When my daughter dropped her ice cream recently, I hesitated for a moment. Then I picked it up, scraped off the bit that had made contact with the pavement and gave it back to her.
This is standard and approved parenting practice. You can't be waiting in line and paying twice just because your child can't be bothered to hold onto her Cornetto. Besides, what's the worst that can happen?
Sometimes food incidents are of a more serious nature. If you come back to your tent and find a rat has died trying to drink your soup, it is probably best to move straight to the main course. Or if a tramp has a lick of your lollipop, you should really let him keep it.
Other cases are less clear cut. Today I stopped off for food in one of Richmond Park's little cafes. I ordered the lasagna because the guy working there there said he liked it. He wasn't the only one - when I stepped inside to get some pepper, a jackdaw dived in so quickly I think it must have been staking me out all along.
"Ooh you dirty little bastard," I found myself saying in a rather more shrieky voice than I'd have liked. I waved it away petulantly and then had that someone-please-tell-me-what-to-do moment. How much had it pecked? How clean did it look? Where else had that beak been?
I thought about going back and asking for a new lunch. But the man who had served me was bound to judge me for being careless, and also think I was being a bit of a princess. And anyway, he would probably just go out the back, chat to the chef for two minutes, then bring me back the same slice of lasagna.
And besides, nobody used to mind this kind of thing. In the days of glass milk bottles left outside your house, if a bird pecked the top, that just meant you had milk without cream - it was the skimmed milk of its day. There was never any question of throwing it away.
I also worked out that in the time my back had been turned, there was only so much lasagna the bird could have stuck its beak into. So I just chopped off the corner I had seen being attacked and used a bit of lettuce to cordon off that part of the plate as not-for-consumption.
Both the cafe guy and the bird had a point - the food was tasty. I'm glad I didn't wimp out of eating it, but I did find myself bolting it down rather quickly so I didn't have time to ponder the possibility of bird spit in my lunch.
A quick web search tells me that bird-pecking can cause the spread of the bacteria campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning. But then if you choose to type the words "bird peck food disease" into Google, you are bound to find a corner of the internet which confirms your fears.
Better not to think about it. Best of all not to do it again. Toddlers will always drop ice creams, but leaving food unattended in a park full of hungry animals is a mistake I will hopefully only make once.
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