Please send letters to: The Editor, Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS. They may be faxed on 020 8652 8973 or e-mailed to email@example.com. The opinions expressed on this page are not necessarily shared by the editor or other members of the magazine's staff. We welcome views on any subject relevant to the catering industry, but request that letters be kept short and to the point. The editor reserves the right to edit and select letters.
Sick-bag campaign must not hinder joint working
Ian McKerracher (Viewpoint, Caterer, 14 February, page 15) is quite right when he says that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is unrepentant about the sick-bag trailer for our current food hygiene campaign. He is, however, wrong to imply that this in any way constitutes a barrier to our joint working with the industry.
The bag was successfully piloted in catering circles and, neither then nor subsequently, has it given rise to widespread concern. It does, however, bring home the message, reinforced by our campaign, that food poisoning is a thoroughly unpleasant experience which, as we demonstrate, can be more or less eliminated by taking simple precautions.
McKerracher admits that the hard part is getting the message across to restaurateurs who don't really care. The FSA has made it clear that there are high standards in the sector and the point of the campaign is to raise all standards to those of the best.
It is very much in the industry's interests as well as the FSA's to maintain the high level of co-operation that there has been over the planning of this campaign and I look forward to this continuing.
GEOFFREY PODGER, Chief Executive, Food Standards Agency, London WC2.
So Ian McKerracher "just can't believe it!" Well, I would suggest that the man leaves his ivory tower and makes a few unannounced visits to the restaurants that he represents, and some of those he doesn't.
According to him, his and other organisations are actively engaged in pressing home the food safety message. But, with a reported four million cases of food poisoning last year, no one is doing a very good job. And then he complains that the tactics employed by the FSA are putting some people's backs up. Shame.
MAL HARPER, By e-mail.
Surely the general public needs to be advised about domestic food hygiene issues such as hand-washing and reading labels before the industry is tackled.
Anyone running a food hygiene course should try this experiment. Ask the delegates if they have a bottle of tomato ketchup at home. Then ask where they keep it. From my experience as a trainer, more than half will keep it in the cupboard after opening, despite the instructions on the label. It illustrates the point that consumers do not read food safety information provided by food producers.
It is a sensitive area, but how does the FSA intend to press home the importance of following labelling instructions in the domestic sector when pointing the finger of blame so directly at food premises at such an early stage in its campaign?
EUAN MacAUSLAN, Environmental Health Training Co-ordinator, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London SW6.
I wish to nominate the Food Standards Agency for a Catey Worst Marketing Campaign. The sick bag is the agency's first approach to me as an independent restaurateur of 18 years. It offers no contact telephone number or address.
It is an ill-directed, ill-conceived and no doubt costly piece of campaign marketing that has found its rightful place - in the bin.
MARTIN SPOONER, Spooners restaurant, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, By e-mail.
The catering industry had a terrible year last year. We had the lingering bad taste from BSE and genetically modified organisms, then foot-and-mouth and finally 11 September. There was a real feeling of putting it all behind us in the New Year.
The FSA's sick-bag stunt couldn't have been more badly timed.
Admittedly, it's a clever gimmick, but it shows a complete lack of empathy with the mood of the industry. What we need is education, not shock tactics. The FSA risks enforcing its reputation as the aggressor, when it might have more success getting its message across if it were seen to be on the same side as the restaurateur.
After all, you don't teach a child about the dangers of heat by putting its hand on the hotplate.
FRED BARNES, Chief Executive, 3663, By e-mail.
A housekeeper's lot is not always a happy one
I am writing in response to Tim Gasson's letter (Caterer, 14 February, page 14) on housekeeping staff barging into rooms early in the morning. Many guests who stay in hotels don't live in the real world, and think theirs is the only room in the hotel to be cleaned.
A maid usually has between 12 and 16 rooms to clean, has to put up with grumpy, ungrateful guests who don't give housekeepers the time of day because they are "cleaners", and has to cope with continual nagging to keep costs down and standards up.
Low wages make it harder to attract staff into the catering industry. You can sit behind a checkout in a supermarket for double the wages hotel staff receive.
So, Mr Managing Director, give a little thought for the person who has to clean someone else's mess up - it's back-breaking.
SUSAN BROUGHAM, Head Housekeeper, Matfen Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Fine-dining restaurants are a bit scarce in NorwichIn the book review of London on a Plate (Caterer, 31 January, page 59), David Adlard, chef-proprietor of Adlard's restaurant in Norwich, has no justification for questioning why it wasn't Norwich on a Plate.
The answer is quite simple. Norwich is a desert for fine-dining establishments. Two restaurants in Norwich are featured in the Good Food Guide, but this would hardly justify a whole book.
Robyn Jones, Chief Executive, Charlton House, By e-mail.