Sunday, February 28, 2016

Homeless meal service slams council after food hygiene standards inspection request

An organisation which gives free hot food to homeless people has rejected as "bureaucratic nonsense" a request from council officials to have its food hygiene standards inspected. The People's Picnic provides evening meals twice a week in Norwich. "We will not allow the establishment to tear down the foundations upon which The People's Picnic was built," they said in a Facebook post.

Norwich City Council said it would be a "last resort" to shut them down. The People's Picnic volunteers have served up to 60 home-cooked meals on Haymarket on Tuesdays and Saturdays for about four years. Officers visited the stall this week and the organisers said they were told they would have to register with the council.

Karen Cully, one of the organisers, said: "We not stupid - we're not trying to poison people and we never have. It's volunteers cooking in their own kitchens and it's mainly stew. We're about nurturing and putting out a positive vibe and sharing our food with friends as a picnic. We're worried that regulations could strangle us as we have no main kitchen or storeroom - the cooking is usually done by three people in their own homes."

Norwich City Council said it was free for food businesses to register, it was standard procedure to visit food providers and common practise for volunteers' home kitchens to be inspected. Keith Driver, cabinet member for food safety said: "What they do is fantastic, but we just need to make sure all the hygiene is fine. There shouldn't be any problems. We're not there to close people down - we're here to help people. The last resort would be to shut them down - you can't just have people turning up and handing out food willy-nilly."

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