The shoppers and independent custody visitors put their taste buds to work in a foodie sleuthing session at the office of the police and crime commissioner.
The volunteers, whose roles involve reporting back to commissioner Paddy Tipping, were joined by deputy commissioner Chris Cutland.
She said: “Custody suites are not a restaurant so we are not looking for haute cuisine, but we do want to make sure that the quality of food provided is acceptable.
“While we are not in the business of providing food to meet personal preferences, it is important to ensure that people in police custody are offered a choice of meals - not just to suit different preferences but also to meet particular dietary, religious or cultural requirements.
“Tasting the food and scrutinising the nutritional content will help our group of independent custody visitors (ICVs) and mystery shoppers be sure that detainees’ rights are being taken into account with regard to the meals made available to them.
“This kind of exercise is a measure of our volunteers’ efforts to ensure that detainees are being well looked after. Findings from the food-tastings will be carefully considered and if the choice of meals is found to be inadequate the next step will be to make appropriate changes.”
Volunteer manager Jackie Nash explained: “The ICVs are often told by detainees that they refuse custody food or that they leave it because they don’t like it.
“The food provided is a selection of microwave meals and there should be a choice of food for all dietary requirements.
“The mystery shoppers and ICVs wanted to sample the food to see for themselves what the detainees are offered and completed a questionnaire stating what it tastes like, whether it looks appealing, what it smells like and details of the nutritional content. They will also be asked how the food compares with the description on the box.”
Around ten different meals were on the menu for the tasters to sample. The choices offered in Nottinghamshire’s custody suites include vegetarian, vegan, Halal food and gluten-free. There is also a selection of food suitable for people with allergies to ingredients, such as nuts.
Custody visitors provide an impartial view of custody arrangements on behalf of the local community, while the role of mystery shoppers is mainly about monitoring the quality of the force’s customer service to enable the Commissioner to make changes so that victims of crime feel more satisfied and confident about the services they receive.