Are restaurant ingredients really organic?
With the proliferation of “organic” produce and meats on restaurant menus, I occasionally look around and wonder – who checks this stuff. I could open a burger stand tomorrow and claim I use nothing but Food Dude Organic Isles triple washed greens, and sweet burro breath organic tomato slices are used on all my burgers, but who’s to know if I lie. Recently investigators in London busted a Julies, a big-time celebrity restaurant for passing off regular ingredients as organic.
From The Independent
“Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Colin Firth, Kylie Minogue, Jeremy Paxman and U2 are just a few of the glitzy guests the restaurant lists on its website.
As part of its commitment to fine dining, Julie’s proclaims its use of organic food, which it says keeps the earth healthy and minimises pesticide residues.
But what it fails to mention is that guests who ordered organic dishes last winter were routinely cheated by the restaurant, which bought cheap meat and pocketed the change.
…But there was no escape for the restaurant when inspectors from Kensington and Chelsea council called for a routine inspection on 21 November last year.
They saw that the menu had organic marinated roast chicken, sausages, and spice-crusted rack of lamb and decided to check the kitchens. They found no trace of anything organic on delivery notes. The suppliers were traced and confirmed they had not supplied organic meat to the restaurant for the 52 days before the inspection.
Between 1 October and 21 November 2005, the council estimated the restaurant had saved £4,186 on chicken alone.”
You can read the entire Independent article here. If you do a Google search, one would imagine you could find many pictures of said celebrities purging over porcelain.
What prevents any restaurant here from making similar claims? Organic ingredients are so trendy right now they are turning up on many restaurant menus. Would our food inspectors go to this much trouble to track down this type of thing? I doubt it: they just don’t have the time or funds.
Thanks for the link! Another good and somewhat related story is the Robb Walsh classic about fish fraud from 2001.
As one who does regulatory work in my non-blogging life, I can’t think of a simple, practical way to enforce that things are what restaurants say they are. The most useful method is probably public humiliation, but who wants that sort of slander/libel liability?
Boy, this should stir up some controversy!
I know of a few people in this town who don’t sell what they preach…
I knew a guy in the east coast who was selling pork for veal and the cheapest fish he could find as “White Snapper” (doesn’t exist!) The sad thing is, nobody ever noticed!
Which brings another question: who knows the difference between a good and bad product? Between organic and not? Between farmed raised and wild? Between pork and veal?
Come on, raise your hand and let’s do a test!
One has to be passionate and ethical to sell the right thing…
“We’ve secretly replaced these celebutards’ organic meat with roadkill we collected from the street outside. Let’s see if they notice!”
Apparently not. Lying is not good, clearly, but it warms the cockles of my black, black heart to think of Gwyneth Paltrow and Bono smugly thinking they’re saving the world by eating organic field greens, only to find out otherwise..
Taste Bud says
How can we find out if local restaurants are really selling organic?
Our restaurant inspectors have the authority to check safety conditions not billing receipts.
Sounds like a job for a good investigative journalist — and a restaurant insider feeding out the documents to prove it!
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Oregon State U. does food testing and also has a resource list of labs that do…
Professional Eater says
Eat at places that you respect, and trust and then you will feel confident in believing the word of the chef regarding the origin of his or her food.
If you question it, ask the server where the food is coming from. If they aren’t truly selling organic, the servers probably aren’t trained to come up with an organic farm off the top of their head.
I think more importantly, you want to look for restaurants that are supplied by farmers using sustainable practices. There are a number of farmers not necessarily certified organic(because of cost and other b.s.) who practice sustainable farming.
Take for instance, Your Kitchen Garden in Canby. Not certified at all, they use old world european techniques and absolutely no pesticides or herbicides including ones considered ‘organic’. There are others out there as well in the pdx vicinity.
While it is somewhat ‘trendy’ in Portland to put the name of the farm in the menu item description, it does tell the consumer exactly what they’re consuming and from whom.