Food business regulations

Basking in the sunshine, I started chomping down on my sandwich. A mug of French roast coffee was standing on the table next to me. The next moment brought a rude awakening. I had bit down on something hard. It turned out to be thick glass shard. I was lucky because though it was pointy, it had no dangerously sharp edges that would have instantly injured me. An inspection of the pot containing the jam for my sandwich revealed no damage. The shard had come from the contents of the jar.

The year was 1995, the location my home in Florida. I called the jam company who asked me for some production number on the jar. I later got a letter back with an apology. The letter included a coupon for a free jar of the same jam, but in all honesty, I was not in a hurry to go out and get more jam. More importantly, I also received a detailed description of how the glass shard had gotten into the jam (including the procedure aimed to prevent this). A little explanation can go a long way.

ice creamThis morning, I read about a boy who had bitten down on a glass shard while eating ice cream in a local ice cream establishment. He was bleeding profusely and needed stitches. The owner of the ice cream establishment was prosecuted. The fines were substantial.

Not only had the business failed to implement simple safety standards, it had also neglected to register the business as a food business with the local authorities, among other things.

The business owner seems to have been entirely unaware of these requirements. It surprises me because I suspect that for example just about anyone in receipt of jobseekers’ allowance likely knows about the many rules surrounding anything to do with food. How so? Jobs to do with food usually require the person to have completed food hygiene training, for starters. Those jobs are often among the vacancies that end up at the Jobcentres.

While I do think that the regulations can look like overkill to anyone wanting to bake some cakes and sell them from a stall once a year, the case of this little boy who got injured highlights the reasoning behind these regulations. They help prevent such incidents.


Equality: the Black Pete debate

Sinterklaas! Tomorrow! And today is pakjesavond, for those who don’t have the southeastern Dutch tradition that I grew up with. I never knew pakjesavond. As a child, I would come downstairs to breakfast on 6 December and find the table covered with gifts and goodies, and the chairs too.

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you likely are aware of the hot debate surrounding the Netherlands’ Black Petes.
Continue reading

How to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’

Once upon a time, there was a woman who got really ticked off because her disabled brother was unable to get a job. Employers told him ‘no’. So she started a business herself and offered him a job.

The year was 1999. The startup location was in Amsterdam, right around the corner from where I was living back then. Today that business has 17 branches all over the country. Two years ago, in 2012, it was acquired by a larger enterprise, but the business philosophy remains the same.

Valid Express only employs couriers who are physically disabled or chronically ill.
Continue reading

Why love matters

“Love is a political emotion,” I read the other day. This quotation, apparently ostensibly ascribed to Pablo Neruda, continues “that inspires people to fight for something higher than selfish interests.”

Or does it? Depending on who’s sent the tweet, the quotation can also go as follows.

open your heart!“Love is a political emotion that transcends the petty materialism of bourgeois ideals.”

Never having read anything by Pablo Neruda, it made me feel pretty clueless, though I liked the sound of the first quotation, probably because I have never had bourgeois ideals. “Love is a political emotion that inspires human beings to fight for something higher than selfish interests.” It’s likely what Anthony Robbins calls a need of the spirit – or soul – in his classification of human needs. The need to contribute beyond ourselves.

Then I wondered, a political emotion, what is that exactly?

Martha Nussbaum, Professor of Philosophy and Law at Chicago University, explains it in her book “Political emotions. Why love matters for justice.”

It asks “How can we achieve and sustain a ‘decent’ liberal society, one that aspires to justice and equal opportunity for all and inspires individuals to sacrifice for the common good?” The book is described as part of Nussbaum’s explorations of emotions and the nature of social justice.

White shoes and magic circles

England often seems to have a big problem with them. White shoes. Sneakers. Trainers.

trainersI’ve been wearing them for decades. No, not the same pair, ha ha.

I love to walk and I love to run and I love being able to make that bus, train or tram on account of a last-minute sprint instead of being hampered by my high-heeled footwear. Wearing those white shoes also helps if you have to traverse long corridors and many staircases in university buildings a lot, like I used to do.

My Dutch GP used to compliment me on my sensible shoes, but many English people seem puzzled and amused or even alarmed by it when I wear white shoes. Trainers. Sneakers.

I don’t know the exact background for the strange looks I sometimes get because of my white shoes – something to do with ‘chavs’ ? – but I can’t be the only one who gets them. Those looks. Next time you catch one or dole one out, remember the following, and smile.

A white shoe firm is a top firm in law, management consulting or investment banking. Clifford Chance, as one example, is usually seen as part of the magic circle, but would be called a white shoe law firm much more often if it weren’t English and the description weren’t of American origin.

And next time someone comments on my white shoes? Maybe I will smile, and counter that I work at a white shoe firm.

If the British pay more attention to substance and less to color-coordinating their acccessories, and hire more people on the basis of their capabilities instead of on size of tits and perceived fuckability or the fact that someone is the son or nephew of the Duke of Dipshitz, Britain may soon be in much better shape than it is today and be a better place for everyone.

I usually wore my white sneakers while at work at Clifford Chance. Because Clifford Chance cared more about what I was able to do than about what I was wearing. (Might that be because HR was Dutch?) Yes, I was on a contract. Yes, I quit, but I was overqualified, only there to make some extra money, and they were aware of that. They looked after their legal secretaries pretty well and most of their lawyers were pretty damn good. Some were even better than pretty damn good.