GM Foods – public consultation ends 17 March 2021

Injecting a tomato photoWhat are your thoughts on genetically modified foodstuffs?

It sounds a bit science fiction doesn’t it? Yet it’s not that long since protesters were setting test fields of wheat alight in protest: something listeners to the Archers might remember Tom Archer getting involved with.

The European Union is pretty much against genetically modified products, but the UK is no longer a member since Brexit, and our government is now consulting on whether to relax UK regulations. Indeed, testing on modified foods has already started.

If you would like to know more and make your views known, a public consultation ends on 17th March. You can make your views known on the DEFRA website.

1) BBC Radio 4 Food Programme on the topic: dry but very informative and well worth a listen.

2) BBC News website article.

3) DEFRA web page to read more and register your views.

Another Marston’s Takeover Bid

Marston's Faces Another Takeover Bid

Wolverhampton’s Marston’s has received an unsolicited non-binding proposal from the American firm Platinum Equity, regarding a possible cash offer for its share capital. Marston’s also called on Platinum to announce its firm intention to make an offer no later than 5pm on 26 February.

The company is currently valued at £555m, having seen its shares nosedive then partially recover since the outbreak of Covid-19. Marston’s made a total loss of £397.1m​ during twelve months to 3rd October 2020, following the closure of its pub estate for 15 weeks.

However, news of Platinum Equity’s interest today (29 January) saw the operator’s shares make a 16%, or 12p, leap to 87p. The news comes just weeks after Marston’s announced that it would operate SA Brain’s portfolio​ of 156 pubs in Wales on a combination of leased and management contract arrangements, safeguarding 1,300 jobs in December.

And a £780m Marston’s and Carlsberg joint venture to create the Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company was completed in August, following clearance from the Competition’s and Markets Authority. ​ That deal saw Marston’s hand over the keys to its beer business and become a ‘focused pub operator’​ for the first time in its near 200-year history.

There have been more than 180 mergers and acquisitions​ completed in the UK pub sector between the start of 2018 and end of 2019, including the taking over of Fuller’s by Japanese company Asahi and the £2.7bn acquisition​ of Suffolk-based brewer and pub operator Greene King by Hong Kong-based CK Bidco.

Marston’s previously known as Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery has a history of over-extending itself with brewery acquisitions and putting itself at risk of being bought out.

Local Guidance on Covid-19 safety in pubs, cafes and restaurants

As mentioned in Taste Wolverhampton this morning, pubs, bars and restaurants in Wolverhampton are being reminded they must keep their customers safe and limit the spread of coronavirus. The warning comes after instances in other parts of the country where establishments were closed down either because they were linked to an outbreak of Covid-19 or not operating in a Covid-secure manner.

All pubs, bars and restaurants are reminded they must:

  1. record all customers’ details so that NHS Test and Trace can contact them in the event of an outbreak.
  2. ensure customers only socialise in groups of up to 2 households (including support bubbles) indoors, or in groups of no more than 6 people from different households outdoors.
  3. ensure staff and customers are able to practise regular handwashing and good hygiene.
  4. if 2 or more members of staff test positive for Covid-19, notify the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Public Health team by emailing and Public Health England by calling 0344 225 3560 and choosing option 0 and then option 2.

Any business found to be operating dangerously could be closed down using powers given to local councils under the Coronavirus Act 2020. Businesses which would like support with interpreting the latest guidance should contact the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Trade With Confidence team on 01902 552079 or via

Stay Safe, Be Kind


Please note that events are being cancelled at short notice, and that the diary on this website may list events that are unable to run. At the time of writing, CAMRA has nationally cancelled all beer festivals and branch events, and there is pressure not to go out socially.

Keep safe and support your local traders when you can.

Wolves Council help with Scores on the Doors

It’s shocking how many traders in Wolverhampton still have Scores on the (urgent improvement necessary). The graphic below shows the listing accurate as of this afternoon.
On Monday Wolverhampton City Council announced its new Trade With Confidence scheme, to proved training and support for traders to aim for and achieve a top 5 rating.
It would help if all traders had to publicly display their ratings, so you should ask yourself: if the place you are about to eat does not have its food hygiene rating on prominent display, why is that?
The Council’s new website for Trade with Confidence is
screen grab from Scores on the Doors
I was at the launch, and it sounds very promising.

Scores on the Doors

Scores on the Doors

I’ve long felt that the Scores on the Doors ratings for all premises selling food should be displayed by all shops, cafes and restaurants: not just those with a good score.

If you chat to people in the trade on a regular basis, as I do, you’ll know that it’s quite easy to make a silly slip-up that can get you a low score: forgetting to note a fridge temperature, for example. But it’s also easy to be re-assessed, which is what any self-respecting purveyor will do.

So, when you look at your Scores on the Doors app or the website and you see a result that horrifies you, it’s worth checking how recently an inspection took place. If it was very recently, then mention it if you are thinking of making a booking.

However, if the last inspection was several months ago, you have to ask why anyone with a low score has not insisted on a quick reinspection. It may be that inspectors are unavailable, or it may be that the owner simply isn’t that bothered.

You are the customer. Where you spend your money, and with whom you trust your safety, are your choices. Be careful out there.

More information



Peel & Stone Arch 33

Bakeries under Railway Arches

Peel & Stone Arch 33

Peel & Stone Arch 33

There is something romantic about artisan crafts tucked away in strange places: cheeses maturing in caves, fine vintage wines gathering dust in chateau cellars and, in much greater number than I expected, shops and bakeries.

If visible to the public at all, it is often a small retail frontage with tightly packed wares, while the main workings of the bakery are further inside the hefty structures that hold up the railway lines, trains and passengers.

Bakeries in the Big City

Slow Bread Company

Slow Bread Company

Nick May of the Slow Bread Company in London apologised for shattering my romantic illusions. He and his wife set up their family business after years of baking naturally leavened bread for family and friends.

They needed an affordable location with three phase power for the ovens that was close to the pubs and restaurants they supply, rather than a distant industrial estate.

Rents are reasonable and train noise is not a problem. Nick says you can use the tube trains like a clock: they start at 5.20am every day. But temperature control is something you must live with: proving your bread is quicker in summer than in winter.

E5 bakehouse

E5 bakehouse

The e5 Bakehouse, also in London, has a shop next door to the bakery, which is in “a spruced up railway arch beneath London Fields Station”.

A video on the website shows the arched ceiling above the bakery and shop. They say the location offer big spaces good for transport links, and in 2015 they took on their third arch to house a stone mill.

Bakeries in the Second City

Peel and Stone in Birmingham is known to the public mainly for its little sandwich shop at the front of the arch, which was listed as one of Britain’s 30 best places for brunch in the Daily Telegraph in May.

Peel & Stone's archway

Peel & Stone’s archway

I’ve been popping in here for a year or so now for imaginative sandwiches and salads, or something hot if preferred. However, their main output is selling bread wholesale to pubs, bars and restaurants.

Peel and Stone evolved from the Soul Food Project: initially a small catering operation, providing food for an inner-city pub that was influenced by the cooking styles of the southern states of America: jambalaya, gumbo, and other things in that song by The Carpenters. Later the Soul Food Project took on its own pub – The Church in the Jewellery Quarter. The Church ran for a year selling the same style of food before the Project expanded by opening the Peel and Stone Bakery in Arch 33 on Water Street – a small Peel and Stone café and shop has opened recently in Harborne.

When I was allowed behind the shop inside Arch 33, it reminded me of an aircraft carrier. There are no windows – the bakery has a false ceiling and installed ventilation. The arch is high and wide because overhead is Snowhill station with its rail and tram lines. The space is rented from Network Rail and, important for a small growing business, reasonably priced.

Temperatures are moderated a little by the ovens, but away from them it is hot in summer and in winter it is cold. The day staff are in at 6.30am, and the night staff leave around 4.00am.

The bakeries I spoke with do like their curvaceous locations and, if railway arches seem a little eccentric to some … well, maybe just one or two of the bakers are too.

Coming Soon

The interview I recorded with Dave Finn as part of the research for this article will be broadcast on Sunday 9th July around 9.15am on WCR FM ( Next week I’ll try to put a copy here if you miss the broadcast … though the whole show will be available on Listen Again on the WCR FM website for a few weeks.

Join the Real Bread Campaign

proud to support the real bread campaign

A shorter version of this article was published in the July – September issue of True Loaf, the magazine published by the Real Bread Campaign. There you can read all about Real Bread, find how to celebrate Sourdough September … and, if you’re not sure, find out what real sourdough is and why you probably can’t buy it in many if any supermarkets.

True Load cover

Report on Florida Food and Drink

Taste Wolverhampton Sunday 16th April 2017
Florida Special

This report will be repeated in the New Year’s Eve 2017 edition of Taste Wolverhampton.



In February, my wife and I spent a couple of weeks staying with friends who moved to work in Florida a few years ago. They live in Kissimmee (pronounced Kiss-emmy locally) which is within 15 minutes of all the Disney theme parks.

There are family-friendly fast food places everywhere, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you fancy something a bit special or eating and drinking somewhere that’s perhaps run by a family and not part of a national chain, where do you go?

The last couple of trips, I’ve had a look at Trip Advisor, and that’s taken me to great authentic Mexican restaurant just out of Kissimmee, but not much else. So this trip, I decided to pack my recording gear and do some serious research on where to eat and where to drink before we left.

Previously I’ve visited a couple of wineries and tasted the local wine … which, to be honest, is poor stuff. But there’s a tradition of making fruit wines in Florida, so I decided to track down a couple of specialists.

I found there’s quarterly magazine called Edible Orlando which supports local artisan foodies: both makers and eaters. We’ll hear from the publisher in the second hour of the programme.

If Florida isn’t the best part of America to taste local wine … and it isn’t … then the alcoholic drink they are really good at is beer. We’re going to hear from two craft brewers today: John Cheek from Orlando Brewing, who’s an established and experienced brewer, and Jared Zakerowsy from the Crooked Can Brewery that’s barely two year’s old.

They’re both producing fabulous beer in a great variety of styles, so let’s start in Orlando – one of the most popular holiday destinations for British tourists. Most head for the theme parks, but lots of breweries in the States offer both free brewery tours and entertainment at their bars through the afternoon and evening. So, let’s head to a business and industrial area close to central Orlando.

Interview: John Cheek, Orlando Brewing. Duration 10’13”

Orlando Brewing

And if you’d like to read more about Orlando brewing or, if you’re heading to Florida this summer, check out the entertainment evenings on the website:

Florida Wine

poor wine

see the sediment in this badly made wine

I don’t think it’s unfair to say the wine-buying American public is generally less knowledgeable than in the UK. Maybe because the UK vineyards have established their credentials so recently compared to the rest of the world, our supermarkets really got their acts together from the 1970s onwards importing good wine. Also, we never had Prohibition.

In Florida … I was trying to find a Californian Zinfandel in one big supermarket, which was made harder because the wines were in alphabetical order of whatever the biggest word is on the label. Very odd.

We found a huge wine warehouse in Orlando open to the public that is hugely impressive ( lots of European wines, a lot of American wines, and 2 narrow shelves of Florida wines. Sad but a sensible decision, because only the Muscadine grape can grow in Florida, and its wine tastes like dentist mouth rinse.

However, because so much fruit grows in Florida, particularly citrus fruit, there are now many producers of fruit wines. But buyer beware … most of those I’ve tried are very sweet and very poorly made.

Do go to a tasting if you can, because the locals love a sweet wine … maybe because so much of what they eat is sweeter than we are used to. A lot of the wines you’ll see being sold in roadside stores use wine made from the local Muscadine grape with a little fruit juice added.

However, in a lovely place called St Petersburg, a couple of hours drive from Orlando, they make fruit wine just from the named fruit. This does make it a bit expensive; but there again, I saw their wine being sold by an orange grower near Kissimmee alongside some they made themselves diluted with grape juice, all sold at the same price. So check the label and taste a sample if you can before parting with dollars.

Let’s get an insight into all aspects of the Florida wine business from Vincent Shuck from the Florida Fruit Wines company.

Interview: Vincent Shuck, Florida Fruit Wines. Duration 8’17”

100% friot wine

Finding out about good food and drink

While Trip Adviser must reflect what people write most about, there are other websites and publications that aim to list Florida foodie events and uncover great local producers. One such source is Edible Orlando magazine and website, which is part of a nationwide network of food and drink publications.

Interview: Kendra Lott, Edible Orlando. Duration 12’30”

edible orlando

More beer

For the final Florida interview, recorded in February, I found a new brewery in a lovely town called Winter Garden. Plant Street Market is a building full of character that houses some fine products, people to cook them for you, tables to eat at, and a brewery to provide a remarkable range of beers to wash the food down with. I’d happily move to Winter Garden.

I spoke with Jared Czachorowski from the Crooked Can Brewery.

Interview: Crooked Can. Duration 10’53”

Run-through available beers Duration 4’06”

crooked can

Useful websites                  

Drinking less real ale?

As a fan of good cask ale, I read this article by Pete Brown* expecting to strongly disagree with it; but actually, I found that I agreed with pretty much every word. If you like a pint with your lunch, as I often do, our chances of a good drink are already reduced, unless you can guess which hand pull has already been used that lunchtime.

I was recently disappointed in one of Wolverhampton CAMRA branch’s past pubs of the year. I made the mistake of having Holden’s Special: later it became clear that Golden Glow was the popular drink that lunchtime. My pint wasn’t bad enough to take back with full confidence: it just wasn’t as good as it could and should have been.

The growth in real ale choice over the last two decades is impressive, but too many pubs now put too many beers on their bars: and sometimes all “golden” ales. They can’t sell it quickly enough. No wonder people are put off what for me is still the champagne presentation style of beer, in favour of craft beers – the prosecco of beers to conclude my sparkling wine analogy. Craft beers can be good, though they can also be too cold and too fizzy; but certainly they are a lot more reliable and enjoyable than a cask-conditioned ale sold by staff not monitoring the quality of what they sell.

The Campaign for Real Ale has just conducted extensive research into what its future should be. I hope, for those of us who appreciate a cask-conditioned ale in top condition, that they concentrate less on how many guest beers are available and more on the quality of what is being sold.

Pete Brown: why it’s time to say no to bad cask ale
Beer writer Pete Brown explains why he has turned his back on the drink he has obsessed over for many years.

Roger Protz, the editor of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, has written a response to Pete Brown’s article which is fair and reasoned, but I think Roger must be luckier than me with his recent drinking experiences:

Postscript 9th February 2017

Just read this fascinating blog post where a brewer explains that perhaps we are not paying enough for cask ale. Which makes me wonder; if we paid a little more, could we expect more in terms of quality?

First annual Wolverhampton Independent Retail Excellence (WIRE) Awards

Wolverhampton Wire Awards logoNominations are now open for the first annual Wolverhampton Independent Retail Excellence (WIRE) Awards.

The awards, commissioned by the Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Roger Lawrence, are being led by Wolverhampton Business Improvement District (BID) in partnership with the council.

The aim is to celebrate and praise the entrepreneurial spirit, dedication and hard work of those involved in running and managing a successful independent business, as well as to recognise the loyalty and dedication of the staff that work in this sector. There are 12 honours up for grabs, with nominations called for in 11 categories. A public vote is open to find Wolverhampton’s ‘Favourite Retailer’.

The other categories are Independent Retailer of the Year, Retail Personality of the Year, Excellence in Customer Service, Best Dressed Shop or Outlet, Employee of the Year, Leader’s Award – Apprentice or Trainee of the Year, Excellence in Staff Development, Hospitality and Leisure Business of the Year, Community Retailer of the Year, Most Improved Business of the Year, and New Business of the Year.

The awards are open to independent retailers from across the city, provided they have a Wolverhampton postcode.

Read more on the Council website.

Also see the WIRE awards website.