The Great British Food Fraud

I was underwhelmed by news that rock-bottom-priced frozen food purporting to be beefburgers turn out not to be burgers but are composed of fillers and stuff which might be meat-factory floor sweepings including small traces of horse.

I mean, do people who buy those seriously think that there is anything vaguely nutritious about them or that they are composed of genuine meat? For a couple of pence per burger? No chance. As long as it’s the colour of a burger, shaped like a burger and contains enough burger flavouring, it’s best to add plenty of ketchup and not to think about it too much as you munch.

But it’s beginning to seem like the Value Crap-Burger is an indicator of a far bigger problem – one of large-scale deception and criminal profiteering from meat scams. The meat in processed products, it seems, doesn’t come from a butcher any more – it comes from processing plants who source products from countries far away so who knows what the provenance or what the animal – if it IS animal – was eating before its demise?

Findus frozen lasagnes are being returned to shops all over the country because tests have found that the “beef” in some didn’t moo – it whinnied, galloped, had beautiful eyes and gorgeous-smelling poo.

But as the Great British Food Fraud unfolds – and I look forward to more findings – I have unsettling news that food fraud isn’t limited to the carnivores among us.

For I have revealed a spud-scandal of modest proportions which may yet go nationwide.

I’m convinced that on three occasions, my Ocado King Edward potatoes have not been King Edwards.

I know. I should really have provided virtual smelling salts as I the shock will have been great.  But please bear with me as you’re over the worst of it.

Anyone who has mashed, boiled, roasted, or chipped this monarch of a potato over the years will realise that it behaves very differently to other types of potato. It’s not like your Maris Piper, your Desiree, your Whites.  It’s not the Chopin, the Orchestra or the Mustang. Imagine serving Mashed Mustang?  Just the job with your Findus Lasagne…  (I didn’t even have to make those potato varieties up – they actually exist)  

When mashed, this King of spuds transforms into a light fluffy delight. When seasoning, a little butter and a drop of cream of dash of milk is added, it becomes a perfect melt-on-the-tongue experience.  It’s is utterly distinctive, light and tasty – it is a cumulonimbus cloud on a plate.

So you can imagine that when I was expecting cloud and I got nasty elastic, waxy, sticky gloopy mess in the pan, I knew the potatoes marked King Edwards were in fact, not.

But hey, anyone can make a mistake with labelling – which is what I thought the second time I got a bag marked King Edwards and the same thing happened. Maybe someone had forgotten to add the additional label marked “NOT!!  AHAAAAAHA!”

So the third time, my disappointment reached critical mass. This wasn’t accident, this was design. Someone out there – I have given the potato details to Ocado – is operating a nice little scam – selling cheaper-than-chips spuds to Ocado and getting paid King Edwards price – ie top price – for them.

I could be wrong of course. Perhaps it isn’t a scam….perhaps it’s purely accidental. But on the other hand, yeah right….   It also begs the question how long they have been getting away with this because people may not notice when a King Edward is not a King Edward or unlike me, they don’t care too much.

I cared enough to have reported it to Ocado. They gave me an immediate refund and promised to look into it. They replied as follows:

“Thank you for your recent email.

I am sorry to hear that the King Edward potatoes you received were not of the best quality. I have therefore processed a refund.

Ocado prides itself on the quality of its food products; I have reported this to our Food Technology department who will pass these details to our suppliers.

To help us investigate this matter thoroughly, please could you contact us on the telephone number or email address below so we can obtain the use by date and product batch code (the batch code will appear as a series of numbers and letters or a date/time stamp).

Please accept our apologies and be assured we will do all we can to improve the quality of this food product, preventing this from happening in the future.”

So they are investigating and I’ve asked them to let me know the outcome of their spud sleuthing.

As a consumer, I resent being misled and taken for a fool.  I would never expect much of a cheap sausage, a cheap burger or a fishy nugget. Common sense tells you there’s nothing nutritious for that money. It’s like the Mystery of the Cinema Hotdog. I can’t resist them. They are long and shiny and taste lovely with mustard and ketchup in those cotton-wool bread rolls. To me, the hot dog is the nadir of junk food and I love ’em. But taste a hot dog properly and try to discern what it’s made of? Impossible. I think it’s a sophisticated kind of hot-dog-flavoured lightly-cooked foam rubber. I’m pretty certain no animal gave it’s life for that product.

But I do expect that anything else I pay for will be of reasonable quality and as described on the label. If I buy superb lamb chops costing £1 a mouthful in a pack with a romantic picture of Dai Probert, the Welsh hillfarmer who produced them, I bloody well expect that they are his sheep and I expect that he’s been paid properly for them because that’s how he makes his living and I like to support people like Dai – even if it means only having meat three times a week.

If I buy the King of potatoes, I want mouth-wateringly delicious, buttery cumulonimbus, not viscous elastic “You’d-never-believe-this-was-a-King-Edward” pap.

I will, of course, keep you posted with spud-sleuthing updates.

About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
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21 Responses to The Great British Food Fraud

  1. putneyman says:

    Very interesting & thought provoking piece Jan, although the food ‘scams’ are not really a laughing matter, this did have me giggling at times, very well written.

  2. janh1 says:

    Hi Dave, and thanks! 🙂 No they are not a laughing matter. That mash was disgusting!

  3. John Gamblin says:

    Yes Jan, while reading through your excellent article I glanced at the container of double-dark chocolate creamy yogurt with add-in granola clusters I was having for breakfast and was shocked to see it was full of sugar (written in very tiny letters)! I was always told by the manufacturers that yoghurt was healthy. And sugar wasn’t the only potential problem. It’s loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat. I’m switching to Cocoa Pops for breakfast from now on 🙂

  4. janh1 says:

    Hahaha…..I really can’t imagine you tucking in to that, sorry G, – but it’s one helluva buzzy breakfast. The sugar crash would be about two hours later?

    At least Coco Pops are accompanied by milk though…. except for one health professional I know who shall remain anonymous who keeps a box on the passenger seat of his car to snack on, dry, during car journeys!! 🙂

  5. I think this could be the Next Big Scandal, Jan!

    • janh1 says:

      😀 The King Edward may be small potatoes to some people… but he’s the Spud Supreme. I think I may contact the One Show.

      I just received this further reply today “Further to your query, I can confirm that we have raised your issue with the quality of the King Edward Potatoes with Waitrose, and they will now be investigating this matter with their suppliers.”

      Let no spud be left unturned.

  6. IsobelandCat says:

    The whole horsemeat thing puzzles me. I have lived in France, and horsemeat is not cheap, it’s a delicacy, though not one I have tried, so I don’t understand how it is being ‘passed off’ as beef. Or could it be that it is condemned meat? Or ‘recovered’? The sort of stuff that finds its way into pet food. My hope is that this does something to wake people up to what they are eating, and brings about a food revolution. But sadly, I don’t believe it will.
    Sorry, I am striking a rather serious note…

  7. janh1 says:

    I think the ‘condemned’ is probably nearer the mark. Selling the unsaleable?

    I totally agree about waking people up to what they are eating. I think it might – because I think the Food Standards Authority findings will be interesting.

    I don’t mine serious, Isobel. 🙂 I’m deadly serious about my King Edwards and what might be criminal deception.

  8. Darrel Kirby says:

    You are obviously a serious connoisseur – I fear that I couldn’t tell a King Edward from a Maris Piper in a blind taste test. Nor cow from horse for that matter as long as it all tastes good – I have been known to enjoy a kebab, who knows what’s in that! I don’t like the idea that we’re not eating what we think we’re eating though.

    • janh1 says:

      My family has always revered the King Edward, Darrel.

      I just want my food to BE what it says on the label. It’s what we’re paying for, after all 🙂

      • Darrel Kirby says:

        We’re having sausage and mash tomorrow, so I was sure to get in some King Edwards for the occasion.

      • janh1 says:

        Delish – let’s just hope they are real. You’ll be able to tell from the buttery clouds… !! 🙂

      • Darrel Kirby says:

        They seemed fine to me, but as we have established, I’m no connoisseur. Also, I made them, so they were never going to be the best.

  9. janh1 says:

    Probably fine then. You would have recognised yellowy, waxy, elastic texture as not being your classic mash! 🙂

  10. John Mackie says:

    Jahn1, good evening.

    I feel your pain but I did have to google Ocada, having never heard of them. Now at a bit of a loss as I am hardly ever out of my local Waitrose and, if I am reading said google aright, Ocada sell own brand Waitrose stuff?

    I have often purchased Waitrose own brand KE tatties up here and they have never given me less than satisfaction, mash-wise. Definitely not waxy. So, I’m confused?

    Mind, and to be fair, your average King Edward would have to seriously pull its socks up to approach the mashed perfection that is a properly and lovingly prepared Kerr’s Pink. In my opinion.

  11. janh1 says:

    Evening John. Good to see you! Ocado deliver both their own produce and some Waitrose produce.I would expect nothing less of a Waitrose KE than total authenticity, which is why I am majorly miffed that someone is pulling a fast potato by misrepresenting some lesser, no doubt cheap potato as The King Edward, which is at the ‘eye’ end of the potato market.

    Where can I find this Mr Kerr and he would be prepared to part with some of his pink ones? I feel I should try them if you recommend them as a mashing spud which might actually depose the King Edward. 😀

  12. Pseu says:

    I love smashing mash! Bring on the King of Spuds! What a scam, selling the mis-mash of alternatives instead of the real thing?

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