Welcome to June
Sadly, there is nothing like an outbreak of deadly listeriosis to remind us of the crucial importance of food hygiene.
The incidents that have lead to a number of deaths have so far been confined to sandwiches supplied to several hospital trusts. While the full details concerning those mortalities have yet to be revealed, they nevertheless serve to underscore the vitally important point that maintaining the very highest levels of hygiene for everyone working in the out of home market, and especially in schools, is of the utmost importance. It is the very bedrock on which the school food industry is built. In this regard, it is fair to say that the industry has a strong reputation, but remember to whisper it softly. We cannot risk angering the gods in this regard: there is no place for hubris on this front.
The last big school food scandal involved horse meat six years ago and while that was shocking to many, ironically it was not a food safety issue, but rather one of fraud. It nevertheless pointed to the challenges posed by increasingly opaque and complex food chains which could grow even more complex after Brexit with more food coming from further afield than Europe. What will this mean for school food? It means forging better and closer ties with local producers, with whom you have developed relationships of trust. It also points to increased vigilance in resisting further budgetary attacks on school food. As Pat Fellows points out in her column on page 58, it is now five years since the government set the rate for UIFSM at £2.30 per child. There has been no increase in the rate since, despite marked food price inflation and rapidly rising labour costs. We cannot afford to let the good work done by this industry, including the training required to ensure the complete safety of pupils eating school meals, to be jeopardised to any degree. There must be zero tolerance of any attacks on this front from whatever politically comes next.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is the great news that LACA has just appointed our late and greatly missed editor, Morag Wilson, as one of its 30 food heroes. It is a wonderful gesture, which forms part of the organisation’s 30th birthday celebrations, for which we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. Shy, lovely Morag would have been shocked, perhaps a little embarrassed, but also hugely touched by the honour. It is totally deserved.
Jane Renton | Executive Editor | @EDUcateringMag