Let us make our own decisions
The "nanny state" strikes again. Will governments never learn? Here we go again with beef. The scientific evidence to support the banning of beef on the bone would appear to be sketchy at best. Surely we, as intelligent human beings, should be allowed to make up our own minds as to whether we wish to take the supposed risk?
The Japanese gourmet takes his life in his hands every time he wishes to eat a Fuji fish. It is a fact that several Japanese die each year for the sake of their pleasure. The Japanese government does not ban the eating of Fuji fish but lets its people make an informed decision for itself. In this country I would hazard a guess that it would be outlawed immediately.
We know that several people die each year as a result of their passion for mountain climbing: should it be banned? There is more risk of getting killed in your motor car than contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from bone-in beef. Ipso facto we should be banned from driving.
The British public should be given the facts and be allowed to make an informed decision for themselves. At present there seems to be very little concrete evidence to support such a ban and I would venture to suggest that this Government is using a battering ram to crack a nut.
I run a highly respected restaurant and I have always prepared stocks from scratch. The flavours are pure and I can assure my guests that my dishes are additive-free. If this ban goes ahead I can no longer make the wonderful beef stock that is at the heart of my sauces for beef. What option is there left to me? My guests have expressed their opinion of the BSE scare by eating more beef than ever before, and a starter of beef carpaccio (raw beef fillet) is one of my best-selling dishes of all time.
If a ban on bone-in beef can be enforced on such flimsy evidence, it goes without saying that any activity that might be injurious to our health should also be subject to similar Government intervention.
Jack Cunningham should resign, giving Mr Blair the opportunity to appoint a new agriculture minister with a common-sense approach to government.
Mary Ann Gilchrist
Chef-proprietor, Carlton House, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys.
'Minor' change has huge implications
In the aftermath of the Agricultural Secretary's announcement on off-the-bone beef sales, the National Consumer Council argues that, in reality, "government is demanding changes in the way that beef is prepared for consumption".
The reality is not simply the changed preparation of beef (off the bone) for public consumption, but the implications of proposed regulatory exclusion of the long-established culinary practice of using beef bones.
This apparently minor proposal will have a momentous impact upon good-quality fresh food preparation reliant upon beef bones to add flavour and colour to a wide range of dishes. The culinary change required is significant.
Of more concern is the fact that ministers need to:
l Immediately address significant people-management aspects of effective industry regulation, ignored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Health since the early 1990s, by positively responding to industry training issues, as recommended by the Pennington Report.
l Determine that occupational food safety and food hygiene standards be externally agreed by the Department of Health, and independently assessed, rather than staying with the current self-regulatory approach involving National Vocational Qualifications.
These measures will add substantially more to public health than acting upon last week's scientific advice to Government.
Vegetables are not roots of all evil
I wholeheartedly endorse the comments of P Warrand of Darlington on the subject of vegetables in pubs and restaurants (Caterer, 4 December, page 24). Is there something frightening about the good old-fashioned root vegetable?
Swedes, parsnips, cabbages, even onions of the braised variety are, sadly, becoming things of the past. Spinach is another which obviously strikes terror into the minds of chefs and managers - when did I last see Popeye's favourite on any menu?
Vegetables are an integral part of any well-devised menu. Come on, you caterers, be bold and imaginative - root vegetables are not the root of all culinary evil. They are wonderful and tasty - please use them.
Stress the good in hospitality
As a recent victim of depression resulting from work-related stress, I read with interest the article headed "Face staff stress or pay the price" (Caterer, 13 November, page 18).
We are all aware of the skills shortage within the hotel and catering industry, and are all plagued with staffing problems. Really, is it any wonder people don't want to work in this industry, when it's pinpointed as "a perfect breeding ground for stress"? How can we possibly attract talent into the industry when it has such a bad reputation?
I truly believe that many employers lack understanding of stress-related illnesses, and unless they can see a physical impairment, don't believe there's anything wrong with you. This is a very dangerous attitude, as in many cases mental disability can be far more damaging, longer term, and harder to cure than a physical disability. I think it should be stressed to employers that "they can be held legally liable for work-related mental illness if they allow stressful situations to persist or fail to make adjustments to allow sufferers to continue working".
So come on all you hospitality employers, let's lose this bad reputation and bring some fresh, young talent into our industry, which is always expanding, varied, great fun, very rewarding and fantastic to be a part of. Having experienced stress, reconsidered my career path, then continued, very happily, within hospitality, I'm proof that stress can be dealt with successfully if recognised and treated quickly enough.
East Kilbride, Glasgow.
Regional approach to minimum wage
It seems that few responsible caterers are against the minimum wage in principle; the main debate appears to focus on the level that it should be fixed at.
The problem seems to revolve around regional variations of pay. Those who work in London or other major conurbations and those who are close to major employers, such as airports and similar, can expect average hourly rates to be higher than areas with high unemployment.
How can a single, national, minimum wage be effective in such circumstances?
To me, the solution seems simple: the minimum wage should be a percentage of the average wage for that particular region. Local JobCentres could establish the average local wage based on amounts per hour for a number of recognised jobs (taking all trades into account, not just catering). From this, a nationally agreed formula could be applied to arrive at a sensible minimum wage. Too easy an answer to such a complex issue?
No conflict -no documentary
With reference to the recent publicity about "fly-on-the-wall" documentaries, we were contacted a while ago by an independent television company that wished to stay and film for the whole season.
After giving the matter considerable thought, and discussing it in detail with senior staff, who then talked to their own staff about the good, and possibly some bad, implications for the Headland, we met the producer for a third time to finalise arrangements.
When he was told that we had involved all the staff in the decision to let his company come in, there was a stunned silence. He then said: "You mean you have talked to all the staff about this?" The meeting was abruptly ended and we never heard from him again. Obviously, we did not have the management style he was looking for!
The Headland Hotel, Newquay, Cornwall.