Food fraud misleads customers

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A SURVEY by Suffolk Trading Standards has found that more than 10 per cent of hotels and restaurants surveyed were misleading customers.

The survey, carried out on behalf of East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA), revealed that businesses across the county are misleading customers with claims of ‘locally sourced’, ‘hand-made’ and ‘organic’ food.

Officers looked into 180 claims, 31 of which they found to be false after they scrutinised menus and invoices.

County councillor Colin Spence, portfolio holder for public protection, said: “When people are prepared to pay more for local, free range and hand- made products, it amounts to food fraud when they don’t get what they are paying for.”

‘Hand-made’ potato-cakes offered on a menu were, in fact, frozen hash browns, ‘hand carved ham’ was pre-packed and sliced and ‘home-made’ pies were from a national wholesaler.

More expensive menu items were also substituted for cheaper ingredients – tomato puree was used in place of sun-dried tomato paste and cheddar cheese was used instead of mozzarella.

“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,” said Cllr Spence.

“Most businesses took the matter very seriously and took immediate steps to rectify the issues, while some received written warnings along with advice about the need to ensure claims are entirely accurate and can be justified.”

Regis Crepy, award-winning owner of Maison Bleue and The Great House restaurants in Suffolk, said: “It is very important to honour the contractual agreement you have with the customer – would you like to buy a diamond when it is a fake? Customers have been let down by these establishments, professional restaurants should be trustworthy.”