After my last posting on food safety following the discovery of horse meat in burgers, I watched a program I’d got recorded about food inspectors which set me thinking. A dangerous thing!
There were the Asian shop keeper and Chinese take-away owners pretending ignorance as masses of cockroaches swarmed over the foodstuffs only disturbed by the mice until forced by our intrepid up-holders of the legislation, the food inspectors, to close down and clean up their act.
Then there was a visit to sandwich producer who stood out as a shining example of hygiene. The workers were dressed up like people in some sci-fi film or one of those shots from inside the reactor building. The manager pointed out the reason they were so aware and careful was that with their volume of thousands of sandwiches a day, came the potential to poison thousands of people.
It was actually quite reassuring that he understood his responsibility and had that commitment to safety.
It was the next segment of the program that had me shouting at the screen, so to speak. This was about a couple with a garden centre who had opened a cafe and gone to great lengths to make sure they did their duty to keep their customers healthy.
The health inspector’s visit wasn’t a surprise to them, they asked him to come and check they were getting it right and safe. Generally they passed but then we came to the coleslaw. They made their own coleslaw and that involved carrots.
Carrots grow in the soil (if you didn’t know that you’re on the wrong website!) and soil contains bacteria. Most of the nasty food-poisoning bugs are found in manure and from there into the soil. So the health inspector delved into the regulations and stated that carrots needed some special process washing to be safe and carrot could not be in the coleslaw.
Now at this point the cafe owner is pulling out his hair and declaring the EU and all bureaucrats to be spawn of the devil. The latter is a bit of an exaggeration, but he was pretty annoyed and whilst he stopped serving coleslaw, he didn’t let it drop.
Weeks later the inspector had got clarification from the supreme high office of petty regulations or something. Carrots had to be washed in cold water and, as long as this process was carried out, could be served raw in the coleslaw. So Killer Coleslaw was back on the menu.
What gets me is the enforcement of regulations that he obviously didn’t understand properly and were patently silly. It’s important that food is produced and served safely but don’t just follow the book without sense. Sometimes you need to get ahead of the book and sometimes understand that putting things in simple English makes the writer appear human and we all know the writers of regulation are a higher lifeform!
Incidentally, we’ll never supply food commercially. It’s often been suggested that Val could make and sell her jams and chutneys from home but to do that we’d need to comply with regulations. We’ve certainly no cockroaches (the thought makes me shudder) and with our cats about we don’t have any mice, well live ones at least. But the health inspector would take one look at the cat’s feeding bowls on the kitchen floor and shut us down. It’s a wonder we’re still alive!