August 2, 2008

Presenters Turned My Stomach Far More Than the Food . . .

By Paddy Shennan

IT'S been a difficult week to digest for people who love their food and love their TV.

A two-part, stomach-churning tale began with Dispatches: Sand wiches Unwrapped (Channel 4, Monday) and ended with Rogue Restaurants (BBC1, Thursday).

Working backwards (my system's all over the place after sitting through these shocking shows), I couldn't shake the feeling that the makers of Rogue Restaurants had got the tone all wrong.

At times during the first programme of the new six-part series, presenters Matt All wright and Anita Rani appeared to think they were a wacky comedy double act making awacky comedy show.

But the prospect of food poisoning isn't funny - and nor were they.

Their bright and breezy approach was such that I half-expected one of them to say: "This food and these kitchen conditions may be hard to swallow, but never mind that and look at us - don't you think we should be given our own Saturday night light entertainment show?"

This week, they targeted a couple of Harvester restaurants, in Bromley and Brighton, and two country pubs - The Dumb Bell, in Hertford shire, and The Swan, in West Drayton - owned by the same man, Michael Hanley,who was subjected to that nowvery lame-looking on-camera confrontation at the end of the programme.

The corner-cutting and food safety breaches - including old TV favourites like a slug found in lettuce and food being picked up off the floor and still being prepared for the customers' "delight" - were as unpleasant as always and made you wonder about the true scale of the problem nationwide.

But dressing it all up in a jokey manner surely doesn't do anyone, least of all us consumers, any favours.

Things were less light-hearted in Dispatches: Sandwiches Unwrapped, which saw Channel 4 newsreader Alex Thomson investigate the pounds 5bn sandwich industry.

The Dispatches team carried out tests on butties from Subway, Boots, Pret A Manger, Greggs and Marks & Spencer, looking at their fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content.

Those who believed that you can't go wrong with a shop-bought sandwich for lunch were in for a shock - especially fans of Subway's 12-inch Meat ball Marinara which is said to contain the same amount of salt as 18 bags of salted crisps.

Thomson uncovered an industry which looks in serious need of a regulatory overhaul and he didn't detract from his message by grinning too much.

But will these programmes stop us from eating out and buying butties, rather than making our own? No, of course they won't . . .

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