Truth in Menu
Restaurants have the right to advertise food and beverage products to properly identify them. To misrepresent menu items is a violation of what is known as Truth in Menu laws. These laws are designed to protect consumers from fraudulent claims, such as origins, ingredients and cooking methods. Inaccurate menu could lead to legal liabilities from food allergies and legal action from patron that feel they have been misrepresented.
These laws apply to food and beverages equally. If a restaurant lists Champagne in a cocktail and then uses Cava this is a violation. As if the drink advertises Cava but uses Prosecco the same applies. Many regions of the world have basically trademarked their products. Champagne can only be produced in the famed region of Champagne France. Sparkling wine made ten miles south of Champagne make still look and taste like Champagne but has no legal right to use the name. Many European wines fall under these regional identification laws as do many cheeses.
Maine lobster is from you guessed it Maine. Even the way animals are raised needs to be accurate. If beef is labeled as grass-fed then it can only eat grass. If salmon is labeled Alaskan, then it has to be Alaskan, not from Washington or Oregon. The more accurate term could be west coast salmon. Or if the restaurant knows then they could label it as troll caught Copper River salmon or Kenai Island salmon for example. This information is available from the companies catching and processing. Then it is up to the restaurant to source and label as such. But the disturbing thing is that lots of restaurants just add the fancy “terms” to an item without checking it’s true source. It would almost be a guarantee that if you asked where the King Crab is from you would get the answer of Alaskan at most restaurants. It is just assumed by most restaurants. But in reality it most likely from Russian and even packed in China. There is a major price difference between the two sources. This is why the customer needs to demand Truth in Menu. It’s you right to get what you pay for.
What Can Consumers Do?
The various Truth in Menu laws are overseen by dozens of agencies and administrative entities, taking the labeling of food to much greater degrees of accuracy. These laws are constantly being revised. It is possible, however, for a foodservice operator to stay up to date and in compliance with Truth in Menu laws.
Accuracy in menus entails being careful when describing many food attributes, including the preparation style, ingredients, origin, portion sizes, and health benefits. Because this area is so complex and because consumers increasingly demand more accurate information from restaurants, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and many state associations have produced educational material designed to assist foodservice operators as they write and prepare menus.