Food safety officers have vowed to investigate claims over the “disgusting” and potentially risky way meat was handled at a Helston street market over the weekend.
It follows the European street market that took place in Coinagehall Street last Friday and Saturday.
Concerns were raised over some of the food hygiene practices at the market – in particular over the way pork was dealt with on the “free range hog roast” stall.
It has been claimed that on the first day of the market, last Friday, stallholders took a piece of frozen cooked pork and proceeded to pour hot water over the top to thaw it, while scraping down the sides with a “paint stripper” style tool.
The pieces of pork were then heated on the griddle before serving.
John and Liz Layzell, owners of Mother’s bakery watched from inside their shop, along with customers.
Mr Layzell said: “The way the guy was going at this pork, it was disgusting. I had customers looking towards it and they said, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing that.’ “He was banging away at it, trying to get it into slices. How on earth they could put ‘free range hog roast’ is beyond me. That scared me.”
The Packet has also been contacted by one of the members angry at the positioning of a hog roast stall in front Mother’s, which also sells pork baps.
But Mr Layzell said: “I’ve been down here 14 years. I’ve seen food shops come and go – competition isn’t a problem for me.
“My concern is someone was going to get very, very ill with the way the food was being handled.”
The Packet has spoken to a local trained chef, who also had major concerns about this practice of defrosting.
He said: “Pork and chicken are two of the most risky meats. They should be defrosted thoroughly in the fridge.
“To do that [with hot water] is very risky. Even if I defrosted a piece in the fridge I wouldn’t use it until it was fully defrosted.
“You’re asking for massive problems – I’m surprised no one has phoned in with food poisoning.”
Nick Kelly, Cornwall Council food and health and safety manager, said: “We take all complaints about food businesses seriously and will follow up on the issues raised.
“Anyone who has concerns about a food business, or who has witnessed the incidents referred to, should contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 0300 1234 212.”
Olivier Simonin, market organiser with Traditional Markets, said he would take the comments back to the stallholders, but defended their actions.
He told the Packet: “Normally they thaw [the meat] overnight – I’ve seen them do it. Maybe he had to defrost it quite quickly. I’ve done it for 20 years and never got sick. I don’t think that’s the highest risk.
“It’s better to have this meat frozen rather than normal temperature for a while.
“You can’t have the same practices [as] in a restaurant, when it’s much easier to handle the food.”
It was also claimed that biscuits and synthetic cream cakes were left on one of the stalls overnight, with only the sides of the stall rolled down.
Mr Layzell said: “Biscuits, cakes and sweets were all there left from the night before. The cakes weren’t in a refrigerator even. If there are any flies, some person is going to become very poorly.”
However, Mr Simonin denied this, saying: “That’s not true. They are covered overnight.”
Mark Upton, speaking on behalf of the events and markets group of Helston Business Improvement Partnership, which booked the market, said: “If any member of the public sees somebody using a practice they feel isn’t correct they should report it to Environmental Health.
“They’re invited by us and they pay a fee for using the stalls – all the markets are subject to hygiene and public liability.”
He confirmed that food hygiene and public liability certificates were viewed on the stalls by event organiser Emma Wooderson.
Environmental Health can also carry out spot checks at any time.