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Restaurants serve up ready-meals

Seventy per cent of French eateries use ready meals or frozen food, a documentary claims

SEVENTY per cent of restaurants serve up frozen or bought-in pre-prepared food, a France 5 documentary has claimed.

The makers of the film Restauration française, un pavé dans l’assiette sent reporters to look through kitchen bins for evidence of their claims.

Among experts interviewed was a food critic, Bruno Verjus, who was interviewed after eating a dish of lamb shank which he said was a ready-meal despite the waitress having insisted it was “home made”.

The programme said while some restaurants buy in actual ready-meals, others regularly use frozen produce as opposed to preparing fresh products.

One Parisien restaurateur said it saved time in peeling vegetables and preparing meats.

“Thirty years ago we could work 70 hours a week, but today we have the 35 hours,” he said. “We’ve had to adapt and choose products that don’t take too much manpower.”

The programme alleged that at commercial food shows firms promote ready-meals, often endorsed by famous chefs, openly advising they be sold as “house specialities”. It said some hotelliery schools, plied with free products by companies, also promote heating up ready-meals.

One former Michelin-starred chef who created a “lamb shank with thyme” for re-heating, said: “Joe Bloggs doesn’t care about what skills the kitchen team have, he just wants to eat well.”

The problem is essentially one of customer information, the programme said – people should have the right to know if they are really eating home-made food or not. Only the label Maître cuisinier guarantees this, but very few restaurants have it, it said.

A senator for the Doubs, Martial Bourquin, backs a law stating that menu items including frozen products should be flagged up – as is already done in Italy. A restaurant owner from Florence told France 5 they have adapted to it. “We have returned to using seasonal, local products and we have won back customers’ confidence.”

The documentary will be repeated on Sunday at 15.55.

Photo: © illustrez-vous - Fotolia.com

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