Pubs' false claims about 'local' food: survey

By Lorraine Heller, Big Hospitality

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Local food

Fine dining: council concerns over local claims
Fine dining: council concerns over local claims
Pubs and restaurants across England and Wales are using false 'local' claims on some of their products, according to a new survey.

Pubs and restaurants across England and Wales are using false 'local' claims on some of their products, a Local Government Regulation investigation has revealed.

Council food enforcement officers investigated around 300 restaurants, retail outlets and food manufacturing premises, and found that one in five restaurant descriptions were misleading people.

For example, New Zealand lamb was passed off as Welsh, Scottish butter and French brie were sold as Somerset products, 'local' ice-cream was found to be Carte D'Or brand, and local Devon ham was actually Danish.

Misleading claims were most frequently used for meat and dairy products, with 50 per cent of poultry, 29 per cent of sausages, 27 per cent of both beef and lamb and 24 per cent of dairy products found to carry false claims.

In total, 558 products claiming to be local were investigated, the large majority of which were being sold in restaurants.

"To have around a third of all items investigated turn out to be false or potentially false is extremely worrying," said Paul Bettison, chairman of Local Government Regulation.

"Councils are working with businesses to make sure consumers have the information they need and that they are not being ripped off."

Matthew Tomkinson, head chef at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu, New Forest, said the investigation was a good move for consumers and for the restaurant industry as a whole.

"It's really good they've done this survey because restaurants need to compete on a level playing field," he told BigHospitality.

"We buy really good produce, and that makes us expensive. It doesn't stack up when others are buying cheaper produce and passing it off as local. Customers can't see a difference, they can only compare on price.

"Cultivating relationships with suppliers is what gives you the confidence and the trust that you need. We buy pork, lamb and beef, all from within about 2 miles of the hotel. It takes a long time to develop relationships with these people, but it's really important."

Bettison said: "At present there is no widely agreed definition of the term `local' and it isn't acceptable. Everyone should be operating in a fair environment and following the same rules.

"Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the food industry must agree the definition of `local'.

"Whether it is food manufactured within the county or within a 30 mile radius, any agreement would certainly help protect consumers.

"Businesses focusing on local food production operate at the heart of local communities and are vital to the local economy.

"Local food claims help create a sense of community identity, promote local tourism and events such as farmers' markets and help build closer rural communities."

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