Thursday, September 9, 2010

S’poreans outraged over ‘free meal’ blogger

By yahoosingapore – August 23rd, 2010 Email Facebook Twitter Print

What started out as a mini-maelstrom online has developed into a major talking point for the general Singaporean public.

The issue: Should a food blogger be entitled to free meals?

Over 350 Yahoo! users have commented on the controversy, which began when a young food blogger demanded that he and his three companions be given free meals at an upscale restaurant in the Joo Chiat area on Sunday.

Most criticised the blogger in question, Brad Lau, for being a “freeloader” and for bringing down the name of the local blogging community.

Since this blog post was first published on Monday afternoon, it has been retweeted over 400 times on popular micro-blogging platform, Twitter.

The controversy began when Lau, who owns food blog ladyironchef, and three friends walked into Private Affairs, a small but exclusive eatery in Joo Chiat, for its Sunday champagne brunch promotion that costs S$68++ per person.

The blogger had informed the management on Friday that he would be coming down to review the Sunday Brunch promotion.

On the day itself, Lau and his partner came down at about 130pm, followed by his two other companions, each of whom came down half an hour apart.

According to Private Affairs’ operations director Ross Valentine, the four of them had brunch until 430pm, even when the restaurant’s official brunch hours was from 1130 am to 330pm. Brad and his partner also enjoyed two glasses of champagne each.

When presented with the final bill of $435, Lau initially refused to pay and repeatedly told the restaurant’s chef, “I never pay for food in any restaurant.”

The restaurant eventually offered to waive off the cost of the meal for him and his partner as well as the cost of the champagne out of goodwill, thus lowering the bill to $159.

Still upset but finally relenting to pay, the blogger then threw his credit card onto the bar counter in front of the cashier before storming out.

The main entrance and cashier area of upscale eatery Private Affairs.
Valentine told Yahoo! Singapore, ”This blogger looked very aggressive and was quite arrogant. The fact that he also walked in with his friends at staggered timings created quite a bit of problems for my chef de cuisine, who has to prepare and present his food at just the right times.”

“We decided to waive off the meal and champagne cost for him and his partner out of goodwill. But when we asked him when the review of the meal would be coming out, he said he was not obliged to write anything if the food wasn’t good enough,” he added.

Yahoo! Singapore emailed Brad Lau for his reaction but has yet to receive a reply.

The incident, however, enraged the local food blogging community.

Glenn Lee, who runs popular food blog since late last year, posted an open letter criticising the blogger’s behaviour for “tarnishing the good name of the community.”

Lee, 22, told Yahoo! Singapore, “We are food bloggers and I’m pretty sure the intentions of all of us in the community is to share the love that we have for food and writing.”

“But what this certain blogger has done is highly detrimental to the integrity of the community as a whole and I felt the need to stand up for what I strongly believe in,” he said.

Kaelyn Ong, 22, who posted an entry entitled ”STOP asking for free food” on her food blog, My Food Sirens II, also expressed her disgust.

“I’m surprised. It’s beyond my understanding how someone can actually request for a free meal on the house just because he’s a food blogger,” she told Yahoo! Singapore.

“Anyone can be a food blogger these days, all it takes is a camera and a blog… does that mean restaurants have to sponsor everyone for their meals?” she added.

She also apologised to restaurants on behalf of the food blogging community and said ”not all of us are such bad eggs”.

Cheryl Chia, who owns a food and baking blog, cocoabutterscotch, was also appalled.

“I find it shameful. Demanding for free food on account of your supposed “status” as a person who blogs about food is not acceptable,” the 26-year-old said.

Renowned food expert KF Seetoh, who runs the popular, said the blogger in question lost his integrity by refusing to pay.

“The best position is to be invisible, pay for your own food. When you pay for your own food, you don’t take any prisoners when you write,” he said.

But what if the restaurant offers to give bloggers a free meal?

“Then I won’t write about your restaurant. Even if they offer me 50% off the total bill, and if I write about it, they will take my review with a 50% pinch of salt. Some of them, after eating, they call the chef out and ask him to change this and that on the menu. Some would then say, let me do a consultancy role for you. You do what I say and I write nice things.

“My stand is, be neutral. I pay, I say and then I rate,” he concluded.

Under-fire food blogger: It’s a case of miscommunication

By yahoosingapore – August 24th, 2010 Email Facebook Twitter Print

The local food blogger under fire for demanding a free meal at an upscale restaurant in Joo Chiat says the entire saga has been a “case of miscommunication”.

On Monday, Yahoo! Singapore reported that the local food blogging community was upset that Brad Lau, who owns food blog ladyironchef, initially refused to pay the full cost of his meal and that of his three friends after a visit to Private Affairs for their Sunday Brunch promotion.

But in a post entitled, “The Truth“, written on Tuesday, Lau said, “An eye for an eye makes the world go blind. I would like to not point fingers at anyone – it was simply a case of miscommunication. When I dine out, I pay for my food like any regular consumer.”

Lau said the miscommunication could have resulted from the fact that he was simply following up on a food tasting invitation by the restaurant back in early June.

But because he had a busy schedule, he could only confirm last Friday on 20th August that he would attending their Sunday Brunch promotion, along with his partner and two other friends.

He wrote, “I was invited to a food tasting session by Melanie, PR manager for the restaurant. The first invite came June 2nd. I was unable to make it then and it was not until Friday, August 20th that I scheduled the Sunday brunch. In the invite, I was told to bring a guest.”

Although he did not clarify at the time if he and his partner would be expected to pay, he wrote, ”This was an invitation to a food-tasting session. There is no hard and fast rule stating a plus one for a food tasting. However, having attended previous food tastings before, I assumed that the meal would be, at the very least, on the house for myself and one dining partner.”

In his post that included several screencaps of mobile and email messages, he also went to write ”it was an oversight to assume that no acknowledgement from Melanie about my 3 accompanying guests would mean that their meals would be on the house too.”

While Lau denied saying, “I always get free food wherever I go”, he admitted he was hostile towards the cashier when he was settling the final bill of $160 for his group of four.

“I must admit the hostility while paying (I had tossed my credit card on the table) was uncalled for and I sincerely apologise,” he wrote.

Addressing the issue of his integrity as a food blogger, he clarified that when he “dine(s) out, I pay for my food like any regular consumer. When I am invited for food tasting sessions, it is a mutual understanding between the inviter and myself, that I would be attending as the identity of media for a possible food review.”

Lau concluded by asking all parties to “view this situation objectively. I hope this post clarifies any misunderstanding that this might have caused.”

The restaurant in question, Private Affairs, has also responded to the controversy by issuing a 10-paragraph press statement in which it clarified it had “no intentions to exploit this incident for the fame of any individual/s or property involved as suggested in some comments.”

It also said, “The candid remarks and unacceptable responses from the said blogger were certainly uncalled for. We were not impressed by his behaviour, action and mannerism”.

On the issue surrounding the grey area between food tasting sessions and blogger’s reviews, the statement said, “We have always extended media tasting invitation to avid food bloggers based on recommendations of reliable sources. We embrace food blogging and believe there is a certain extent of social integrity, moral and professionalism inculcated in every blogger.”

“However, we also want to highlight the food blogs about Private Affairs are based on individual blogger’s real experience and is not in any way altered or influenced by Private Affairs. The food bloggers were clear and transparent in stating that their gastronomy adventures were invited sessions.”

The statement goes on to say that the 40-seater restaurant continues to encourage and support the local food blogging community.

“We hope this incident does not discourage the food blogger community to pursue their passion in food blogging. We feel that there is a lot of integrity and clout in this community and… we will continue to support and promote the spirit behind the passion of food writing and sharing with food lovers.”

The statement ended by calling for a ”possible formation of a governing body or an association/society, which cultivates and promotes the appropriate manner of blogging and blogger’s etiquette. There should be some guidelines and policies implemented to avoid any similar incidents from occurring again”.

Thank you for the incredible, amazing response to Yahoo!’s Fit-To-Post blog so far. We continue to welcome your views and comments but please don’t abuse this opportunity. Be nice. Be courteous. Be sensible. Respect the feelings of others and refrain from using any kind of offensive language.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tainted chicken feed linked to massive US egg recall

AFP - 1 hour 19 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) - – Contaminated chicken feed is likely to blame for a salmonella outbreak at two major US egg producers that has already sickened some 1,700 people, federal health officials said.

"We don't know if the feeding ingredients came to the facility contaminated or if the feed got contaminated at the facility," said Jeff Farrar, the associate commissioner for food protection at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Farrar told reporters the chicken feed in question had only gone to two Iowa farms -- Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms -- and not been distributed elsewhere in the country.

The two farms recalled more than half a billion eggs last week -- the industry's biggest such recall in US history -- after learning salmonella from their products sickened consumers. Several dozen egg brands in 22 US states were affected by the move.

"We are looking at all possibilities here of how contamination could have gone into the feed or on to the farm," Farrar said.

"This contamination can come in through numerous routes -- including rodents, shared equipment, workers -- so we are looking into all those possibilities in our investigation."

Health experts say salmonella is spread most often by the consumption of food contaminated by animal fecal matter.

The microbe usually flourishes within the intestinal tracts of fowl and mammals.

Some 1,700 people have fallen ill in the United States from salmonella found in fresh eggs between May 1 and August 25, according to Christopher Braden, acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's foodborne diseases division.

An estimated 400,000 people are infected with food-borne salmonella each year in the United States, according to the CDC. It can be deadly to vulnerable populations such as the young, elderly, or those with compromised immune systems.

Recent years have seen various massive food recalls in the United States -- from salmonella-tainted peanut butter to pistachios to frozen spinach and milk -- amid criticism that America's food regulation regime is under-staffed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

US salmonella egg scare shows danger of 'mega producers'

AFP - 1 hour 27 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) - – The massive recall in US markets of more than half a billion eggs possibly tainted with salmonella shows the dangers of concentrating the egg industry in just a handful of "mega producers," US food industry critics said.

"Salmonella in eggs was not a problem in the United States until the 1980s when these huge mega producers were born," Fast Food Nation bestseller author Eric Schlosser told CNN.

More than 2,000 people have been infected with salmonella enteriditis bacteria since May, leading to a recent recall of more than half a million fresh eggs, one of the biggest in the industry's history, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

The recalls concern two chicken egg processors -- Hillandale Farms and Wright County Eggs, both in the midwestern state of Iowa -- and cover several dozen brands across 22 US states, US authorities said.

The source of salmonella in egg-laying chickens could come from contaminated food or fecal matter from infected rodents invading the coops.

Nearly all egg-production in the United States (95 percent) is presently concentrated in the hands of some 200 companies, compared to around 2,500 farms in 1987, according to the United Egg Producers group.

Thirteen companies alone raise more than five million egg-laying chickens each, with five US states accounting for most of the estimated 280 million egg layers in the country: California, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"There should not be any salmonella in the eggs. Until 20 years ago, there really wasn't any. It's once you've got those mega mega producers putting 150,000 birds in one building that you start to get that kind of diseases," said Schlosser.

"When you cram the birds so closely together it will spread disease from one animal to another," he added.

The salmonella outbreak reached national concern by mid-August, with millions of American wondering if they should now skip their favorite breakfast food.

It brought back the 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanut butter, another favorite US food, which infected thousands of people and killed nine.

Other salmonella recalls in recent years included pistachios, frozen spinach, and milk, feeding criticism that America's food regulation regime is under-staffed and overtaxed.

With the latest salmonella scare, the FDA has renewed its appeals for greater recall and inspection authority. The US Congress has responded by recently passing a law expanding the FDA's recall powers, which up to now were made by companies on a voluntary basis.

The egg recall, said Schlosser, "is partly a breakdown in our regulatory system, but it's also a sign of what companies are willing to do to make money."

The salmonella scare, however, has buoyed proponents of local, small-scale farming.

"Small farmers have the availability to keep their farms clean, (and) make sure there is enough room. The bigger those operations are the more you run into problems," said National Black Farmers Association president John Boyd.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Japan foot-and-mouth outbreak infects top stud bull

AFP - 46 minutes ago

TOKYO (AFP) - – One of Japan's most prized stud bulls has been infected with foot-and-mouth disease, the government said Saturday, as the country's first outbreak in a decade continues to devastate livestock.

The discovery was a blow to the southern prefecture of Miyazaki, which evacuated the region's six top seed bulls, including the affected animal, to a special facility to keep them away from the disease, which has hit more than 100 farms in the area.

The highly contagious virus has brought to a halt all Japanese beef and pork exports for the past month and crippled the premium beef industry in Miyazaki.

The six bulls are the only remaining breeding animals for the highly sought-after "Miyazaki beef", as the foot-and-mouth outbreak which began last month has forced the cull of 49 other seed bulls in the prefecture.

Between them, the six bulls accounted for some 90 percent of artificial breeding in the prefecture, Kyodo News said.

"The affected bull shall be immediately slaughtered," the farm ministry said in a statement.

The other five animals have so far tested negative for the disease, and "will remain under observation," the statement said.

Usually, all bulls and pigs kept with infected animals are culled, but officials have decided to keep the five remaining seed bulls under observation for a week in an effort to preserve the premium Miyazaki beef strain, Kyodo said.

The news came as officials prepared to slaughter some 205,000 animals in Miyazaki -- 50,000 cows and 155,000 pigs -- as the highly contagious disease spreads rapidly in the region.

The six prized stud bulls were removed from their regular farm near the areas hit by the disease and were assigned individual care managers and kept in separate stalls in a bid to stop them contracting the disease.

Japan's famed "Wagyu" beef is sought-after worldwide for its intense marbling with mostly unsaturated fat, and the variety from Miyazaki typically wholesales for up to 320 dollars a kilogram in Japan.

The latest foot-and-mouth outbreak, Japan's first since 2000, was detected on April 20 and spread quickly in Miyazaki, on the southwestern island of Kyushu.

The health threat prompted Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to pledge more than a billion dollars to help farmers who have to slaughter their livestock.

Foot-and-mouth disease affects cloven-hoofed animals, also including sheep, goats and deer. It is rarely transmitted to humans but spreads easily between animals, causing them pain and often killing their young.