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What is a Thermal Process Flavour?

A thermal process flavour is produced by heating together two or more flavour precursors under carefully controlled conditions. It is sometimes called a ‘reaction’ flavour. Thermal process flavours are created through the Maillard reaction. This is a reaction between a nitrogen containing compound and a reducing sugar.

The Maillard reaction occurs naturally when roasting, grilling, baking, boiling, frying or toasting foods containing protein and carbohydrate. A good example of it is the flavour generated when a piece of steak is fried in butter. The fat breaks down and produces a caramelised taste.

What is a flavour precursor?

A flavour precursor is a product, which doesn’t necessarily have  flavouring properties itself. It is  intentionally added to food to produce flavour by breaking down or reacting with other components during food processing. Carbohydrates, amino acids and oligopeptides are  examples of flavour precursors.

Why do we need flavourings?

There are a number of reasons why we use flavourings. They are often used to give a specific flavour to a product, e.g. chicken flavour crisps, or to replace an original flavour which might have been lost during food processing. Flavourings are added to ready meals, soups, snacks, gravies and sauces etc.

Also, the demand for healthier food which is lower in fat, sugar, salt or calories has also seen more use of flavourings in food. Removing fat, sugar and salt also removes  flavour so flavourings are used to make them more palatable.

Umami – The fifth flavour sensation

parmesan cheeseThought there were just four basic types of flavour?  Think again. Umami is neither salt, sweet, bitter or sour. It is roughly translated from the Japanese as ‘yummy deliciousness’ or ‘a pleasant savoury taste.’ The taste was isolated early in the 20th century and found to be glutamate. This is an amino acid released in certain savoury foods, often through cooking or fermentation, which makes them taste delicious. When it is combined with a group of chemicals called ribonucleotides, which also occur naturally in many foods, it creates a ‘moreish’ taste on the taste buds – umami.

The umami taste is found naturally in foods such as parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, soy, mushrooms, cured meats, dried fish, other cheeses, cured meats, slow cooked meats and vegetables, such as soups or broth.

Create your own Thermal Process Flavours

If you’re a graduate working in NPD and flavour technology in the food, seasonings and flavour industries, you might be interested in a specialist course we are running. Creating Thermal Process Flavours is a unique laboratory based reaction flavours course tutored by leading flavour chemist Professor David Baines and  flavour specialist Richard Seal.

Creating Savoury FlavoursThe course comprises a range of specialist lectures and hands-on practical sessions to reinforce the learning. You will have the freedom to create your own process meat flavours. These will then be applied and evaluated in relevant food products.

Creating Thermal Process Flavours takes place in Skipton from 29th October to 2nd November. To find out more and book your place, please click here.

Ahead of the course, Professor Baines is speaking at FlavourTalk in Amsterdam on Thursday 15th March. His  lecture will explore the evidence for the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) recent decision to introduce an Acceptable Daily Intake for glutamic acid and glutamates as food additives.


About Professor Baines

Professor David BainesProfessor Baines specialises in food flavours with specific expertise in flavours derived using cooking processes. He has worked across 5 continents with food and flavour companies. David is author of several papers and book chapters and is named on 5 flavour patents. He co-edited the book ‘Natural Food Additives, Ingredients and Flavourings.’ He is also co-editor of the internet flavour bulletin ‘Flavour Horizons’. He was recently appointed Visiting Professor at the University of Reading.

Verner Wheelock, one of the UK’s foremost food industry training companies, has achieved ISO 9001:2015 accreditation. The company, which was founded in 1990, trains hundreds of delegates every year in HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing and specialist courses such as Root Cause Analysis, as well as performing SMETA ethical audits.

ISO 9001 logical next step

ISO 9001:2015 logoThe decision to work towards the ISO quality management system standard was driven by the growth of the company over the past few years. Managing Director, Alison Wheelock, said, “We have experienced a dramatic growth in the number of both open and in-house courses in recent years and consequently in the number of people trained. Achieving ISO 9001 seemed like a logical next step.

We wanted to make sure that, even at maximum capacity, we were still able to guarantee the high standard of service and professionalism that our customers have come to expect. With increased numbers of delegates, courses and trainers, the systems introduced have helped us to have greater consistency in course materials. It’s also proving beneficial for efficiency in course material updates and document control, acting on feedback and formalising systems.”

Wheelock says that the accreditation will make it easier to do business with larger customers especially in terms of their growing Ethical Audit work.

A commitment to excellent customer service

Mitch Morrison

Mitch Morrison

Mitch Morrison, Verner Wheelock’s Administration Controller was responsible for managing the project over a 12 month period in collaboration with Global QA Consultants said, “We’ve always had an attention to detail and a commitment to providing excellent customer service. Working towards ISO 9001 has helped us to streamline processes and formalise our current practices. As anyone who’s embarked on this journey will know, it’s a long and intensive one, but being approved by LRQA to ISO 9001:2015 has definitely been worthwhile in the end.”

Are you looking to kick-start your career?

Training Support Assistant, Skipton, North Yorkshire

If you’ve recently left school or college or are looking for an apprenticeship position, you could be just the person we’re looking for!

Verner Wheelock has a fantastic entry level opportunity to join our successful food industry training consultancy based in the beautiful surroundings of the Broughton Hall Estate, just outside Skipton.

We’ve been established since 1990 and train hundreds of delegates every year in subjects such as Food Safety, HACCP, Auditing and other specialist areas. We have an excellent reputation for training and customer service.

This full-time, permanent, Training Support role is an ideal first or second job.  You’ll be taking care of admin duties to make sure everything runs smoothly for our training courses and exams.

What will I need?

  • We’re looking for someone with good levels of literacy, numeracy and attention to detail.
  • You’ll also be an organised self-starter, with the ability to multi-task
  • A flexible, ‘can-do’ approach is necessary as you will be working as part of a small team.
  • You’ll have excellent IT skills and will ideally be  familiar with databases, spreadsheets and PowerPoint.
  • You’re always polite and professional when dealing with clients, both face-to-face and over the telephone.
  • You’re  reliable.

What will I be doing?

This role has loads of different duties to keep you busy, from helping prepare course material and keeping it updated, to booking locations for courses. You’ll be involved with the chasing of purchase orders and ordering office supplies, as well as dealing with post and incoming phone calls.

When courses are running the role will also include setting up the training room, providing refreshments and meeting and greeting delegates.

Full training will be given.

How much will I get paid?

The salary for this position is £7.50 per hour, plus bonus scheme and company pension.

How to apply

If you feel you have the desired skills and enthusiasm for the role, and would like to join our small, friendly team then we would love to hear from you.

Contact Mitch Morrison or Alison Wheelock on 01756 700802 in the first instance, or email your CV to office@vwa.co.uk

You can find out more about Verner Wheelock and what we do at  www.vwa.co.uk

UK MapSo, you’ve been on Google, found the training course your staff need, but there’s a problem. You’re based in the South East and the training provider is up in North Yorkshire. It’s a two-day course, so the expense of travel and accommodation is fairly prohibitive for the 7 staff you want to train. That’s on top of the cost of the training itself.  However, there’s no need to despair – simply book an in-house course instead.

At Verner Wheelock we can run any of the courses we advertise at our Skipton training centre at your own premises. We can even develop bespoke courses too, relevant to your own products or sector, or to resolve problems and ongoing issues.

In-house courses are cost-effective – ask for a quote

moneySeveral of our customers take advantage of the fact that in-house courses can be particularly cost-effective and make their training budget go further. For example, to send an individual on our 5-day open Level 4 Food Safety course would cost £895 + VAT. However, when you have 5-12 staff that need training, one of our trainers could visit your premises and deliver exactly the same course which could save several hundred pounds.

Plus, the more people you train, the lower the cost per person. We recommend a maximum of 15 for basic level courses such as Level 2 Food Safety or Level 2 HACCP. For more advanced courses such as Level 4 Food Safety or HACCP or Lead Auditor we stipulate a maximum of 12 people – the same as at our open courses.  As we charge an overall course fee, it means you get value for money if you can fill an in-house course with 12 delegates.

Train at a time to suit your staff – flexible dates

planningFrom a scheduling point of view in-house courses at your site are also a good idea. You can choose the dates that are the most convenient for you and your shift schedule. Perhaps you have a quieter time of year when more staff are available, or there are certain days of the month that are less busy? We will always do our utmost to fit in with your requirements – we can even train on the night shift!

Also, our 5-day Level 4 Food Safety course, for example, could be delivered in one week, or as 1 day per week for 5 weeks, or over 2-3 weeks or any combination to suit your staff.

There is plenty to commend open courses in terms of interaction and shared ideas with others working in different environments. However, when you book an in-house course, all the focus is on your own business and how the training can be applied internally. Delegates will be able to ask plenty of questions on relevant issues and receive guidance that can readily be put into practice.

We’ll come to you wherever you’re based – UK or overseas

Training sessionVerner Wheelock trainers are based nationwide, so we can always find the most suitable trainer for the subject within your area. You can also rest assured that all our trainers have previous hands-on food industry experience, so understand your industry inside-out.

So if you have five or more staff to train, it’s certainly worth enquiring about in-house courses. Claire will be happy to give you more details and provide a quotation.  Or you can find out more here.

As a produce grower or food processor, the chances are that your company will have undergone several third-party audits, often by BRC auditors or by the major retailers that you supply.  An audit is an inspection or examination of a process or system to ensure compliance with requirements.  It can apply to a specific process or can apply to nationally recognised standards.  An Ethical Audit assesses a company’s systems, its documentation and facilities against the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code, as well as local laws.

There have been numerous news reports about (often migrant) workers being treated unfairly by employers.  These are typically in clothing sweatshops, pick and pack organisations and factories with staff supplied by unscrupulous agencies or gang masters.  For obvious reasons retailers do not want to be associated with such activities.  Therefore, auditing each stage of their supply chain is a way of ensuring their suppliers are complying with ethical trading standards and fair employment practices.

What is covered in an Ethical Audit?

The ETI Base Code is designed to help protect workers from poor and unsafe working conditions, overwork, discrimination, low pay and forced working conditions.  It is founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation.  It is an internationally recognised code of labour practice.

So it is these main areas that interest the ethical auditor:

  • Wages
  • Working hours
  • Health & Safety
  • Temporary workers
  • Right to Work
  • Provision of breaks and rest days
  • Fair treatment of staff

Workers should be able to choose their employment

Employers need to make sure that their own employees and those of their suppliers are not being forced to work against their will.

Workers should be free to associate with others and bargain collectively

Essentially this means that workers should be able to air their views and opinions to managers without fear of reprisal or discrimination.  They should be allowed to join trade unions or stand for election onto a Works Council.

Workers should have safe and hygienic working conditions

Even a company that thinks it treats its workers well can come unstuck with Health & Safety.  It has the greatest number of non-conformances of all.  Aspects such as not having regular fire drills, blocking emergency exits, and lack of trained first aiders are commonplace.  Other common faults include lack of risk assessments for hazardous equipment and noise, or a lack of suitable Personal Protective Equipment.  If the toilet facilities are unsatisfactory or clean drinking water isn’t readily available employers will also be pulled up.

Child labour should not be used

Cases of child labour in the UK are extremely rare.  Nevertheless always check ID for verification of the age of young workers.  There are restrictions on rest breaks and the number of hours that can be worked by those under 18 in the UK.

Workers should earn a living wage

This is a big one.  Everyone is entitled to earn the National Minimum Wage.  It makes no difference whether you are paid weekly, monthly, by cheque in cash or any other way.  It doesn’t matter whether you work full-time, part time or any other working pattern.  Or whether you work at your employer’s own premises or elsewhere.  Neither does it matter what size your employer is, or where you work in the UK.

The National Minimum Wage is reviewed every year. From April 2018 it will be:

  • £7.38 per hour for those aged 21 and over
  • £5.90 per hour for 18 to 20-year-olds
  • £4.20 per hour for under 18s

Anyone aged 25 and over should not receive less than the National Living Wage rate of £7.83 per hour.

clockWorking hours must not be excessive

Studies show that when staff are required to work long hours for extensive periods of time without sufficient breaks, it is detrimental to their health and wellbeing.  Tired workers are less productive,  They are also liable to make more mistakes.  Consequently it is also in the employer’s interests to ensure that their employees have acceptable working hours.

This means that contracted working hours should not exceed 48 hours per week.

Total hours worked in any 7-day period should not exceed 60 hours unless in exceptional (unexpected) circumstances.

The 60 hours can be made up of normal hours and overtime.  So, if a worker’s contracted hours are 30 per week and they work an extra 30 hours, that extra work must be paid at ‘overtime rate’.  The ETI recommends that overtime premiums are at least 25% higher than the regular wage.

Employers also need to be responsible in asking workers to carry out overtime. This should not be on a regular basis. The employee should also have the right to say ‘no’, and overtime should not be required by contract.

Workers should also have at least one day (24 consecutive hours) off every 7 days, or two days off in 14.

Regular employment should be provided

All staff should have contracts and these should be held on file. It is not acceptable to send agency staff home on arrival at work if they are not required.  It’s recommended that companies using agency workers should have a minimum pay policy in place (e.g. 4 hours).  Thanks to the Agency Workers’ Directive Regulations, after 12 weeks’ continuous work in the same job, agency workers have the same basic working rights as permanent staff in the same role.

There must not be discrimination of any kind

Companies need to provide fair access to jobs.  That means no discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, gender, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, political affiliation or union membership.  This extends to all aspects of the job – recruitment, access to training, compensation, promotion, termination or retirement.

Don’t allow  harsh or inhumane treatment

Employers and workers should not tolerate physical and verbal abuse or intimidation.  Neither should anyone put up with physical disciplining of staff, sexual  harassment or such things as refusing staff requests to use the toilet when on a shift.  There need to be systems in place for workers to report any harsh or unacceptable treatment.

Why do you need an ethical audit?

The most likely reason is that it may be a contractual requirement from your customer(s) to undergo regular ethical audits.  Some retailers insist that new suppliers have ethical audit before they can start a supply contract.  In addition, from a moral perspective nobody wants to be seen to be treating others unfairly.  those companies who are not required by their customers to have an ethical audit can still join Sedex and have an audit if they wish, and this demonstrates good practice.

The audit reports from SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trading Audit) Ethical Audits are shared on the Sedex platform so this provides a transparent system for sharing ethical audit results with customers.

All in all, it gives you peace of mind and is good for business, whether you happen to be a customer or supplier.

Where can I find out more about Ethical Audits?

To find out more about ethical audits and how to go about arranging one for your company, please visit the Ethical Trading section of our website.

Excellence Awards winners announced

So, the time has finally come. After much ‘deliberating, cogitating and digesting’ (as Lloyd Grossman used to say on Masterchef), we have pleasure in revealing the winners of the 3rd Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards. They have been chosen from nominations by our course tutors and as ever it has been a very difficult decision to make.

Awards recognise excellence

trainingThe Awards recognise the hard work, enthusiasm and flair of our delegates and their respective companies. All individual winners attended our classroom-based courses here in Skipton during 2017. All have achieved outstanding grades in advanced level exams.

There were  5 awards up for grabs: HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing, Company Excellence and Individual Excellence.

So, without further ado, the winners of the 2017 Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards are:

Verner Wheelock Excellence AwardsHACCP Student of the Year – Nattakan Pinyopat, Warburtons

Food Safety Student of the Year – Kerrie Borthwick, Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd

Auditing Student of the Year – Julie Ryan, CSM Bakeries

Individual Excellence Award – Brandon Green, Ornua Ingredients

Company Excellence Award – Shepherds Purse Cheeses


As well as receiving a trophy, the winners also get a voucher for £250 against any future classroom or in-house training with Verner Wheelock. The winner of the Company Excellence Award receives a voucher for £500.

Previous  winners have included delegates from PAS Grantham, F Smales & Sons, Symingtons, pladis and Harper Green School. Also Bakkavor Desserts, Taylors of Harrogate, New Ivory and Sykes House Farm.

Verner Wheelock MD, Alison Wheelock said, “There are always certain people  attending our courses who stand out as being exceptional. The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards are a great way of recognising these talents. Our delegates continue to achieve excellent examination results and we’re very fortunate that we have  longstanding relationships with so many companies within this industry. Huge congratulations to all our winners! “

We will be posting pictures of the winners with their awards in the next few weeks, so watch this space!

It’s Christmas party season! You’re in your finery, you’ve booked the hotel or restaurant and you’re in a festive mood – what could possibly go wrong? Without wanting to be a party pooper, there’s plenty that could be going on behind the scenes, including issues with Christmas party food.

Did you check the Food Hygiene rating of the venue?
Food Hygiene Rating
Displaying the Food Hygiene Rating of an establishment is compulsory in Wales, but not elsewhere in the UK. Many eateries proudly display their rating if they have a score of 4 or 5. However others with lower scores may not be so forthcoming.

A rating of 3 or above indicates that the premises and practises are hygienic. Two and below should be cause for concern. If the venue isn’t displaying their Food Hygiene Rating in a window or other prominent place, you can still find out what it is. All you have to do is visit www.food.gov.uk/ratings

Christmas party with buffet-style dining

food safety at buffet

Some Christmas buffets look absolutely amazing. The tables are groaning with the weight of various sandwiches, seafood, quiches, sausage rolls and pork pies, vol-au-vents, cheeses, quiches and desserts. Being the first in the queue not only means you get first pick of the goodies. Assuming it’s been prepared properly, it also means you’re more likely getting the party food at its safest.

Food which needs to be kept chilled in a fridge should not be left in ambient temperature for longer than four hours.  So if you’re peckish at midnight and there are still a few curly smoked salmon sandwiches left from a 6 o’clock buffet – don’t be tempted.  After four hours there’s the chance that bacteria will begin to multiply on the food.

hot food safetyAny hot party food should be kept hot – i.e. at a temperature of at least 63 degrees Celsius.  It should also be replaced regularly and not just topped up.

Remember, there’s also huge potential for cross-contamination at a Christmas party with so many people using the same utensils and picking up food with their hands. Think on –you might wash your hands before meals and after using the toilet, but not everyone does…

Double-dipping and trying other people’s drinks

You know when you see chefs on TV and they’re tasting the sauce? They don’t use the same spoon they’re stirring it with. Neither do they use the testing spoon again. If they did, bacteria from their mouth would be transferred to the sauce.

Christmas buffet party food safety

For the very same reason, you should never double-dip a breadstick or crudité into a communal bowl of dip. Instead either dip once only, or transfer some dip to your plate, where you can dip to your heart’s content.

Trying other people’s drinks isn’t the most hygienic practice either. If you are going to do it – use a clean straw.

Let guests know what’s in your Christmas party food        

My friend once went to a wedding where the mother of the bride had made the cake herself. When the time came for cutting the cake, the restaurant where the wedding was being held refused to serve it. This was because they had not prepared it themselves and could not be sure that it was safe to eat.

Naturally this caused a lot of upset, but the restaurant was following its own food safety guidelines. They also didn’t know what the cake contained, so would not want to be liable for any allergic reaction, should the cake contain unknown allergens.

slice of pizzaIf a Christmas party buffet is catered, there should be clear labelling of any allergens contained in food. Any food deemed gluten-free should be kept apart from other food containing gluten. It should also have been prepared separately to avoid cross contamination. For example, you cannot class a pizza as ‘gluten-free’ if it has been cooked on the same tray, in the same oven as other regular pizzas, even if it is made with gluten-free dough.

Make sure any casual Christmas staff are trained in food safety

Anyone preparing or serving food needs to hold a Level 2 Food Safety certificate as a minimum. That also applies to casual or temporary staff.  Two of the most common forms of food poisoning are campylobacter and staphylococcus which can originate from poor hygiene practices by food handlers.

Coughing or sneezing on food, uncovered cuts, not washing hands, using the same chopping boards for raw and cooked foods are all simple ways of contaminating food. All staff should also be aware of the correct storage of food.

Have a safe Christmas everyone!

Safer food production – training is the key

The recent food safety breaches at 2 Sisters Group, exposed by The Guardian and ITV, highlight the fact that food safety is sadly not top of the agenda in some food manufacturing businesses. Corner-cutting when under pressure to reduce costs and increase productivity can have a serious effect on food safety. A basic ignorance of or neglect of safe food production practices often points to a lack of training commitment at all levels of a business. If companies wish to produce safer food, this needs to be addressed.

Date tampering affects food safetychicken legs

The undercover investigation at 2 Sisters revealed staff altering source and kill dates for chickens, putting dirty poultry from the floor into the production lines and mixing fresher poultry with older birds. These are extremely dangerous practices. Altering kill dates can lead to consumers buying product past its ‘use-by date’ and becoming seriously ill as a result.

‘Use by’ dates are there for food safety reasons and it is illegal for companies to alter them. There are also obvious food safety risks with allowing food from the floor to enter the production process. Not to mention traceability problems when source information is changed and fresh and older birds are mixed.

Reduced human contact equals safer food?

2 Sisters is the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken. Conversely, the amount of the pathogen Safer food with the right trainingcampylobacter found on supermarket chickens has reduced considerably over the past 3 years. This is in part due to the introduction of new technology for safer food production. Sonostream systems which combine steam and ultrasound, or rapid surface chilling processes, are responsible for destroying 80-90% the pathogen on the skin’s surface. Other technology which reduces the level of human contact with food has helped to improve safety.

Benefits of online training

However, if companies are to produce safer food, the emphasis still needs to be on effective training. Some companies, particularly those with a high turnover of staff, opt for the more cost-effective option of online training. This type of training has its benefits, especially for basic entry-level training to meet minimum legal requirements. There is no major disruption to the working day since you don’t need to release large numbers of staff at a time. Staff have the option to study in their own time. There are no travel costs. Plus there is an electronic record of training progress, number of attempts to pass etc.

Recognition for sustained compliance

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced in the summer that they will be bringing in a new system for food regulation. This will come into effect by 2020. Within it there will be better recognition for those who demonstrate sustained compliance with the regulations. Those who don’t demonstrate compliance will be dealt with swiftly and severely.

Classroom-based training aids retention

classroom training is effective in producing safer foodCommitment from senior management should be clearly demonstrated in order to encourage ‘buy-in’ by staff in all departments and at all levels. By fostering a food safety culture throughout the entire business, with effective training at its heart, staff behaviours can be changed and food safety standards will rise.

For those in a managerial or supervisory role, achieving food safety qualifications should be viewed as far more than a box-ticking exercise. It’s really important that what’s been learned is retained in the minds of staff and is incorporated into everyday practices.

For this reason we believe that there is no match for face-to-face food industry training. Being in the same room as an experienced trainer means that you can ask specific questions relevant to your own business. The trainer gives real-life examples to illustrate key points. You can discuss ideas and participate in group exercises to aid retention of the information. There is the opportunity to share and discuss experiences with other delegates. If you have five or more staff to train, it is cost-effective to have an in-house courses  at your own premises, where the content can be bespoke to your particular business.

Top marks for face-to-face training

Our delegates win prizes from the RSPH for achieving the highest marks in their Level 4 Food Safety and HACCP examinations on several occasions. Here is what one of them had to say on the subject:

“I don’t think there’s any comparison. Classroom enables group discussion, question and answer sessions, real-world examples from both the lecturer and course attendees, and all of this helps to build understanding from the participants. 

There’s a place for on-line training but I don’t think it’s ideal for complex subjects such as HACCP and although you can ask questions of understanding at the end of an online course, as an employer, are you left feeling confident that your attendee understood the content? 

From a personal point of view, I retain information from a classroom course, but have a hard time remembering anything I’ve learnt from online training.”

You’ll also get the most out of training if your trainers have hands-on experience of the food industry. All our trainers have several years’ industry experience and understand the daily challenges of food manufacturers and food processors.  Similarly delegates on our auditing courses have the benefit of being tutored by people who actually do that job. They receive advice on what 3rd party auditors are really looking for so that they can ensure they are audit-ready.

In an age where the food industry is increasingly under the microscope, quality training is extremely important. Classroom-based courses either in-house or off-site are the key to continual improvement and the provision of safer food.

Being a bit of a chocoholic, I can’t believe I’ve only just realised that it’s Chocolate Week. Yes, there is a whole 7 days dedicated to the appreciation of chocolate. So you have my permission to sack off the diet and gorge on a sharing (LOL!) bag of Maltesers , a whole bar of Green & Blacks or take a trip to Hotel Chocolat or similar.

Whilst you’re downing your Dairy Milk, here are some chocolate-related facts for you to ponder:

Death by Chocolate

To most ‘Death by Chocolate’ is an extremely rich, chocolatey dessert. But did you know that there was a Nazi plot to kill Sir Winston Churchill during World War Two, using bars of exploding chocolate?

winston churchillThe expensive-looking  bars, branded ‘Peter’s’ were actually made of steel and covered with a thin layer of real chocolate. They concealed an explosive which was designed to detonate when the bar was snapped. The plan was for double agents to place the bars amongst other luxury items destined for the War Cabinet dining room.

Luckily the plot was discovered by British spies who tipped off MI5 Senior Intelligence. Posters were issued and the public were told to remain vigilant.

Here’s another fact relating to this era. Did you know that Nutella spread was invented during World War Two? It happened when an Italian pastry maker wanted to make his cocoa supply go further, so he mixed in hazelnuts.

chocolateGood news: there are health benefits

Chocolate contains alkaloids which are linked to serotonin in the brain. This is why eating it can make us feel happy. Studies have shown that it can also lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. There is ongoing research into whether it might contain anti-cancer properties. Other studies suggest it can improve our cognitive abilities. It’s also more effective in treating a persistent cough than codeine.

Of course, the above benefits relate to eating chocs in moderation. Plus, they relate to dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Guzzling your own body weight in Galaxy bars will almost certainly do more harm than good.

Why you shouldn’t give chocolate to dogs

Interestingly, although the alkaloids mentioned above can be beneficial to human health, the same is not true for dogs. So, no matter how much your beloved pooch begs, don’t be tempted to give him any choccy treats. One of the alkaloids is called theobromine. It is this which causes the poisoning in canines. Unlike humans, dogs can’t metabolise theobromine effectively. This puts pressure on their nervous system or kidneys and can result in seizures, muscle spasms, vomiting and incontinence.

It is smaller dogs who are in the most danger of poisoning. For example a 25g bar of chocolate will have a more severe reaction on a Yorkshire Terrier than on a large Labrador. Even if dogs aren’t given chocolate, they have a way of sniffing it out, so make sure that it’s kept out of harm’s way.

chocolate coinsSweet salaries

These days we get a ‘salary’ which is a throw-back to the time when salt was highly prized. For the ancient Aztecs, however, chocolate (or, rather the cacao bean) was the currency of choice. Whilst some of us might dream of being paid in chocolate, it’s probably not that practical…

Tasty stamps

Gone are the days when you had to lick stamps to stick them to an envelope or parcel. That’s no bad thing, as the taste wasn’t exactly great. I might have been tempted to lick a Belgian postage stamp a few years ago though. That’s because in 2013 Belgium issued a limited edition of chocolate flavoured stamps.

Facts about films

Ever watched Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho? Me too! However the famous ‘shower scene’ becomes far less scary when you realise that the ‘blood’ is actually chocolate syrup! It’s consistency and rich colour works well because it’s filmed in black and white.

wonka barI absolutely love the film ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ starring the late Gene Wilder. Luckily for them the film was released in 1971, which was 19 years before the Food Safety Act 1990. It wouldn’t have been much fun if it had been storm trooped by an Environmental Health Officer! He would have been delivering non-conformances on the failure of Oompa Loompas to wear suitable clothing. The chocolate river would have had to be drained. Plus he would, no doubt, demand to see Wonka’s HACCP plan!

Enjoy the rest of Chocolate Week!

Well it’s harvest time again, so that can only mean one thing. It’s British Food Fortnight! We might only live on a fairly small island, but as a nation we produce literally tons of food. From meat and poultry to quality fruit, vegetables, fish, dairy products and cereal crops it’s all there to be celebrated (and eaten).

British dishes to savour

Full English BreakfastThere are plenty of dishes that are quintessentially British. You could start the day with a Full English Breakfast, then have Cullen Skink* or a Scotch Egg for lunch. Why not have an Eccles Cake later on – or treat yourself to Afternoon Tea. Dinner could be Shepherd’s Pie or Steak and Kidney Pie with seasonal vegetables. Or you could have a traditional roast with Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes. Fancy a take-away? Good old British Fish and Chips with mushy peas.


If you’re following a low-carb diet, what about some British Black Pudding? Made with pork fat, onions, oatmeal and blood it’s also packed full of potassium, calcium, magnesium and protein. Apples, plums and pears are also plentiful in British orchards at this time of year. Blackberries, gooseberries and rhubarb all make delicious pies and crumbles. The British are experts at comfort food, but there are also scores of healthier dishes using a variety of fish and seafood from British shores.

Food traceability and authenticity

Plenty of restaurants, supermarkets and grocery stores are making a special effort to champion British food this fortnight. In many cases you’ll be able to find out exactly which farm the meat you’re buying was reared on, or which local dairy made the ice-cream.

You will also notice that there is now more information about food products in the public domain. The horsemeat scandal was uncovered over four years ago. Ever since then there has been a noticeable tightening up on traceability. Food manufacturers have to obtain certificates of authenticity from suppliers if they are to satisfy a BRC audit, for example. Training companies, like us, began to introduce workshops on TACCP and VACCP. This was to help identify any threats or vulnerabilities within the supply chain. Our legal labelling courses have also been incredibly popular. Manufacturers and producers need to ensure that their packaging copy correctly reflects the contents according to current food legislation.

Make sure the food you buy or prepare is safe

Post-Brexit there’s a chance that we might all be buying more food produced in Britain. This is because there is currently much debate about border controls and import tariffs. Buying British food, or locally produced food is not only good for our economy. It’s also better for the environment. The less distance food has to travel, the less fuel is used. It’s also fresher.

Food Hygiene Rating SchemeNo matter where the food is from though, you need to make sure that it is safe to eat. That’s why good Food Hygiene Ratings are so important in restaurants, take-aways and cafes. It’s also why Food Safety training and HACCP training is essential in food manufacturing environments. Remember, if you’re handling or serving food, you need to have basic food safety training as a minimum. This doesn’t just apply to large companies – if you’re serving cakes and tea in a church hall, you’ll also need food safety training.

*Cullen Skink is not the name of a weedy comic book hero. It is a smoked haddock, potato and onion soup originating in a place called Cullen in Moray, Scotland.