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May 13, 2011 12:34 PM

Disturbing Show on TV 5 Monde Regarding Food Industry in France

Wednesday evening my fiance and I were watching a magazine show on the french channel (TV 5 Monde). It was interesting and disturbing. The entire hour and a half plus was devoted to the french food industry and a couple of other topics--one about a 14 year old boy who died after consuming a burger at one of the Quick fast food restaurants. Then there was a vignette about how the fine french cuisine is not as good as it used to be. Then--and the most disturbing was the subject of pre-made "gourmet" meals that are delivered to various bistros, cafes, and restaurants throughout France. It was discussed that you cannot tell the difference between one of these pre-made meals and the meal a chef prepares. The cameras even went into a restaurant where pre-packaged Beef Bourginon was served. The owner of the restaurant validated this by stating that it knocked off a lot of the prep time. I was shocked.
Anyway, they went on to say that if you go to a restaurant/cafe, etc. in France and there are wayyyy too many items on the menu--chances are a good number of them are pre-packaged.
I'm really bummed now. I'm going to France next month and will be very wary of where I have lunch. ( We have most of our dinners at home but the restaurants we do go to have food cooked on-site). Honestly, I was shocked. Did anyone else see this?

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  1. I did not see the show you are referring to but a few years ago I saw a similar segment on the food industry in Germany. There were very fine German hotels and restaurants that had the same practice of reheating pre-packaged foods. Gordon Ramsay has also been in the news lately for the same reason. But I wouldn't be bummed about this news. Now you know and can plan around it.

    1. the unfortunate case of the young boy was one isolated case at one location of one chain -- think how many times you've read about various food-related illnesses you read about in the US -- fast-food joints, frozen hamburger, spinach, etc., etc., etc. It happened, and it's sad -- and it was about a year ago, and Quick has been working overtime to repair their damaged public image.

      The expose about the restaurant in central Paris serving basically TV dinners is old new here by now -- and I don't know anywhere in the world that the adivce of "if there are wayyyy too many items on the menu -- chances are a good number of them are pre-packaged" -- I think that's a pretty logical conclusion anywhere, whether you're in Paris or Paducah.

      Sounds like it was a lot of panic journalism at its finest, and I truly hope you take it as the panic-fest that it sounds like it was, and don't let it spoil your trip.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sunshine842

        Nah. It isn't going to spoil my trip. I'm really happy to be going back. But at the expense of my cluelessness--I really was surprised.

      2. I am far more disturbed about the boy dying than about pre-made meals.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Steve

          It's a tragedy, to be sure.

          But it made an enormous uproar in the press here, and people stopped going to Quick for a while. (Quick ranks just below dumpster-diving on my list of favorite places to get a meal, and it has nothing to do with their safety record).

          But my mention was to put it into perspective -- think back over just the last FIVE years in the US -- Jennie-O turkey burgers, Dutch Gouda at Costco, all those millions of salmonella-contaminated eggs last year, outbreak after outbreak traced to contaminated hamburger and lunchmeat (far too numerous to list), peanut butter, cookie dough, jalapeno and serrano chilies and fresh cilantro, bagged spinach, Taco Bell -- the list goes on and on and on.

          On a per-capita basis, the frequency of death from food-related illneses is somewhere in the magnitude of FIVE TIMES that in France.

          It doesn't diminish this young man's life in any way -- but it's important to keep it all in perspective, too.

        2. Quick sucks. Somebody may have died from eating there and one shouldn't try to score points off this.

          However, Quick had been in the news before this event for selling and marketing halal burgers. From a PR point of view, I think the rwo things are related.

          I haven't seen the programme you're referring too, but as to the boil in the bag "pre-cooked" meals, are you sure, that the food wasn't sous-vide prepared cuisine? I ask this as Gordon Ramsey was "done" by the British press for his use of "boil in the bag meals", but which in fact was sous-vide.

          1 Reply
          1. re: vielleanglaise

            I can't remember which restaurant it was, but the expose when it was aired here actually showed the supermarket packages in the dumpster -- and it wasn't even Fleury Michon or Wm Saurin -- it was Carrefour Budget or Franprix!

            They were poking the plastic covers and nuking it, then passing it off as actual food.

            Seems to me it was one of the hallowed old names that has been noticeably slipping in recent years (which unfortunately only narrows it down a little)

            It's been a little over a year since it was broadcast here.

          2. If indeed "you cannot tell the difference between one of these pre-made meals and the meal a chef prepares" then i do not see a problem

            5 Replies
            1. re: thew

              But perhaps the pre-made meals have been made by chefs too.
              Also, there are some chefs in France who would probably serve better food if they bought it ready-cooked.

              Seriously, I don't think you're likely to encounter that problem with any of the places debated on this board.

              Vieillanglaise: could you please develop how you think the food poisoning thing and the halal burgers at Quick are related? I don't quite get it.

              1. re: Ptipois

                Pre-prepped bought in food is not new news in France for example many bakeries buy frozen baguettes and croissants from factory bakeries and simply cook in the oven on site - the good ones don't but they are by far the minority. Te same for desserts (tartes etc) in many bistros and cafes they are purchased pre-prepped, and this is especially true in the places knocking out the €14 menu for the office workers at lunchtime.

                Pre-prepped mains are a newer development as the large catering companies expend into this sector, it is common in the UK and I would guess 90% of pubs and cheap restaurants there, use pre-prepped dishes, especially for long slow cooked dishes like stews (the ubiquitous lamb shank on an English pub menu is the classic). No doubt the same is true in France as many of these companies are large multinationals.

                I agree with Ptipois most of the places here won't use pre-prepped bought in food, but do beware at the cheaper end of the market especially cafe's or bars with a minute kitchen that seems to produce a vast range of food....!

                NOTE: The Gordon Ramsay comment earlier on was true, the difference is that he pre-prepped a lot of slow cooked dishes in his own central kitchen and then re-heated in his pubs. Very different from buying mass-produced food from a catering conglomerate.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  It's just conjecture from an adman acquaintance. Quick exposed themselves from a PR point of view in serving and marketing Halal - the ghetto Mcdo. The bad press they received after the death was exarcebated by this.

                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                    OK, that's more or less what I had figured out (and I agree with you, I think it is a likely conjecture), but I was not sure that was what you meant. Thanks.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      In today's high tech, high turn hospitality biz there are products available at all quality levels and at all levels of effort, or lack thereof for the restaurant kitchen. Salmon with grill marks, Salmon with grill marks and dill butter, (taste, not real butter), Chix breast with chipotle seasoning grill marks or oven browned. Bakery items range from frozen dough to be proofed, par-baked, brown off to just heat up in an oven, all qualify to be advertised as "Baked on premises". The operation that brings in primal cuts of meat, cases of fresh veg, whole fresh fish and makes their own breads/desserts are basically a thing of the past......Sad to say.