Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: the GM foods debate and Tesco’s refillable container trial

The news, reviews and trends from October 26-27, including the expansion of dark kitchens and this year’s World Cheese Awards winners.

28 October 2019
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Food news

Golden Rice could have saved millions of lives

The blame for the deaths of millions of children has been laid on restrictive rules related to genetic modification. A new book entitled Golden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of a GMO Superfood looks specifically at a product called Golden Rice, which has been engineered to contain vitamin A – deficiency of this nutrient in the developing world is thought to be responsible for killing more children than HIV, malaria or tuberculosis, but even when non-fatal can lead to blindness. “The effects of withholding, delaying or retarding Golden Rice development through overcautious regulation has imposed unconscionable costs in terms of years of sight and lives lost,” writes author Ed Regis.


Foreshadowing future dark kitchens

‘Dark kitchen’ business FoodStars is prepping to open two major new sites in Wandsworth and Colindale over the next few weeks. These locations will allow the company to expand its capabilities further, building on a business model that involves no actual restaurants, just kitchens making food for delivery.


Large-scale reusable container trial set for 2020

Tesco is readying to launch the “UK’s first large-scale trial of refillable bottles, tins and tubs aimed at eliminating single-use packaging,” reports The Times. The initiative, dubbed Loop, will be rolled out to 5,000 online customers early next year and involve shoppers paying a reusable container deposit, which will be refunded once the containers have been returned. TerraCycle will be helping Tesco implement the trial.


World Cheese Awards cheese off the French

The World Cheese Awards have named Rogue River blue from Oregon the best cheese in the world. According to The Telegraph, the cheese is “made with organic cow’s milk, aged for up to 11 months and hand wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that have been soaked in pear liquor.” Only one French cheese made the top 15, leading a French newspaper to dub the results “sacrilege.” The top British entry was Pitchfork cheddar, made in Somerset by Trethowan’s dairy, which came in fourth place.


Internal investigation at listeria-linked business leaked

A whistleblower has told The Times that a rise in listeria detections at the Good Food Chain sandwich factory were “deliberately omitted” from lab test results shown to government health inspectors. The next day the manufacturer’s products “were linked to one of the NHS’s worst food poisoning outbreaks.” An internal review carried out last month by the Good Food Chain also revealed that 73% of staff felt more could be done to promote food safety and quality, while 50% had food safety concerns or ideas.


Hix Soho close to closing

Mark Hix is allegedly preparing to shutter his Soho restaurant, as he continues to reduce his presence in London. The site is purportedly being looked at as a potential first UK site for modern Mexican brand Tortilla Republic, which is based in the US.


Just Eat seeks better deal

Just Eat’s deal with Takeaway.com is “no longer viable,” according to The Times, which cites the falling value of the latter company’s shares as necessitating a fresh offer. This would open the door for Prosus to sweeten its rival bid.


Did pro-Leave beer mats break the law?

Legal experts have suggested that JD Wetherspoon breached the Companies Act by “failing to seek shareholder approval for spending on almost 2m pro-leave beer mats before the 2016 EU referendum,” reports The Guardian.


Food interviews

José Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International

“I don’t think anybody can dictate to the consumer what it is they want to enjoy,” says José Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King. Speaking to The Sunday Times, he is “unfazed by criticism” that the company is not doing enough to tackle obesity, emphasising the importance of “quality food, choice and transparency,” giving consumers the right to make their own decisions regarding fast food. He is more defensive on the issue of soya linked to deforestation finding its way into BK’s supply chain, claiming that no ingredients in the UK arm are sourced from the Amazon.


Food reviews

Marmo, Bristol BS1 1RG

Named after the Italian for marble, this restaurant has a lunch menu that is “almost self-consciously short,” writes Jay Rayner. Mussels are served “with finely shredded leeks and a cider butter broth,” while gnocco fritto (“those pork fat-enriched pillows of bread, puffed up in the fryer”) are accompanied by slices of mortadella. Marmo makes its own pasta, including pumpkin ravioli and tagliolini with shrimps and artichoke, but the most colourful description is reserved for the Saddleback pork sausage with polenta: “dense and chunky, with an edge of chitterling honk to it, as if a little offal found its way into the mincer on the way through. It’s the Margaret Rutherford of sausages, big-shouldered and broad of calf and most definitely no-nonsense.”


The Botanical Rooms, Somerset BA7 7NG

Marina O’Loughlin describes the food here as “mostly unremarkable,” from the game terrine (“competent and inoffensive, not particularly gamey but helped by its pickled vegetables and crab-apple jelly”) to the local ricotta with hazelnuts and croutons made from apple sourdough (“using apple waste from their cider-making process”). Unimpressed with the purported localness of the ingredients, she reserves her most stinging criticism for the Landrace Duroc cross sow, which is “so impenetrably tough I have to hack at it rather than cut, its various sidekicks — cavolo nero (er, nope: small huddle of savoy cabbage), crispy onions (no evidence; I think they ended up on the duck), black apple sauce — splattered willy-nilly, an out-take from the Saw franchise.”

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