Last year the kitchens here at Wakefield switched from providing three hot meals a day to providing one hot meal with a cold meal at lunch. As a compromise they put an option on the lunch menu of a pack of instant noodles for those who wanted something warm to make with hot water.
Only recently did I realise that the noodles they are providing are not suitable for the diets the kitchen provide them for.
Each mealtime there is a vegan option, a vegetarian option, a halal option, and an ordinary diet option. The noodles are generally provided in three flavours: curry, chicken, and tomato. All of them were listed on the menus provided by the kitchen as suitable for every diet except vegans. That might seem strange in the case of the Chicken noodles, but we were told that they contained no animal products and were therefore suitable for vegetarians. As a vegetarian myself, I took them at their word.
And then I saw something that cast doubt on their claims. The Curry noodles and the Chicken noodles they provide are both made by the same manufacturer (let’s call – them Kay’s Noodles for the sake of argument). The packaging on both packs is similar in design but different in colour. The Curry noodles are purple whilst the Chicken ones are yellow. But when you inspect the back of the packets the Curry ones say “Halal” in one circle, and “Suitable for Vegetarians” in a second circle underneath. Meanwhile, the chicken noodles have the same “‘Halal” markings in the same place, but absolutely no mention of being suitable for vegetarians. You have to ask, is it likely that a manufacturer who deems it appropriate to put “suitable for vegetarians” on one flavour of their noodles would not do the same for another flavour if they are indeed suitable?
I didn’t think so, so I submitted a complaint. The kitchen staff replied, saying the noodles are suitable, even if they didn’t say so, but a friend of mine who works in the kitchen approached me soon after and told me he had overheard a conversation between two members of the kitchen staff which revealed that they had checked out the noodles after answering my complaint and had found that not only were the chicken noodles not suitable for vegetarians after all, the tomato noodles were unsuitable for both the vegetarian and the halal diets too.
Since the tomato noodles were of a separate brand, I hadn’t even thought to check these, but when I did I found it was true. Nowhere on the packet did it say suitable for vegetarians or halal suitable, and a closer inspection of the specific ingredients revealed that they contain an E number which comes from animal products.
I complained again but despite what I had discovered the kitchen staff just stonewalled and maintained the party line that Chicken and Curry noodles are suitable for both halal and vegetarian diets. However, they did admit that the tomato ones might not be halal after all. What was absolutely ridiculous though was that they claimed that the tomato noodles were suitable for vegetarians. Well, if they contain an E number which is not halal because it comes from non-halal animal products, then guess what? It can’t possibly he suitable for vegetarians either.
So many mistakes have been made here that it is truly unbelievable. How a so called professional organisation can neglect to check the suitability of the food it serves is beyond me to start with, and the idea that they would reply to my complaint before checking if what I was saying was correct is beyond comprehension, but to continue in your deception even after you know there is proof that what you are saying is not true? That is just idiotic. At the time of writing this they continue to hand out the same noodles to prisoners on a vegetarian or halal diet. A number of prisoners have voiced an interest in taking court action to prevent this carrying on. I will update you when it becomes clear how many claims are entered.