Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cornwall Council promoting Thai chicken and Polish bacon above Cornish produce

To return to my theme of yesterday...

You would think that Cornwall Council would see it as part of its job to promote Cornish businesses. We have some excellent food producers in Cornwall, but you wouldn't know that if you eat at the new Link Cafe in County Hall in Truro.

Today I have found out more about where the food comes from that fills the sandwiches and salads eaten by council staff, visitors and members. And it is pretty shocking reading.

The cafe is run by a company called Chartwells, which is a division of the multi-national conglomerate Compass. In turn, they stock a range of sandwiches, salads and other products produced under a label called Urban Eat. It turns out that this brand is owned by a company called Food Partners, and it is they who provided me with the information below.

I asked where the company gets its bacon from. In response, they told me:
"We purchase protein from UK based suppliers who source worldwide - including the UK.  Our pork is sourced from various European countries..."
Now, putting aside the whole issue of referring to pork as 'protein', I am concerned that it seems they don't have a constant source for their pork and bacon. Having a regular supplier is better for the farmer and better for the quality of food that reaches the consumer. Sourcing ingredients from across Europe seems to imply that they are forever searching for the cheapest product.

And as for the chicken...
"...and our chicken either Thailand or Brazil."
Have they not discovered that we have poultry producers in Cornwall and across the UK? Apparently not because they are flying their chicken in from Brazil or Thailand to fill our sandwiches. That's patently ridiculous.

If I go to either of my local butchers in Launceston, they will tell me where each of the products they sell comes from. They can tell me the breed, the farmer's name and where it was slaughtered. The same is true for butchers up and down Cornwall. Most even have this information chalked up on boards in their shops - they are proud of sourcing locally.

I also asked whether Food Partners sourced their ingredients according to any recognised scheme such as free range or organic. I am told that unless it says it is free range then it isn't and unless it says pole and line caught tuna then it isn't.

They have also helpfully provided me with information about their working conditions. They company tells me that:
  • Employees are free to work with us if they chose,
  • Free to join trade unions,
  • Working conditions are hygienic and safe,
  • Wages are paid according to UK legislation,
  • Working hours are defined within the EU working directive and are not excessive,
  • We do not discriminate nor treat our employees in a manner that is in humane or offensive
  • We do not employ child labour
I suppose it is good to hear that our sandwiches and salads are not produced using slave labour - but is there actually anything in those seven points that is not a requirement of the law?

In short - Cornwall Council's new cafe - which I think should be showcasing the best of Cornish produce - is selling sandwiches and salads which are trucked down the motorway from Heathrow every day. Many of the raw ingredients for these products, which could be found within five miles of County Hall, have actually been flown 10,000 miles around the world.

It's high time that Cornwall Council thought again about this cafe.

1 comment:

DNP said...

I agree with your view that CC should be taking a lead in promoting Cornwall and Cornish produce. Was the cafe management put out to tender at the time?