Dutch newspaper halts annual herring, oliebollen taste tests

Newspaper AD is stopping its annual taste tests. This year there will be no oliebollen, herring or friet taste tests, the newspaper announced on Friday, just before the start of the herring season.

These taste tests faced criticism over the past years. The herring test came under fire after a study by EenVandaag last year, in which an economist said that a judge of the herring test had interests in a wholesale fish- and herring trader and gave better marks to establishments that got their fish from this company. Both the herring and oliebollen tests were criticized for the harsh reviews given to the 'worst' products. 

For example, in 2016, a fishmonger in Arnhem's herring review read: "Inedible, soft blubber: a zero", according to NOS. A Venlo bakery's oliebollen review: "Please note: do not use as a vetbol for the birds, that would be animal abuse". Bakers Jordy and Bianca got the review that their oliebollen were like shoe soles. They got into a fight with AD chief editor Hans Nijenhuis on television program Jinek last year. Tensions ran high and at one point Nijenhuis said: "If you bake like you talk, then it doesn't surprise me that you ended last." In 2016 a bad review in the oliebollen test reduced an Amsterdam baker to tears.

After criticism on these harsh reviews, AD only listed the best traders in their taste tests last year. 

"Concerning the grievous texts in the reviews, the critics are right", Nijenhuis wrote in the newspaper on Friday. "We also found, on closer inspection, that we could have formulated it better." According to him, the intent of the taste tests was never to hurt traders. "Sharp reviews may perhaps be amusing, but as I wrote in the newspaper in December: malicious fun is no fun."

The economist's accusations that the herring test was biased, is wrong, according to Nijenhuis. The economist offered no evidence and the newspaper filed an official complaint against him, the editor wrote. 

"As far as taste is concerned, it turned out last year that there is much to be argued over: too much as far as we are concerned", the editor wrote on Friday. "No large-scale Herring-, Friet and Oliebollen tests anymore, therefore. Let's leave taste to what it might be all about: a matter of taste."