ASK Italian fined £40k for misleading customers with fake ‘luxury lobster’

ASK Italian has been fined £40,000 for selling a dish that had been artificially flavoured (Photo: Shutterstock)
ASK Italian has been fined £40,000 for selling a dish that had been artificially flavoured (Photo: Shutterstock)

ASK Italian has been fined £40,000 for misleading customers by selling a ‘luxury lobster’ dish that had been artificially flavoured.

The restaurant chain’s lobster and king prawn dish was found to be largely made up of artificially flavoured white fish.

Only 35% lobster

Trading Standards discovered that the most expensive dish on the menu at the chain - Aragosta e Gamberoni - contained only 35 per cent lobster. Another 34 per cent of the dish was made of white fish, which had been flavoured and formed to look like lobster.

On the menu, the dish was described as “lobster and king prawns in a creamy tomato sauce, with a hint of chilli”. However, the filling was created using a ‘Lobster Sensations’ product, which arrives pre-packed at the restaurant.

The pricey menu item was sold for more than six years in the chain’s branches across the UK, costing customers £14.95 each.

The pre-packed artificial flavouring usually retails at £1.40 per 100g, while the raw ingredients cost just £2.84 - with just 70p worth of lobster.

The chain's lobster and king prawn dish was found to contain only 35 per cent lobster (Photo: Shutterstock)

Artificial flavouring

A probe was launched after Trading Standards at Swansea Council made a routine visit to a branch in the Welsh city, after which concerns were raised that the meal did not resemble lobster.

Further investigations involving testing of the meal led to the discovery that only a third of the dish was actually made from lobster - with the remaining elements comprising white fish and filler.

Rhys Harris, team leader at Swansea Council’s trading standards, told The Sun: “When our officers visited the restaurant in March 2019, our investigations prompted some concerns over their most expensive dish which was described as lobster.

"We felt that the description on the menu compared to the product actually served was likely to mislead customers as to the substance of the food."

Pleaded guilty

The restaurant chain was handed a fine of £40,000 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990.

Following the Trading Standards investigation, the dish was removed from menus in March last year, although the court heard the chain had made £3 million selling the dish in the six years it was sold.

ASK Italian spokesman, Oliver Campbell, said the firm apologised for and regretted the “error” it had made, stating it had been a “mistake in the description” and there had been no intention to mislead, the Daily Mail reports.

District judge Neale Thomas said, in his view, the way the dish had been described on the menu was a "deliberate action", and that it "falsely represented" the nature of the food.