Nearly one in five restaurants, pubs and hotels in England and Wales which sell "local" food are making the claim falsely.
That's the finding from a survey compiled by Local Government Regulation (LGR).
The study uncovered one restaurant that was selling "Welsh lamb" which actually originated from New Zealand, "Devon ham" from Denmark, and "West Country fish fillets" which did come from the West Country but were sent to China to be filleted before being sent back.
Other transgressions involved selling "fresh local cream" which was really a cream substitute containing vegetable fat, and "Yorkshire chillies" in chilli sausage, which were supermarket-bought.
The results come after LGR collated information from 33 local authorities, which inspected 558 businesses throughout England and Wales between them. Of these, the LGR found that 18% of firms' claims were false. A further 14% could not be verified.
Restaurants, pubs and hotels had the highest number of false claims at 19%. Meat and dairy products were the most frequently misdescribed. Half the poultry, 29% of sausages, 27% of beef and lamb, and 24% of dairy products had false claims.
LGR chairman Cllr Paul Bettison said: "Many people want to support local businesses or choose food that has not travelled from the other side of the world, so it is vital that they have accurate information to help them make their choices."
There is currently no legal definition of the term "local" in food labelling legislation although the Food Law Code of Practice states that it should mean "sales within the supplying establishment's own county plus the greater of either the neighbouring county or counties or 30 miles/50 kilometres from the boundary of the supplying establishment's county".
By Neil Gerrard
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