Fla. cracks down on restaurants claiming to buy local

Authorities are hunting operations that can't substantiate assertions of being farm-to-table.

Florida restaurants that can’t substantiate claims of using local ingredients could find themselves in legal trouble under a crackdown revealed last week by state authorities.

A legal action has already been brought by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi against a small chain with two outlets in the state for describing itself as a farm-to-table concept. Icebox Cafe could not provide invoices backing up its claims of buying lettuce from a local purveyor and using wild-caught salmon, among other unsubstantiated assertions, Bondi’s office said in a statement released late last week.

“Many Floridians want to know where and how their food was grown, and we will not stand for any restaurant misrepresenting the origin of the produce they sell to deceive customers seeking locally sourced, fresh food,” Bondi said in a statement.

The complaint filed by Bondi accuses the operation of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by making false or misleading marketing claims.

The action seeks to halt Icebox from claiming to be a farm-to-table operation and subjects the chain to possible civil penalties.

In announcing the move, Bondi’s office noted that the attorney general has joined forces with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate the business practices of restaurants that describe themselves as farm-to-table operations, to ensure consumers aren’t being deceived.

Florida is the nation’s third-largest restaurant market, behind California and Texas. State and local authorities have periodically clamped down on the substitution of cheap white fish for what’s listed on menus as more expensive varieties like  grouper or redfish.

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