we studied on this occasion various methods indicated in the texts that treat of this matter, adopting one, with some modifications, which seemed to us easy and rapid and at the same time sure, and that, taking into consideration the satisfactory results obtained in other analogous cases, was taken as the official method to be applied to investigations referred to the chemical laboratory of the agricultural division.

However, before examining the products submitted by the inspection of the cattle division we have again effected a series of experiments, with the object of proving once more the degree of sensibility of the said method, as well as its applicability to the various animal substances to be examined, and having confirmed these two points we have adopted it up to this date.

The method hereby described consists in destroying by incineration the organic materials and in determining in the ashes the presence of boric acid by the color given with turmeric paper prepared for the purpose and which is peculiar to this material.

The calcination is effected over an ordinary Bunsen burner in a nickel capsule of some 11 centimeters diameter, in which the meat or the other product to be examined is placed, adding a few cubic centimeters of a solution of soda or potash. When the organic matter has disappeared some cinders mixed with the ashes remain, which is pulverized with the end of a small rod, and a complete washing is then accomplished, this residue being treated several times with boiling water. The filtrate is clear and colorless. The presence of boric acid is determined in this liquid, concentrated to a 5 per cent solution, by previously adding hydrochloric acid.

The commercial turmeric paper does not possess the sensibility required for these experiments, and it is therefore necessary to prepare it as need requires. For this purpose the pulverized commercial curcuma root is used, separating the resin which it contains by benzine, and finally dissolving the colored matter by alcohol.

With the tincture thus obtained filter paper is saturated and left to dry. The turmeric paper, if well prepared, presents a lemon-yellow color, and with solution of boric acid at 0.25 per thousand gives a rosy coloring. This said coloring will turn blue if treated with a drop of carbonate of soda.

If the rosy color is weak it can be accentuated by wetting repeatedly (two or three times) the same strip of paper in the liquid used for the experiment, leaving it to dry each time at a moderate temperature; if, in spite of this, the reaction with the turmeric is doubtful, it is convenient to eliminate the major part of the salts which accompany the boric acid in the solution to be experimented with. It is then treated with concentrated alcohol, which is separated by decantation by a small filter, washed several times, and the filtrate, weakly alkaline by sodium hydrate, is evaporated until dried. As has been indicated, in the residue, dissolved in a 1 or 2 per cent of water solution and previously acidified, the presence of boric acid is determined. It is also possible [Page 35] to observe the coloring of the flame by adding alcohol at 96° to the residue obtained in the foregoing operations and lighting it.

As a proof, the transformation of the boric acid into methyl boric ether, which is separated by distillation, is sometimes resorted to. The apparatus adopted for this is invented by Juy and Dupasquier (Bui. Soc. Chem., 1895, I, p. 878; A. Carisot, Traité d’analyse des substances minerales, 1904, II, p. 622).

The residue, free from sodium chloride, is then operated upon by washings in alcohol. The presence of boric acid in the distillation, concentrated to a 1 or 2 cubic centimeters and acidified, is then determined with turmeric paper. The coloration is not much more evident than before distilling, operations in the two cases being with the liquids at the same degree of concentration. This procedure is particularly useful in ascertaining the proportion of boric acid contained in the products examined.

It should be stated that in the majority of cases the first method, without washing with alcohol, is amply sufficient to reveal even small quantities of boric acid if worked on 100 grams of the product to be examined, and, as has already been stated, the turmeric paper, well prepared, gives a clear characteristic coloring in the liquid of 0.25 per thousand.

I am, sir, your most obedient servant,

Pablo Lavenir.

Your Excellency: I transmit herewith the report of the chemical section setting forth the method employed in the laboratory of this division in determining the presence of boric acid in food substances.

This procedure has been the subject of a previous study on the part of the writer.

E. Fynn.


To be returned with the report, as requested, to the ministry of foreign affairs and worship.

P. Ezcurra.


Let the foregoing be communicated to the legation of His Britannic Majesty, and published.