The Department of Health was in a defensive mood last night, after critics accused them of running a nanny state. The criticism follows the department's advice to boil cucumbers for a minimum of 20 minutes.
"We don't actually expect people who are lucky enough to have received a good education to need our advice. That's not our job: we're here to protect the great unwashed from their unwashed grapes", said Jeremy Thwip, a government spokeseman. "Besides, normal people don't need to boil cucumbers, their staff wouldn't dream of serving them unpeeled."
There have been similar complaints about the Food Standards Agency, which recently commissioned a childish cartoon in order to recall contaminated cheese slices from Lidl. "Nigel and I discussed this, and we're pretty bloody sure that Lidl people can't read", said a defensive Mr Thwip. "We've already apologised for illustrating the customer in a football shirt, with facial tattoos. And I now accept that the 'stink lines' were a step too far."
The latest gaffes have added to growing fears that the government is out of touch with its food policies. A £1m television advertising campaign was widely scorned for trying to discourage people from drinking too much port, or passing it the wrong way. Much of the criticism was aimed at the three minute section of the advert that covered the correct procedure for decanting.
Mr Thwip leapt to the defence of a simultaneous campaign, that advised consumers on how to determine the freshness of oysters, mussels and coquilles St Jaques. "Ah, well this is important stuff. You discard all the ones that are open before cooking, and all the ones that are closed after cooking. Or is the other way round? I'll have to check with chef."
However, Mr Thwip did accept that some changes were needed to government advice. "We have too many scare stories about undercooked barbecue food. As if I'd send my butler out to light the grill in this weather?"