A round-up of the weekend's news affecting the hospitality industry. News includes: School Food Trust targets visitor attractions over unhealthy kids meals; Holby City actress crowned Celebrity MasterChef 2010; benefits of Scotland's minimum drink price plan disputed and more…
Food poisoning cases soar by 25% in Birmingham restaurants
Food poisoning cases at Birmingham restaurants and take-aways have rocketed by 25% during the past year as the recession has led cash-strapped businesses to cut back on cleaning and increasingly buy foods such as meat and alcohol from illegal traders, according to environmental health officers in the city. The number of suspected food poisoning cases reported by doctors between April 2009 and April 2010 totalled 1,610 - the highest level in six years and 423 cases more than the 1,187 incidents investigated in the previous year. The rise in food fraud is being investigated across the city. The figures coincide with an exposé by the Birmingham Post of "shocking levels of poor hygiene" in the city's eateries, with top premises such as Around the World in 80 Dishes in Brindleyplace, the Mailbox's Oriental Bar Restaurant, Golden Pond in the Arcadian and Athens in Paradise Circus gaining poor hygiene ratings of Zero or one H (of a possible five). Health officers were also concerned at filthy conditions in children's nurseries and residential care homes. During the year to April 2010, the health team closed 41 premises for poor cleanliness standards and prosecuted 22 after they flouted the regulations. - 20 August.
School Food Trust targets visitor attractions over unhealthy kids' meals
The School Food Trust (SFT) is launching a campaign to encourage parents to complain to visitor attractions about the unhealthy food they are serving to children with the aid of a downloadable proforma letter on its website. SFT chairman Rob Rees said too many attractions were offering fatty, processed meals such as pizzas, chicken nuggets, burgers and chips to children and called for more home-made cooking, fruits and salads to be made available. Attraction owners hit back at what they saw as "nannying", saying they had to serve such meals because that was what children wanted to eat as treats on their day out. A spokesman at the Buckmore Park racing circuit said 90% of youngsters opted for the "fried stuff" over healthier options on its children's party menu while a spokeswoman for Merlin Entertainments - which owns Alton Towers, Legoland, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures - said: "Our view is it's about choice - it's not for us to dictate the nation's diet. That's for schools and other places where children go every day. - 21 August.
Holby City actress crowned Celebrity MasterChef 2010
Holby City actress Lisa Faulkner beat off competition from TV presenter Dick Strawbridge and Christine Hamilton to be crowned Celebrity MasterChef 2010 on Friday night. In the run-up to the final, which saw the contestants serve up a meal for presenters John Torode and Greg Wallace, the finalists had faced challenges such as cooking on the Orient Express and making a meal for top chefs including Michel Roux Jnr. "You know when something is going wrong because you see the camera come looming towards you and Greg bellowing at you, but they are ultimately really kind and I am just in awe of both of them," said Faulkner. "Winning has turned my life around. I love it, I love cooking and since the show I just haven't stopped." 21 August
Benefits of Scotland's minimum drink price plan disputed
The SNP's plans for a minimum alcohol price in Scotland will hit poor people hardest and cost Scottish consumers an extra £132m, or £58 per household each year, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). In a report commissioned by brewer SAB Miller, the CEBR reviewed figures from a Sheffield University study used by the Government and concluded that the benefits were exaggerated and outweighed by the costs to society. It found that a 40p-per-unit price would cost the poorest 10% an extra £1.08 per week (1% of their income and 52% more than they pay now). Meanwhile, it argued that the heaviest drinkers would only reduce their intake by 1.7 units, or less than a pint of beer, per week. Moderate drinkers, however, faced an extra £15m a year while the benefits in health and employment would amount to just £48m rather than the billions cited by the Government. - 21 August
School kitchen porter denies poisoning charge
A kitchen porter at a public school in Buckinghamshire denied trying to poison pupils and staff at a hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court. Maxwell Cook, 57, was arrested in March after carrot and coriander soup at Stowe School was found to be laced with stain remover during routine testing, so no one was hurt. He was charged with attempting to administer poison with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy. Cook, from Northamptonshire, had worked at the school since January 2007 but has since been suspended from his job. Cook was granted bail until the next hearing, which has been adjourned to 8 November when a trial date will be set. - 21 August
Brazilian InterContinental caught up in gun battle
An InterContinental hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was at the centre of a shoot-out between police and armed gunmen who held 30 people hostage in the kitchen of the luxury hotel, which is popular with foreign tourists. The 10 suspects - armed with high-calibre rifles, grenades and pistols - exchanged fire with the police in the street, killing a passer-by as she was leaving a taxi. Dozens of other suspects fled to a nearby slum where the shooting began. Elite military police evacuated some 400 guests from the hotel, many of whom were attending a dentist's convention. Within hours, the gunmen had freed the hostages and surrendered. Police continued to search the hotel to ensure no gunmen remained inside. - 21 August
Burger King launches 2,500-calorie ‘pizza-burger' in New York
Burger King has launched a pizza-burger combination for customers who can't make up their minds, which packs in a whopping 2,500 calories - more than a full day's recommended intake for an average woman. The nine-and-a-half inch creation, cut into six slices, is made from four Whopper beef patties topped with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce and Tuscan pesto sauce and also contains 144g of fat and 3,780g of sodium. It will be sold for $13 (£8.40) from September exclusively in Burger King's Times Square outlet in New York. - 21 August
By Angela Frewin
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