Given the cake in the face experience of former MAFF minister Nick Brown, you can understand why Mrs Beckett looked a tad apprehensive when she was approached by a farmer on the stage at the NFU annual conference. Apprehension turned to relief when the farmer handed over a bunch of carnations. On to an evening function last week where a colleague was praised by Arla boss David Salkeld for waiting eight and a half minutes before mentioning the rumours of a possible Express takeover. Another guest wandered over and used the news as his opening gambit. "I am a Kiwi," explained the guest, "and we are more direct than you Brits." It's obviously about time my colleague went on a blunt speaking course. And finally to the FSA press conference to tackle poor hygiene responsible for food poisoning, where it emerged that at least a million of the 5.5m people claiming to have had food poisoning last year were probably suffering from a raging hangover rather than the after-effects of a dodgy kebab. I can't possibly comment. {{COUNTERPOINT }}