Conspicuous absentees from New York's 47th annual Summer Fancy Food Show in Manhattan this week were Mrs Margaret Beckett and her ministerial team at DEFRA. And that's a pity. For had they made the trip across the pond they would have witnessed a sterling effort by a gallant band of some 60 exporters in what last year became Britain's second largest market for food and drink. Indeed, a ministerial pat on the head would have gone down well with the purveyors of, among other things, such twenty first century British products as tikka marinade and pink peppercorn pour-over sauce. But even the innovative Brits have been suffering in the US during recent months. As reported earlier in The Grocer, American shoppers, shocked by the graphic tv pictures of animal funeral pyres, have done as the over- reactive Americans always do, and turned away confused from many British foods. True, the foot and mouth issue vanished from the North American tv screens when the US spy plane in China story broke. But, as our poll amid the neon in Times Square shows, some of Uncle Sam's sons are still fighting shy of British produce. All the more important, therefore, that Food from Britain should have mounted such a splendid awards ceremony in front of Manhattan's influential food and drink glitterati. Of course, cynics might dismiss the evening as a publicity stunt. But they would be wrong ­ it was much more than that. It was an ideal chance to show off the positive side of British food and drink to a confused, overweight nation, which has largely reacted with its wallets to the foot and mouth issue without going into the facts. Some time soon, Food from Britain, the NFU and the DEFRA team will be implementing the recovery plan to help rebuild consumer confidence after FMD. This week's Manhattan effort was an important prelude. It's a pity DEFRA ministers weren't there to see it. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}