ASK Italian, the popular high-street restaurant chain, has been fined £40,000 for misleading its customers with a lobster dish that actually used white fish, rather than lobster.
During a visit to a Swansea branch, Trading Standards discovered that the chain’s most expensive dish on the menu - Aragosta e Gamberoni – contained just 35% lobster, despite being described as a lobster and king prawn dish.
According to The Times, a council food inspector asked to see the packaging for the main ingredient, and discovered it was frozen packet of Lobster Sensations, which contains 35% lobster, and 34% white fish that’s shaped and flavoured to resemble lobster meat.
ASK Italian received a £40,000 fine after pleading guilty to an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990, but it is thought that the company had made £3million in six years from selling the dish. It was removed from the menu back in March 2019 after the Trading Standards visit, and was replaced by the Pasta Fresca King Prawn and Crayfish dish.
A spokesperson for ASK told Delish UK, that they had ‘no intention’ of misleading customers, and that they had made a ‘genuine mistake’ when naming the dish.
“We take any matter involving our food and restaurants extremely seriously, including this charge which relates to the naming and menu description of our Aragosta e Gamberoni dish,” they told Delish UK.
“Every one of our dishes goes through robust research, testing, training and review, with many receiving awards. In this case we made a genuine mistake in the incomplete naming of the dish for which we are very sorry. We had no intention of misleading our customers. Immediately after we became aware of the issue, the fresh pasta dish in question was replaced by the Pasta Fresca King Prawn and Crayfish dish.”
This isn’t the first fake food scandal to hit the UK. Back in 2013, frozen beef burgers that were sold across Europe, including in Tesco, were found to contain horse meat.
And back in 2014, an investigation into hundreds of food samples found that more than a third were not what they claimed to be – including counterfeit vodka, mozzarella that is less than half real cheese, and frozen prawns that were 50% water.
What is Food Fraud?
Food fraud occurs when products are deliberately tampered with (such as diluting), substituted with something else, or mislabelled. And the concept of food fraud is unlikely to go away any time soon.
Things such as olive oil, honey, orange juice, coffee and fish are some of the biggest culprits, and according to the European Commission’s Agri-Food Fraud division, the costs related to food fraud for the global food industry has been estimated at around 30 billion Euros each year.
And with consumers demanding more for their money, and supermarkets fighting for the best deals on the shelves, does this mean that we need to be more aware of what we’re buying now more than ever?