By Liz Hull
The next time you dine out you might want to take your dental floss with you.
For it seems the toothpick has become the latest victim of the health and safety police - leaving disgruntled diners with food stuck between their molars.
Staff at a luxury hotel chain are refusing to provide customers with the post-meal dental sticks - because they are 'potentially dangerous'.
However, sharp metal cutlery on the table is - for now - still acceptable.
Retired deputy headteacher John Freeman had enjoyed a three-course meal at the Macdonald Portal Golf and Spa Hotel when he realised he had a piece of rib- eye steak stuck between teeth.
But when Mr Freeman asked the waiter for assistance, he was astonished by the response.
'He apologised but said he was not allowed to give me a toothpick for health and safety reasons,' said the 63-year-old. 'I asked him if he was joking, but he said it wasn't April 1 and there weren't any in the hotel.
'I told him it was nonsense and asked to speak to the manager for an explanation, indicating there were 14 very dangerous metal knives and forks on my table that had been unsupervised for at least two hours.
'The manager agreed it was ludicrous, but assured me there had been a directive from head office not to provide toothpicks because they are potentially dangerous.'
Mr Freeman - who was at the hotel in Tarporley, Cheshire, with his wife and friends for the £70-a-head New Year's Eve dinner - complained to the Health and Safety Executive. His local council is now investigating.
Pot of peril? Toothpicks
Mr Freeman, of nearby Eaton, added: 'Health and safety and political correctness are driving this country into a corner.
'It just seems ridiculous that a hotel like this would behave in such a way.'
Dentist Ray McNamara suggested restaurants have a roll of dental floss for customers.
'I don't think you can injure yourself with floss,' he added.
However, a Macdonald Hotels spokesman denied there was a toothpick ban, and suggested 'there were simply none available on the night'.
Meanwhile, a seaside resort has cancelled its annual fun day after children were banned from riding donkeys due to health and safety.
Organisers in Llandudno, North Wales, said they were worried they could be sued if a child had an accident.
In November, fundraisers were banned from donating cakes to a hospital appeal for a similar reason.
Hertfordshire-based Friends of Royston Hospital volunteers said they were unsure if all ingredients would be suitable for diabetics.
And in June pensioners in Eye, Cambridgeshire, were banned from holding a coffee morning at a library in case hot drinks were spilled on visiting children.
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