Cheesed off Manchego makers, the story of ‘Nighton’ and Merkel’s robot encounter

Planet Business: On the menu this week, a Titanic lunch and the pizza boss going all in

Handshake diplomacy: German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto hang out with a robot on the IBG Automation stand at Hanover tech fair. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Handshake diplomacy: German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto hang out with a robot on the IBG Automation stand at Hanover tech fair. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images


Image of the week: Robot return

While French president Emmanuel Macron hangs out with Donald Trump and their respective wives at the White House, German chancellor Angela Merkel had the more enviable task of making her return to the annual Hanover technology fair, where she is seen here greeting a robot alongside Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.

At the event, Merkel welcomed a new trade pact between the European Union and Mexico – “really good news for Europe, for Germany and for Mexico” – and stressed the importance of global trade being “as free as possible”.

Alas, it was her turn later in the week to head to Washington for talks with Trump and his deeply protectionist administration. If only this was a job a robot could do.

In numbers: Titanic memorabilia


The sum achieved at auction for a menu of the first meal ever served on board the Titanic. The lunch, which included consommé mirrette, sweetbreads and spring lamb, was served to officers on the first day of sea trials on April 2nd, 1912.


Sum that a key to the Titanic’s chart room sold for at the same auction, which attracted buyers from “all four corners of the globe”. For fans of the macabre, a steward’s badge found on the drowned body of Thomas Mullen went for €65,000.


Amount fetched at auction (£126,000) last October by a letter written on board the ship the day before it sank. “If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday AM,” Alexander Oskar Holverson wrote to his mother on embossed Titanic stationery on April 13th. All did not go well.

The lexicon: Nighton

Nighton is an over-the-counter “natural remedy” licensed by the Canadian government public health department Health Canada that claims to provide “effective relief in fever, pain and inflammation” for children and infants. There’s only one problem with this. Nighton doesn’t exist.

It was invented by Canadian consumer affairs show Marketplace as part of an investigation into lax oversight and overly enthusiastic licensing of natural health products. To win its licence, Marketplace merely photocopied pages from a homeopathic reference book published in 1902 as evidence for Nighton’s effectiveness. While critics said this made a joke of the regulatory process, the best joke was Marketplace’s homeopathy-appropriate choice of name: Nighton is an anagram of “nothing”.

Getting to know: Jens Hofma

Jens Hofma, like all the best people in the world, is a fan of pizza – so much so that the boss of Pizza Hut UK has just bought out the business with a little help from corporate financiers.

Hofma is one of those chief executives who likes to do some real work waiting on tables every now and again, serving customers their pan crusts. The Dutch food executive, who began his career at Nestle, has gone deeper into pizza at a time when the “casual dining” sector is undergoing some woes, finding itself squeezed between posher options and cheaper takeaways.

The list: European PDOs

Spanish makers of Manchego cheese, produced in the La Mancha area from the milk of Manchega ewes, are feeling cheesed off this week after the EU agreed that Mexican producers could carry on using the name despite its protected designation of origin (PDO) status. Which other food delights have European PDO status?

1. Waterford blaas: the soft white bread rolls, a Waterford tradition that dates back to the 17th century, won their PDO status in 2013, though they have yet to become a sticking point in any international trade deals.

2. Lough Neagh pollan: the white fish with a bright silver skin became a PDO food just this month.

3. Cornish pasties: legally, and indeed accurately, only pasties made in Cornwall are Cornish pasties – until Brexit, at least.

4. Feta: In a previous “cheese war”, Greece had to fend off top-level court challenges from other countries to retain protected status for its most famous cheese.

5. Champagne: probably the most famous PDO of them all. Don’t even think about referring to sparkling wine made outside the Champagne region of France as “champagne”.