A case of parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus? The BMA nutrition committee 1947-50 and the political disengagement of nutrition science.

David Frederick Smith, M. bufton

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2 Citations (Scopus)


During spring 1947, there was a controversy about the consequences for health of food rationing in Britain; among the issues at stake being the accusation that government departments were failing to release relevant data. The British Medical Association (BMA) responded by establishing a Nutrition Committee to investigate the effects of rationing. Leading members of the BMA expected the committee to intervene decisively in the debate, presenting the medical profession as protectors of the people. The committee, however, was dominated by officials and others who were concerned with presenting the government's record in a good light. Furthermore, by the time the committee reported, the food situation had improved. In the event, the BMA's Nutrition Report was deemed a success if it was received quietly by the press. The deliberations of the committee had involved the controlled release of government data to interested parties, and took place during a period of transition in the government's work in nutrition, from comprehensive emergency intervention toward routine peacetime surveillance. By providing a new set of standards that were used for measuring the adequacy of diets as revealed by the annual National Food Survey, the report contributed to the establishment of the postwar modus operandi of nutrition science and the peacetime system for monitoring the health of the nation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-272
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • nutrition
  • BMA Nutrition Committee
  • malnutrition
  • Great Britain

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