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The Scrivener: The Exploding Fish

Would you complain to a company which prepare a fish which exploded while being cooked in your microwave oven? Brian Barratt thinks you should do so - but you can only hope that complaining makes a difference.

'I don't know why you bother. It isn't going to make any difference.'

My friend was commenting on the fact that I had written to yet another company advising them of a fault in one of their products. This time, it was a tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce. Not much can go wrong in the manufacture of that, but I reckon this tin had far too much water in it. In fact, I worked out that the contents were about 30% water.

I wrote to the company, telling them (nicely) the spaghetti was more like tomato soup with noodles. I received a wordy apology and a refund. In spite of their assurance that my feedback was valuable, and they would pass it on to the appropriate department, I surmise that the real reason was simply that the extra water was a less-than-invisible means of filling the tin while keeping the price down.

Then there was the matter of the badly packaged butter. I usually use Canola margarine, low in polyunsaturated fat, cholesterol and salt, but as an extra treat sometimes buy soft-spread butter. As with all products of this kind, when you take the lid of the plastic tub there is a metallic foil air seal which you peel off. Well, the metallic air seal in this tub was attached to only half of the area it was supposed to seal. The rest was open to the air and, I suspect, to contamination. So off went my letter to the manufacturer, and I received a refund.

The most spectacular faulty product was the exploding fish. SteamFresh foods are packed in a cleverly designed vented plastic bag. You do not pierce it with a fork before placing it in your microwave oven. As long as you follow the instructions, and microwave it for precisely the recommended time, the vegetables or fish in the bag come out almost as if they are fresh.

On this occasion, I was cooking a piece of StreamFresh fish in a spicy Thai sauce. I've had it before and it is excellent. And much better for you than crumbed or battered fish. The content includes nearly 80% fish, whereas in crumbed fish the fish fillets make up only 50% of the contents of the packet/bag. All very worthwhile, but the problem was that, this time, the StreamFresh bag burst inside my microwave while it was being cooked. The lovely spicy Thai sauce was splattered all over the inside of the oven and took a while to clean up. Nothing wrong with the taste and texture of the fish, when I ate it, nor with the sauce that had not been launched into outer space. Nevertheless, I wrote to the company and, yes, I received a refund. Within a couple of days on this occasion.

All these problems have occurred in the past three months, by the way. It's been a particularly active period for lack of quality control and the need for complaint. I do not actually ask for refunds and reimbursements but feel satisfied when they are offered and sent.

Only a couple of weeks ago a new line in one-dish meals for cooking in a microwave appeared in the shelves of a local supermarket. The manufacturers are, like all the others, well known and presumably always reliable. And I am always willing to try something new if it looks wholesome and provided the fat, salt and sugar percentages are reasonably low. You really do have to read the small print on these things, in spite of the current trend to make it as small as possible presumably in the hope that customers won't bother to try and read it.

I read the cooking instructions twice, as they seemed to be somewhat unusual. The total cooking time for the lasagne was 9 minutes, which seemed to me to be too long. And it was. The bag burst. I finished up with a dish of blackened mincemeat scraps, pieces of dry floury leather, and no liquid content whatever. When I told the company about that, I do hope that they did take note, as their instructions were so obviously wrong. And, of course, I received an apology and a refund.

Is it worth telling companies about these things? Yes, I believe it is. Will it make any difference? Hmm, well, I hope it does, even if only once in a while.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2012

To read more of Brian's always palatable words please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_scrivener/

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