Businesses Warned Over Misleading Menus

6 March 2011, 06:00

Heart is being told by Trading Standards how some shops, cafes and restaurants are making up things on their menus.

A survey carried out by Suffolk Trading Standards on behalf of the East of England Trading Standards Association  has revealed that businesses’ are misleading customers with claims about ‘locally sourced’, ‘hand-made’ and ‘organic’ food.

They have been visiting village stores, garden centre cafes, hotel restaurants, pubs, farm shops and delicatessens to look at the claims being made.

Officers looked into 180 individual claims and scrutinised menus and invoices and 31 of the 180 claims checked were found to be false.

Many claims related to ordinary or catering food being passed off as something more elaborate. ‘Hand-Made’ potato-cakes were offered on a menu when in fact frozen hash browns were being served and ‘Hand Carved Ham’ was actually pre-packed and sliced. Officers also found a freezer full of ‘homemade’ pies which were sourced from a national wholesaler and craftily re-labelled.

More expensive menu items are also substituted for cheaper ingredients.  Establishments have been using tomato puree in place of sun-dried tomato paste, cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella and frozen pasta advertised as fresh.

County Councillor Colin Spence, Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said; “When people are prepared to pay more for local, free range and handmade products it amounts to food fraud when they don’t get what they are paying for.

All the offending businesses have been warned that they face prosecution if they are still misleading customers when follow-up checks are carried out over the next couple of months. Most businesses took the matter very seriously and took immediate steps to rectify the issues, whilst some received written warnings along with advice about the need to ensure claims are entirely accurate and can be justified.”

If you have any doubts about the food you are paying for please contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.