Hampshire pubs, restaurants and butchers have been caught out serving food supposedly made in the county when actually it came from as far away as New Zealand.
Hampshire County Council said that an investigation by its trading standards service found that of 50 dishes from 30 different premises, more than one in four (26%) were sold with an incorrect origin claim.
Some meat, fish, cheeses and ales checked by Trading Standards in Fareham, Havant, the New Forest and Test Valley were in fact sourced from locations as far afield as Scotland and New Zealand and not home-grown in Hampshire.
The council said that trading standards officers were now working with the businesses to improve their labelling so that customers know exactly where their food and drink is from.
Buying locally provides sustainable business to communities, and studies have found that every £10 spent locally creates more than twice the amount for the local economy.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, councillor Ken Thornber said: "The choice to ‘buy local' is about more than just taste, and many consumers opt for these products in good faith, believing that they are not only supporting local farmers, producers and the Hampshire economy but also helping the environment by reducing the number of food miles from farm to fork. It's therefore important that premises make it clear where they are sourcing their produce so that customers are not misled and can make an informed choice."
Hampshire County Council's investigation forms part of a nationwide exercise by Local Governement Regulation (part of the Local Government Association), which is set to appear next year. It declined to name the establishments caught out as part of the exercise.
Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of Local Government Regulation (formerly LACORS), said:
"Responding to increasing consumer interest in buying local produce, councils across the country have been exploring whether food businesses claiming to be making food from local produce are operating in a fair environment.
"People want to support local businesses or choose food that has not travelled from the other side of the world - it is important that they have accurate information to help them make these choices. Councils are working with businesses to make sure consumers have the information they need and that consumers are not misled."
Trading Standards checks were carried out in the following locations across Hampshire:
Restaurant - "Hampshire spring lamb" - actually New Zealand - warning letter.
Restaurant - "Hampshire cheeses" - three out of six cheeses not from Hampshire.
Pub - "Hampshire fillet steak" - not guaranteed by supplier. Changed to "UK".
Pub - "Hampshire Ham" - supplied by local butcher, but originated from Scotland.
Restaurant - "Hampshire beef" - supplier could not guarantee Hampshire sourced - changed to "local".
Pub - "Dorset Sirloin Steak" - traced to Somerset.
Pub - "Braised Dorset pork belly" - not traceable.
Butcher - "Local produce" rib eye beef - traceable to Wales.
Pub - "Local cheeseboard" - not traceable - description removed
Restaurant - "Locally smoked cheddar" - traced to Devon - claim removed.
Also "Scottish salmon" - from Faroe Islands.
Pub - Advertised pork with specific name of farm - company does not actually rear pigs, only supplies them. Pub advised to remove claim.
Café - Advertised product as containing Hampshire Ale - traced to London - now using a Hampshire product.
By Neil Gerrard
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