Zero tolerance approach to fake menu descriptions

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Caterers are being warned that a zero tolerance approach is being taken by trading standards officers when it comes to false menu descriptions.

Pubs, restaurant owners and food van operators across West Sussex can expect tough action if their food menus are found to be untrue and the public are being encouraged to report their suspicions.

The team at West Sussex County Council have previously issued warnings about false menus but problems keep being found. Recent examples include a lamb kebab containing chicken, Devon clotted cream from Dorset, “organic Fair Trade tea” which wasn’t either organic or Fair Trade and “locally sourced and award winning burgers” which were neither.

Investigations are continuing into these premises but now the tougher action will involve businesses that have previously been warned being inspected again. If the same false descriptions are found again, court action could be the next step.

The warning comes as the Government publishes the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks following the horsemeat scandal.

The report makes a number of recommendations including a “zero tolerance” approach to all types of food crime.

Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for residents’ services with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The Elliott review ties in well with the response we were planning to take with the on-going problem of menu descriptions.

“Though Trading Standards has been warning traders in most cases where the misdescriptions arose out of error rather than intent, we now have to draw a line in the sand.

“Those recently warned are being reinspected and, if further problems are found, could face court action.

“We would therefore urge all caterers to makes sure what is on their menu matches what is supplied. It’s zero tolerance from now on.”

If you feel you have been misled by a menu description, please let Trading Standards know by calling 03454 040506, or using their online reporting form at www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport