Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.



AMIDST ALL the confusion over "mutant food", Pandora has embroiled herself in a good old-fashioned food fight. A group of three friends recently dined in the Harvey Nichols-owned Oxo Tower Restaurant. Two of them became ill after eating lobster, one immediately, the other an hour and a half later. The group were asked to pay the bill despite the obvious distress caused. Subsequent complaints recouped the cost of the meal, but positive action appeared only after Pandora contacted the office of Dominic Ford, the Food & Beverage Director at Harvey Nichols, although he states that compensation was sent out before these enquiries. Coincidentally, Food Alert, the private food and hygiene agency that Harvey Nichols brought in to investigate the incident, wrote to one of the group immediately after contact with Pandora to "apologise for inaccuracies" contained in a report it had previously sent out. Pandora's contact with Food Alert had resulted in Gillian Edward, their operations and training manager, putting the phone down. Pandora has learned that Food Alert was unable thoroughly to investigate the incident because the food was thrown away by the restaurant. However, its findings did not suggest food poisoning.


THE ROLE of Food Alert puzzles Pandora. Can it be impartial to the client that hires it? Gillian Edward told Pandora that the company was "working towards impartiality", but Food Alert's managing director, Peter Christopher, wanted to assure Pandora that it was impartial and that its findings "had to stand up in court". However, there is no regulatory body for private food hygiene firms and Christopher based his professional code on previous experience as an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). Unlike an investigation by an actual EHO, Food Alert's findings cannot be referred to a complaint procedure if the person complaining remains dissatisfied. Pandora put it to Food Alert's MD that anyone with a hygiene complaint against a restaurant which used its own private firm could bring in an EHO to investigate a complaint. "The answer to that is yes," confirmed Christopher, swallowing his own raison d'etre.


AFTER THE death of King Hussein, the community of Harrow was in mourning. Not only did Hussein attend Harrow School, but Hussein's hobby of being a "radio ham" kept him in touch with an even wider community in the Middlesex area. One radio enthusiast, Edwin Benou, tells of Hussein's accessible approach over the airwaves: "We talked about all sorts of things - political things and personal things," he told the Harrow Observer, adding, "Once he said to me, `Sorry, I've got to break off. Henry Kissenger's on his way'."


COMEDIAN RORY Bremner (pictured) seems to have no doubt who will be taking over from Paddy Ashdown when he finally steps down as Liberal Democrat leader in the summer. At last week's House Magazine/ Channel 4 political awards, Mr Bremner was heard to say to Charles Kennedy: "You will be giving me some tapes of you voice, won't you?"


IS FULHAM manager Kevin Keegan going to bow out to Glen Hoddle? Certainly, Mohamed al-Fayed, the Fulham chairman, seems to be engaging in some wishful thinking in his latest Punch column: "Glen Hoddle was a fool and he knows it. It is time to move on. We should forgive Mr Hoddle. It would be a shame if he disappeared from soccer" writes Mo, in a spirit of anticipation.


SOME PEOPLE in the Labour Party will be glad to know that Tony Blair does look back to the past now and again. In yet another exclusive in last week's Daily Mail, Blair's message on welfare reform was: "It really is the end of the something-for-nothing days." Way back in 1988, the then Labour leader, Neil Kinnock dumped nuclear defence unilater-alism by saying: "There is now no need for a something-for-nothing unilater-alism." It seems that "something-for-nothing" will at least exist as useful soundbite, even if some of the circumstances it describes are gone.

Pandora can be contacted at: pandora@