Working five years or more as a delivery driver for a local butcher, you witness some pretty awful hygiene practises while passing through numerous commercial kitchens. Yet via this experience I conclude, bad hygiene is not confined to any particular sort of eatery or of any class of establishment.
I delivered to everything from greasy spoons to London’s top hotels and restaurants, and in some standards are exceptionally high, whereas others are dreadfully dirty and pertain some terrible practises. I’ve walked through dog turd infested backyards, told to leave raw meat under the baking sun, I’ve seen a fish flipped onto the floor from a frying pan and promptly picked up and put back into the pan, and I could go on putting you off your tea, but never could I suggest such shocking things are only found in lower-priced establishments, the “posh” hotels and restaurants were equally as bad, often arguably worse.
Three days ago, freelance reporter, Beth Gavaghn broke news of four Wiltshire establishments which “have been given a zero rating by food hygiene inspectors,” published in the Gazette & Herald. Nothing wrong with this, you might suggest, it’s handy for the public to know these places rated low, and if you do suggest, I’d agree. My issue is with the structure of this, quite frankly, shoddy journalism, and if not shoddy, some bad choices made it undeniably bias.
The headline reads, “Trowbridge Chinese takeaway Happy Valley gets zero rating.” Aside grammatical errors, three of the four establishments are cherrypicked to be fleetingly noted, while Happy Valley took the brunt of the report, and was singled out in the headline. Billy Batchers Butchers in Shrewton and Sprinkles Gelato in Salisbury both scored equally low following an inspection, five months AFTER Happy Valley, but barely got a mention. The Bell at Great Cheverell also received a zero rating but mention of it was rushed through, despite being assessed at the same time as the Chinese Takeaway.
Not forgoing these inspections were made in March 2021, for The Bell and Happy Valley, and in August of the same year for Billy Batchers Butchers and Sprinkles Gelato, so for all their sakes, some update on work they’ve done to improve since would be handy to know, but I feel impelled to ponder, just why the one establishment was singled out? Did the reporter receive an adverse fortune cookie there, perhaps?!
It’s no good asking you guys, who are understandably as much in dark over this as me. I despatched a direct message to Beth via Twitter, two days ago and await a reply; just wanted to throw it out there, really, being there was plenty of time to reply, and that what I asked isn’t too OTT. That being: If other establishments also received the same low rating, why have you focussed and highlighted one in particular? That hardly seems fair. Well, are you with me? Does it sound fair to you?
Any reasoning would be speculation; I could, but I won’t go there. YetI’m not holding out much hope of a reply, unless she was to read this and shudder, oh, nasty blogger; I’d best dream up and despatch a quickfire excuse, but I had to note, further scrolling on the Gazette & Herald Facebook page revealed a sponsored advertorial for, coincidently, the Bell at Great Cheverell. “Paid partnership,” being the professional term, indicating backhanding cash to get reapproval, an avenue perhaps the Chinese Takeaway couldn’t afford to take, will get you off the hook; and you thought TripAdvisor reviews were skewered.
Conflicting, or simply the answer to our query, I’m not sure, but evidently, money talks. It should be importantly noted, a zero rating doesn’t mean an establishment must close, rather make significant improvements, and I would see no reason to be put off eating at any of them, the Bell is a rather splendid pub, and I’m certain they would have strived to improve on this rating. The others I am unaware of, but I’m sure in these uncertain times for any small business this exposure was superfluous and unwelcome; if all establishments scored equally, so should the balance of the report.
It is not your job, Newsquest, to wreck one business in favour of another. Heck, guys, I’d have given you a glowing review for a bag of prawn crackers; don’t bow to this injustice!
And readers, you’ve got your own mind, use it; accepting unedited and unsolicited submissions makes a newspaper look cheap and nasty, and I don’t believe that is what we want from local press; we’ve enough from Wiltshire Live, don’t stoop to their level, G&H.
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