Thanks to the imagination and generosity of my wife Joanne and the food factories of Marks and Spencer, my gardeners packed lunch was supplemented on Thursday by a packet of shop-produced sandwiches; 4 different flavours, each a half-sandwich triangularly arranged like a bready Toblerone, but without the chocolate, or the crunchy gravelly bits.
They were OK. I took the egg mayonnaise first (to get it over with) following it with the dryer chickeny one, to act as a buffer from the other mayonnaisey prawn one before competing the quartet with the salady ham one. A fine variety in anyone’s book.
I’d consumed all four and was moving on to my banana when I nonchalantly flipped the card base of the now-empty sandwich receptacle to find a 32-line essay printed and stuck on the back. ‘Ooh,’ I thought to myself, ‘What’s this? A nice story to supplement my alfresco dining experience? I enjoy a good read.’
On closer inspection found it was a general description of each of the sandwiches (which opened without an explanation or capital letter) followed by over 500 words in which the same descriptors were repeated each separated by a detailed list of that sandwiches components and allergy warnings. The alert ‘contains Gluten’ appeared 23 times – that’s more than 5 times per sandwich. Bonkers. I was also made aware that every 100g of ham contained 100g of raw pork and that all 4 sandwiches contained rapeseed oil, yet in 3 it was stated at cold-pressed but there was no extraction method described at all for the 4th. (I won’t spoil the surprise as to which one it is – I’ll let you discover it for yourself)
I know and I get that there are many people more unfortunate than myself for whom gluten, egg or crustacea is their kryptonite, and that it is essential for their continued health that the contents are presented to them, but surely ‘contains gluten’ only needs adding once – or a maximum 4 times should you want it for each individual sandwich? And would I really care if the egg sandwich had contained 4% watercress rather than the 3% reported to me? If M&S and all the other purveyors of bready lunchtime snacks – (except for bakers it would appear?) applied this common sense, there would be room on the packaging to treat us with a nice short story, maybe an Oscar Wilde, say.
I’m sure M&S would say that they are simply following the regulations in this regard, and that’s the point really – why are we so bound up in minutiae warning people that their egg sandwiches contain both egg and gluten when we can watch the X-Factor apparently unabated.
I visited an M&S at the weekend to take a nice picture of the offending sandwiches for you in situ – after all, I couldn’t take any of the sandwiches I’d had on thursday as I’d eaten them. Sadly, there were none on display and a tell-tale gap in the shelves suggested to me that they might have been withdrawn on grounds of stupidity, so I took some pictures of the wide range of other sandwiches instead. I did not check if they contained similar overloaded descriptors as I was getting funny looks by this stage.