Imagine it’s 1914 and all the pickles you put up have failed. You know you followed the directions carefully. What could it be? Well, it may be that your local store sold you adulterated vinegar! According to a 1914 Bulletin of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the sale of adulterated vinegar was a problem. Here’s a section from that bulletin.
Under both the State and National Food Laws vinegar is a product of standard strength made from the juice of apples—that is vinegar, and nothing else is vinegar, and nothing else can be legally sold simply as vinegar. A 4 per cent solution of acetic acid in water, colored with caramel, is not vinegar and cannot be legally sold as such. It has the acid strength of vinegar, to be sure, but instead of having the delightful flavor and odor so desirable in vinegar, it has nothing but a pungent, stinging odor and taste. So-called spirit vinegar is practically nothing but acetic acid in water, colored with caramel. Still, manufacturers and dealers want to sell it as vinegar. They also want to mix it in all proportions from 20 to 90 per cent with vinegar and sell this mixture as vinegar.
The most frequent violation of the food law to-day is the sale of these so-called vinegars as vinegar by the retail dealers of the State. If the manufacturers or jobbers were to ship these products, labeled vinegar, from one State into another they would be prosecuted under the National law.
These products, shipped in barrels, are not often labeled or branded vinegar, but are labeled what they are, though many dealers in selling them at retail sell them as vinegar. When a sample of so-called vinegar is bought by an inspector as vinegar, and the dealer is notified that he has violated the food law in the sale of a product as vinegar which was not vinegar, he almost invariably replies that the thought it was vinegar. Had he looked at the label, he would have seen that it was not vinegar.
During the year 311 samples of vinegar and so-called vinegar have been purchased from the dealers of the State and examined. The results of the examination of these samples are tabulated below. [If you want to see the table, you can see the original publication at D.H. Hill Library, N.C. State University, Raleigh.]
Dealers are cautioned that the sale of so-called vinegar or adulterated vinegar as vinegar will be prosecuted.