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France launches app to help diners know how clean their favourite restaurant really is

France has launched a website and app on Monday which diners can use to check just how clean a restaurant is before visiting.

France launches app to help diners know how clean their favourite restaurant really is
Photo: Ministry of Agriculture
The interactive map and app called Alim'confiance has restaurants' hygiene scores listed from “in need of urgent correction” and “could be improved” to “satisfactory” and “very satisfactory”. 
 
There is also hygiene information for butchers, patisseries, fishmongers', and cheese shops, together with the date the health inspector last visited. 
 
And if that's all a bit complicated, it comes as well with smiley faces (from a worried looking face to one that is positively beaming). See the pic above.
 
 
For the moment, not all the restaurants in France are on the system, but they will be added over time. 
 
In fact, there are a full 55,000 hygiene checks carried out across France each year (that's a lot of smiley faces) and Monday saw just the publication of the 1,000 or so eateries that were checked in March.
 
Here are the restaurants already on the app across France
 
Here's a closer look at Paris
 
Hotel and restaurant federation GNI-Synhorcat said despite its involvement with the project, it wasn't all too pleased with the information being made public online – as one “off day” could potentially stick to a restaurant for years. 
 
But a spokesperson from the Ministry of Agriculture said the objective of the app wasn't just to inform customers, but also to improve the level of hygiene throughout the country.
 
The spokesperson added that other countries that have rolled out similar technology have seen an increase in the hygiene scores. 
 
Planning to eat out tonight? Here's how you can download the app and make a more informed decision – but remember, the rating only applies to cleanliness. The new app doesn't delve into the quality of the food on the menu. 
 
Bon appétit!
 
 

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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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