Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Warnings after menus 'beefed up'

A prawn on a plate
Trading standards said some food outlets were misleading customers

Stomachs are rumbling, you haven't eaten all day and you crave a lamb cutlet, creamy mash with a drizzle of red currant sauce on a restaurant menu.

But instead, and rather disappointingly, an overcooked chop with lumpy mash arrives - we've all been there.

In north Wales, trading standards have accused some pubs, hotels, restaurants and takeaways of beefing up menus.

A survey found that 21% of descriptions were misleading to customers.

Menus offered by national chains, at 47%, contained the most false descriptions of the food on sale, compared to 16% for independent companies.

All the businesses using incorrect descriptions have received written warnings from trading standards.

MISLEADING MENU
"Home made" soup - bought in frozen
"Local" sea bass - found to be farmed abroad
"Locally-farmed" turkey - came from a distance
"Cardigan Bay mackerel" - imported from abroad
"Welsh lamb casserole" - a ready meal and the lamb was not Welsh
Source: Denbighshire Trading Standards

Officers said with food outlets having to compete for customers, terms such as local, Welsh, fresh, traditional and homemade were increasingly used on menus to encourage custom and attract premium prices.

The survey by trading standards officers in north Wales set out to test the accuracy of their claims.

Officers visited restaurants, hotels, pubs and takeaways and inspected receipts, invoices and packaging to verify if food was indeed fresh, homemade or Welsh.

Among a number that were not "home-made" or "locally-produced," the officers found Cardigan Bay mackerel which had been imported from abroad.

And then there was the Welsh lamb casserole which turned out to be a ready meal, and the lamb was not from Wales either.

Richard Powell, chair of the North Wales Quality and Metrology Panel which coordinated the survey, said: "It is worrying that a fifth of the descriptions inspected were found to be incorrect.

"Businesses must ensure they take all reasonable actions to verify any claims they are making.

"The survey will be repeated later this year and authorities may take legal action against businesses found to be misleading consumers with the descriptions used on their menus."

Mr Powell said the results were disappointing with 21% of the total descriptions found to be misleading - more than half of which were found to be at hotels.

National chain-operated venues fared worse than independent establishments with a failure rate of 47% compared to 16% respectively.


We asked if you have had a dish which did not match the menu. Here are a selection of your responses.

My partner's 'Wild Mushroom Lasagne' at a pub in Gloucestershire:

1. Yes it was lasagne,

2. Yes it had mushrooms,

3. No! The lazy sods made it with condensed mushroom soup,

4. Wild? We were livid!

Charles Budd, Cheltenham, UK

Anyone who's eaten at a fastfood outlet knows that the food does not match the menu. There should be regulation of food advertisements - the food pictured should be a representative sample of the food being sold, and prepared and served in the standard fashion (or according to the directions on the packaging for supermarkets).
Mallory, Amersham, Bucks

On a dessert board - Creamy risotto with stewed plums = Rice pudding with half a plum in the middle.
Becky Everitt, Peterborough

One perplexed cafe worker could not accept my protestations that "Fresh Cream" is not the stuff you get out of a pressurised gas cannister.
Ali Asgur, London, UK

I was at a small restaurant in Bournemouth, that was simply the worst I have ever been to. My partner ordered a mushroom soup, and when it arrived it was clearly out of a tin. I asked the owner if this was Campbells soup and he said, quite horrified "NO, it's not Campbells.... it's Heinz". As if that made a difference. Suffice to say we did not pay for the meal.
Max, Bedfordshire

I am a very unpopular customer in some restaurants - if the food produced does not match the description, I will refuse to eat, and pay, for it. Even when dining in the local supermarket on a Saturday, if what I ordered is not on the plate, I will complain. It's because people are so backward about complaining that restaurants and pubs think they can get away with putting all the flavour on the menu, and none on the plate. If we all made a habit of complaining if what we get is not what we ordered, it might make pubs and restaurants a bit more careful about what they put on the plate.
Anne Boyce, Halifax, England

My friends and I were in town eating out at a restaurant and while my food arrived in the right fashion, both of my friends received food that they either did not order or was not at all what they expected to be eating. Unfortunately, we were all too shy to complain about it so we didn't mention it to the waiter until the end of the meal. He apologized and gave us free ice cream. It was yellow, blue, and purple and I honestly couldn't tell you what it tasted like because I have never experienced that flavour before. Suffice it to say, we were unimpressed with the service and even more unimpressed that were we being treated like five year olds who can be won over with extrodinarily colourful ice cream.
Kim Kimball, New Brunswick, Canada

I've yet to find any pub in North Wales that can provide anything better than grilled, fried or micro-waved pre-prepared meals bought in from the cash and carry. They always serve a dish of microwaved veg - new potatoes, 'garden' peas and broccoli or frozen chips. Highlight of most menus is usually ' Slowly braised Shoulder of Local Welsh Lamb' - these are nowadays to be found in most supermarkets, heat the bag in a microwave for a few minutes...
John Locke, St Asaph, North Wales

At a Pub in a country village I ordered a starter of Ciabatta bread with mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes topping. What I got was cheese (orange in colour) on toast and a slice of tomato, I asked to see the chef then the whole table split with laughter at him. I explained I did not want it or expect to be charged either.
Emma, Staffs

I work part time in a pub and I know full well that the food served is local but not always freshly cooked. Various meat products are cooked a day or two in advance and then re-heated as well as the home-made steak and kidney pudding being bought in ready made. I've also stayed in a B&B in Scotland and ordered the Scottish breakfast, the only difference being was it was supposed to have Haggis with it but was told once cooked they had run out, run out of haggis??? in Scotland??? Next morning I had cereal and the milk was off. Should of complained but just wanted to leave.
ANON, Newbury, Berkshire

one of my pet peeves is toast itself. You know, thick slices of good bread crunchy brown outside and soft white inside. Should be easy, so what are the limp pale abominations I am offered? Slices of processed bread which have had one side all too briefly exposed to a grill. I am a one person campaign for Proper Toast
Rita, West Midlands

"Full Welsh Breakfast" is a common sight at hotels and B&Bs, yet only once have I been served laverbread on toast and cockles with scrambled eggs. I have not once been served traditional flat oat bread. There is nothing wrong with calling sausage, beans, egg and bacon a "Full English Breakfast", wherever you are. What next - calling Yorkshire puddings Glamorgan puddings?
Richard, Swansea



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