Thursday, August 21 2014
We have all heard of "TRUTH in LENDING". That's the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) of 1968 is designed to promote the informed use of consumer credit, by requiring disclosures about its terms and cost to standardize the manner in which costs associated with borrowing are calculated and disclosed.
I have to address a problem with Truth in Menuing (TIM). Truth in Menuing means that what menus states: they can back up. You will see claims on menus (and at retail) like: "Organic", "Never Ever", "Locally Sourced", "Grass Fed", "GMO Free", "No Antibiotics", "Angus Beef", "Gluten Free", "Sustainable", "Never Ever" and other claims made on menus. Many restaurants do have integrity and can back up their menu claims with the label on the box. But, sadly, many do not, and cannot provide proof of these claims.
For those of you not in the food business, I need to explain to you how important the LABEL ON THE BOX really is. The USDA approves the label claims on a box of meat. So if a box of meat claims to be "Never Ever" or "Grass Fed", it will have been approved by the USDA in Washington DC, and the local USDA inspector in the meat plant, will verify that the meat in that box is authentically what it says it is. But the USDA does not regulate what brochures, websites or menus say. How could they. So a restaurant can say that the meat or produce on the menu is "organic", "local", "sustainable" or "_________", and there is no one, BUT YOU, the consumer to verify that claim.
So, the next time you are at a restaurant, as embarrassing as this may sound, ask to see the box label from the kitchen. I am so appalled to report that about half of the time, no proof can be shown that the salad you are eating is "organic" and the beef is not "grass fed" or "locally sourced" or "raised without antibiotics". "Trust but Verify" Ronald Reagan would say regarding treaties signed with foreign nations. Turns out, this is good advice for food claims also.
Last week, I had one very nervous restaurant owner explain to me that "his salesperson said" the product was Never Ever, and so the restaurant owner put this on his menu for beef and chicken. We looked at the boxes and labels in the cooler and no such claims were on the boxes. It was conventional beef and poultry in his cooler. The owner of the restaurant claimed to be ingnorant of this fact. Rigth...And I was born yesterday.... I am not against conventional beef and poultry, as some consumers want their proteins as cheap as possible. Other consumers will pay for "Never Ever" or "grass fed" or other ways of raising animals that cost more. But you get what you pay for. It is inexcusable to falsely lead consumers to believe you are selling them a product that you are not.
It's not just indepedent restaurant operators that are guilty of this problem. Chains are needing accounatabily too.
So the next time you see any menu claims, ask to see the box and the label. See what happens and report back to me!