A long-established farm shop in Bodmin which was ‘stunned’ after being given a zero-hygiene rating has assured customers that they are entirely compliant with hygiene regulations.
David Frost, who has traded in the town for 38 years as DF Fruit Supplies, and more recently Celtic Produce, said that while in his view the zero-hygiene rating was vexatious, the business wanted to reassure customers that it had worked hard to minimise any issues and that the business was fully compliant after a reassessment.
The business was given the rating after some issues were highlighted that were, in the view of Mr Frost, minor. This included having a hand-wash sink eight metres away from the counter and displaying fruit past its best before date inside the store, despite being marked as discounted as a result and the assessor allegedly disagreeing with Mr Frost over the use of such fruit for jams and preserves.
Mr Frost added that in his view, he felt the assessment was designed to work against the traditional farm shop and that while he admitted there were some minor issues, the assessment process didn’t work with businesses but against them, and in his instance, it was a business that had not had any customer complaints.
After a report in an online news outlet regarding the zero inspection, which he felt was ‘exaggerated’, Mr Frost said that while customers in the local community had stuck by the business, it had had an impact on wholesale orders and that he wished to set the record straight.
He said: “We were shocked by how we were treated by the inspector, and customers who were in the store when the inspection took place asked about why the inspector was being, as they saw it ‘aggressive’ or ‘horrible’.
“It’s inevitable that in a traditional farm shop business such as ours, based in a farm building that is around 60 years old, we’re never likely to get five-stars but to get a zero was harsh in our view. We have taken on board what was said, but the truth is that things were raised this year that hadn’t been in 38 years of trading, so it’s not as if we deliberately didn’t do things.
“We exist to try and do the right thing for the Bodmin community. I felt as if we were chastised for not having everything wrapped in plastic, when we try hard to be as plastic free as possible, we felt as if we were marked down for not being a generic supermarket, and we’ve had zero complaints from customers about our produce, and many great reviews online.
“One example was the fact we sell fruit that is perfectly safe but past its best before date at a discounted rate for preserves or jams. It’s no different to how supermarkets give away food past a best before date to local foodbanks or the fact they’ve removed best before dates completely on some fruit and veg and encourage the customer to use their own judgement to reduce food waste. However, we were told by the inspector that having it on display indoors was wrong, so we were marked down for that, too.”
Mr Frost said that the seven things that the business were marked down for had all been addressed and clarified the minor technicalities why. In a message to customers, he said this included the inspector claiming that the cleaning spray used, namely the ‘flash’ brand was inadequate, not labelling nuts as containing nuts, using their own paperwork for management systems rather than that preferred by the inspector, and with the majority of things raised in this inspection never previously mentioned in 38 years of trading.
On the allegation of ‘unfit food sale’, Mr Frost said: “This is something we vehemently disagree with the inspector about, when fruits or vegetables go past their best, we sell them off cheap out the front for soups and jams etc, we have always done this.
“We have explained over and again that items that may not be at its best can still be used for preserves and other forms of cooking, and that to throw anything away just because it isn’t perfect but can still be used is a waste of food. Once any fruit or veg has gone too far past it’s best, we dispose of it.”
He added: “We want to be open and honest with you about what has happened, and we do feel that we have been treated harshly on some of the things on the inspection.
“It should be a vehicle of support and help, not a hammer to hit us with.”