Press releases

What's really on your Christmas menu?

With the festive season upon us many of us are already eying up the Christmas menus in anticipation – but how much is your choice influenced by descriptions that may not be all they seem?
The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has provided a sample menu to help consumers read between the lines and make an informed choice.

Up to a half of eateries visited by trading standards officers across the country have been found to be using misleading menu descriptions.*

TSI’s food and nutrition lead officer Corinne Lowe said: ‘People should watch out for terms used not only on food labels in supermarkets, but also on menus when they are eating out. 

‘Trading standards officers do carry out checks to make sure restaurants don’t get carried away describing their meals and mislead consumers.  Meanwhile, we are hoping that by explaining some of the most common terms people will be able to make a more informed choice and know exactly what they are ordering.

‘If in doubt diners should not hesitate to ask restaurant staff to explain what they mean by the terms they are using.  For further advice or to report misleading descriptions to trading standards people should call Consumer Direct.’

The No Nonsense Christmas Menu

Organic Broccoli and Stilton Soup
There are detailed standards which must be adhered before the description ‘organic’ can be applied.

The name ‘Stilton’ has legal protection so its use is restricted to specific cheese.

Homemade Chicken Liver Pate
The term ‘homemade’ can only be used for products made at home, or made in a  way that reflects a typical domestic kitchen, such as a pub kitchen.

Traditional Fishcake
The term ‘traditional’ can only be used to describe a product that has existed for around 25 years.  The ingredients and process used to make the product should have been available, substantially unchanged, for that same period.

Sausages and Free Range Eggs
A ‘sausage’ only contains a minimum of 32% pork, compared to at least 42% pork if it is called ‘pork sausage’.  Poultry and rabbit sausage only need to contain 26% meat and for all others, including beef, the minimum is 30%.

Eggs described as ‘free range’ must be produced in poultry establishments, which meet standards such as continuous daytime access for hens to open air runs, access to ground mainly covered with vegetations and at least four square metres of ground per bird.

Norfolk Turkey Roll with Seasonal Vegetables
The turkey could be from anywhere as long as it last underwent a substantial change, in this case rolled, in Norfolk.
Slicing, cutting, mincing and/or packing of meat would not amount to the ‘substantial change’ required by law, so a Norfolk turkey breast would have to be from Norfolk.

Using the term ‘seasonal’ could be misleading if it is applied to imported produce, or produce that has been grown in heated greenhouses outside of its natural season.

Fresh Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce
The description ‘fresh’ must not be used where ingredients have been tinned, frozen or dried.

There is no legal definition of ‘wild’ but action could still be taken if a trading standards officer believed this to be misleading, and that the product had in fact been farmed

Auntie Annie’s British Christmas Pudding
When using a name this should not lead to the product easily being mistaken for another, similar product, a practice called ‘passing off’.  It also must not already be a registered trademark.

‘British’ does not mean that the ingredients must be British – it may just mean the product has been put together in Britain.

A Light Cheesecake with Exotic Fruit
The word ‘light’ may refer to the texture rather than the product being low in fat or calories.  It is advisable to clarify the meaning so that it is not misleading.  If it is low in fat, sugar or calories it needs to be at least 30 per cent lower than the typical value to qualify as ‘light’.

 ‘Exotic’ fruit should be fruit that can only be grown outside the UK.

Selection of Local Cheeses
There is no legal definition of the term ‘local’ but action can be taken by a trading standards officer if it is believed that the description is misleading.

Notes to editors:
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office by phone on 08456 089 430 or by e-mail on
*Somerset trading standards surveyed 14 independents pub over summer 2009 –  seven were found to have inaccurate menu descriptions.
North Wales trading standards surveyed 17 chain establishments in 2008. 47 per cent were found to be using misleading menu descriptions
Wokingham trading standards found four out of 65 menu claims made by 20 restaurants were found to be false in an operation carried out late 2008.
Derbyshire trading standards checked 34 products in pubs, farm shops, restaurants and supermarkets in December 2008 and found nine to have misleading claims that they were either home-made or local.

Trading Standards Institute
The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals since 1881. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.
Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.
TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.
They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

Consumer Direct – 08454 04 05 06
Consumer Direct is a Government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service that works in partnership with the local authority trading standards services.  It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services.  Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.
Calls cost a maximum of 4 pence per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call.  The advice and information given is free.