Food & Drink

Environmental Health Officers : The Puking Police

How many people die from food poisoning in Ireland?

How many die from food bought in a restaurant, pub or delicatessen?

How many have ever died from eating in a restaurant, pub or delicatessen?

How many people have died from eating food from a take-away, however filthy it might have been?

Here’s a good one: how many children in creches have died as a result of eating food cooked on the premises?

If the numbers were enormous, I think we’d know.  If they were very large, we’d know.   If they were noticeable, we’d know.

Are there any cases of death from eating food bought in one of these places?  Perhaps.  I suppose some particularly filthy cook might well have poisoned somebody to the point where they expired, but none of this is relevant.

Here in Ireland, we have built up an enormous apparatus of food inspectors who impose the harshest of regimes on food producers and retailers.  They close down perfectly good restaurants that have never poisoned anyone simply because their kitchens are below a prescribed floor area. Not too dirty: too small.  It happened to a lovely little restaurant here in Limerick, because some idiot from the Heallth Board couldn’t see beyond their check-list.

Creches in private houses have to send out to the local deli for food, even though entire families have survived the same kitchen unscathed and the parents of the toddlers are quite happy to have their kids fed there.

It doesn’t matter what the parents think.   It doesn’t matter what the patrons of the restaurant with the small kitchen think.  They might be perfectly happy to use the service, but the authorities know better.

There are regulations and they must be obeyed at all costs.

A friend of mine runs a small tourist café somewhere in the remote west of Ireland.  Recently, an official arrived, opened a bag and produced a full CSI jump-suit to carry out an inspection of the kitchen where they produce highly dangerous soup and sandwiches.  He found nothing wrong during his forensic examination, but a week later sent a note pointing out that he had noticed a spider on the window and asking that it be removed.  A dangerous spider. The kind that eradicates disease-carrying bluebottles and house-flies.

Here’s the question.  I’m pretty sure that not many people have ever died from eating bad food out of a restaurant or shop, and with improving standards of knowledge, the risk has probably diminished.  So what exactly are these inspectors trying to prevent — people throwing up?

Is that what we spend millions regulating?  The danger that someone might puke?

If they want to stop people puking, the best place to start would be the pubs, in my opinion.  Lots of puking outside pubs.  Let the nice restaurants with the small kitchens alone.  Leave the mammies in the creches to get on with the business they understand.

Enough clipboard-ticking.  Who cares if the kitchen is the size of a phone box as long as it turns out good, clean food?

More Irish bureaucratic bullshit.  Lots of talk, no results.

In this country, we’re regulating ourselves out of business and we can’t afford it any more now that we’re broke.