‘When government invaded kitchens’


A chara, – There is a piece of social history hidden away in the article by Juliana Adelman of Dublin City University about government advice on nutrition (“When the government invaded our kitchens”, Science, January 12th). She wrote: “The two World Wars led to widespread concerns in Europe and America about the health of young men.”

Concern about infant mortality from the late 19th century had mixed motives.

As Greta Thornbory wrote in Public Health Nursing (Wiley, 2013): “By 1899, there was a public outcry about the standard of child health and welfare. This was in response to a newspaper article which expressed concern about the appalling state of health of school-leavers enlisting for the army to fight in the Boer War (1899-1902). Reports in the national press claimed that two-thirds of the young men who volunteered to fight in the South African war had been rejected because of poor physique.”

Other countries had similar concerns. In Britain, because of the continual pressure for military manpower, recruitment standards declined as the first World War dragged on.

Healthy young men were needed. While we have benefited from improved understanding of nutrition, those men became cannon fodder for the slaughter to follow. – Is mise,


Sandyford, Dublin 16.