A case of common sense

 

I’m grateful that I have never suffered from food poisoning, and am pretty sure that I’ve not been responsible for causing serious or fatal illness from cooking breakfasts! My mother-in-law, Dorothy, also managed B&B for 15 years, armed only with a decent upbringing and a dabble of common sense.

 

As with most things now, either in the farm business or in the home, we are no longer able to just use common sense. Instead we must comply with an analysed set of guidelines.To this end, I recently attended a Safer Food workshop with about 20 other B&B proprietors from Gloucestershire.

 

The aim of this free training was to complete an information pack called Safer Foods, Better Business, developed by the Food Standards Agency to help catering businesses comply with regulations brought in last year. These state that we must be able to show what we do to make food safe to eat, and have it written down.

At Milton Farm, of course, we treat our sausages with respect, check they are young and healthy, take their temperature and don’t allow them to be introduced to fellow breakfast ingredients until they are thoroughly cooked. But can we prove it?

 

I must admit the three-hour course was useful to comply with the legislation in the least painful way, and should enable us to pass an Environmental Health inspection. We spent almost the whole time in small groups completing relevant areas of the file with guidance from tutors, discussing the merits of cleaning routines and cooking techniques. As catering businesses, B&Bs are relatively low risk, but we were advised that in addition to the written procedure we should complete a diary listing anything that goes wrong on a daily basis. What riveting reading that will be. I can’t think of anything worth documenting, apart from once when the dog ate my ingredients before they were cooked.

 

I appreciate that there is some value in thinking these procedures through, but the legislators must understand that the attraction of staying in a B&B is that you are welcomed into a home, complete with families and pets, as opposed to a commercial catering facility.

 

If this process seems to try to replace common sense, then the other training that I have received this month actually encourages it. I am being qualified as a neighbourhood First Responder. For the last three Saturdays, I have been on my knees in the village hall using a defibrillator and breathing life into a plastic dummy called Annie.

Where we live it can be about 30 minutes before an ambulance arrives, so local volunteers are being trained to attend emergency calls such as cardiac arrest, and provide care until the ambulance arrives.

 

I may have been watching too many episodes of ER, but I do think this is an essential service for the community, and will gladly give what time I can.As a guest at Milton Farm, you can now rest assured that if I should stray from my food hygiene procedure and poison you, then at least I’ll be able to keep you going until the ambulance arrives!

 

Suzie Paton’s farm B&B columns