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ASK restaurant fined over ‘misleading’ lobster dish

The Italian restaurant chain ASK has been fined £40,000 for misleading customers about a lobster dish.

The casual dining restaurant chain serves Italian food in 120 locations in the UK but its ‘misleading practices’ came to light during a routine Trading Standards visit to a branch in Swansea.

ASK Italian - Aragosta e Gamberoni
ASK Italian – Aragosta e Gamberoni

The Aragosta e Gamberoni (lobster & king prawns) dish is described on the menu (above) as “Lobster and king prawns in a creamy tomato sauce, with a hint of chilli. Topped with a large king prawn in its shell.”

However, after enquiring to learn more about the dish, the Trading Standards officer was informed that the dish was made using a frozen “Lobster Sensations” product, which retails at £1.40, which was delivered to the restaurant pre-packed.

In the case of the ASK Aragosta e Gamberoni dish, the ingredients listed on the “Lobster Sensations” package references that it contains a mixture of 35% lobster and 34% white fish, plus other ingredients, formed to look like lobster meat, the investigation found.

ASK Italian - Aragosta e Gamberoni aka “Lobster Sensations”
ASK Italian – Aragosta e Gamberoni aka “Lobster Sensations”

The dish, incidentally the most expensive on the menu, retailed at £14.95 while the cost of the raw ingredients was only £2.84.

The chain was fined £40,000 for misleadingly describing its food.

Azzuri Restaurants Limited, which trades as ASK Italian, admitted the charge at Swansea Magistrates’ Court last November.

Sales of Aragosta e Gamberoni aka “Lobster Sensations” amounted to £3m across the UK since it was launched in 2014, though the charge spanned the period between 1 December 2016 and 20 March 2019.

ASK apologised for what it described as an error, and accepted that without reference to white fish, the menu description was incomplete and likely to mislead.

The court was reportedly told that once the issue of the lack of lobster in the dish was raised by the council to the restaurant, it was removed from menus in branches across the country.

Italian restaurant chain ASK denied having a financial motivation and said the item had the lowest profit margin of all the restaurant’s pasta dishes, adding there was no health and safety risk associated with this case.

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