Welsh Witterings: what’s in my dinner?
Dining out should be a pleasure. After all, dining out provides an opportunity to enjoy a meal without cooking or cleaning, but what happens if your dining experience turns into a mystery that would really require the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes to solve? What I’m talking about is finding a foreign body in your dinner and the mystery of what? Why? How?
Over the years I have encountered more than my share of undercooked, over cooked and plain inedible meals out, but finding a foreign body in a meal is a whole different matter. Finding a stray hair is disgusting, but there is no real mystery to it, but what if you find a piece of plastic or a brick? There have been many cases where rodent droppings, unidentified objects and shards of china etc have been discovered in food and it happened to me recently, where I bit down on a sharp piece of ceramic tile whilst eating a mushroom and spinach pie. It was a real shock and caused me distress and pain, but unfortunately , this kind of thing is not uncommon and it is also not uncommon for establishments to try and brush the matter aside by merely offering a replacement meal.
I must confess that I didn’t want another meal from the establishment that I had just found
So, if when munching your dinner you find something odd in your dinner what should you do? Well, firstly you need to photograph the foreign object and the dish. Unless you have placed the offending article in your mouth, leave it in situ – do not go fishing it out. Next, you need to attract the attention of a member of staff from the establishment and explain the situation, however, do not let them simply remove the foreign body or dish to the kitchen because this is your evidence and they will dispose of it pronto. Instead calmly explain what has occurred and demand to see a manager. When a manager appears explain the situation and ask how the dish is prepared, i.e. is it made from scratch in their kitchens or is it bought in from a supplier? Demand that the incident is noted down, in an accident book if personal injury has been caused. Note down the times and names of those that you have dealt with regarding the matter.
The restaurant will no doubt want the foreign body and will say that they will need in order to approach their supply chain etc., however, depending upon what you find this may be a matter for environmental health and you would be perfectly within your rights to retain the offending article and the food you found it in. Every situation is different, but don’t be afraid to stand your ground, after all the establishment is in the wrong not you.
Your next course of action should be to get in touch with your local Environmental Health department so they can get the specimen independently tested. Usually an analyst can figure out what exactly a foreign body is, and send you an official report. Remember, you can’t do this if you’ve handed over the evidence. If necessary, an officer might decide to keep the food for further investigation. Depending on the evidence available then they will decide whether an offence has been committed or not and whether to take formal action. This action could be the issuing of a Formal Caution, or even instigating legal proceedings.
If you find a foreign body in some food you buy from a shop or supermarket then again it is crucial that you gather evidence. If for example you buy a loaf of bread and find a toe nail baked into it, do not take it back to the store you purchased it from. It is crucial you retain it. Instead inform the store you purchased it from of the incident and of any dates and batch codes they require and then inform environmental health. Leave the item as you discovered it and do not tamper with it. Make sure you photograph it and refrigerate it if necessary.
When it comes to foreign bodies in your meal or food it is an occasion to drop the polite British attitude and speak up. It’s not a matter of taste or cooking preferences it’s a matter of health and well-being. Bon appétit !