A leading food safety expert has warned that a restaurant caught up in a vegan ‘spiking’ row could potentially face fines worth thousands of pounds should local authorities decide there is enough evidence for prosecution.
Carlini restaurant in Shropshire faced a huge online backlash after chef Laura Goodman wrote on a Facebook group that a “pious, judgemental vegan” had gone to bed “still believing she’s a vegan” after a cheese-based pizza had been served.
Shropshire Council is reportedly investigating the incident and, according to Fiona Sinclair, director of leading food safety consultancy STS, rather than a food safety problem – for instance something in food that is capable of causing harm or injury – it appears to potentially be more of a food standards issue.
“Under Section 14 of The Food Safety Act 1990 it is an offence to sell, to the prejudice of the purchaser, any food which is not of the nature demanded by the purchaser,” she explained. “This means that a customer is served something different from what they had ordered e.g. if a customer ordered vegan pizza and the restaurant used non-vegan cheese. Although we do not yet know what happened in this case, what food was served or what the chef meant by ‘spiked’, using a non vegan ingredient in a vegan dish could potentially be considered under this offence.”
Under section 15 of the Act it also an offence to sell food that is falsely described or labelled, which is misleading as to the nature, substance or quality of the food, so this and other similar offences under food safety and trading standards legislation may be something that the council is looking into, Mrs Sinclair suggested.
“If Shropshire Council decides there is enough evidence to bring charges against the chef and she is found guilty, these types of offences can attract fines of £20,000,” she said.
“It is debatable as to whether the self confession style posts made by the chef owner would be sufficient, robust evidence on which to base a prosecution. Even if Shropshire Council were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence that an offence has been committed, any decision to consider formal action would depend on whether or not they consider it is in the public interest to do so.”