The ASK Italian restaurant chain has been fined for misleading customers about the contents of a dish.
The brand, owned by Azzurri Restaurants, was fined £40,000 by Swansea Magistrates after pleading guilty to selling a food with a misleading label between December 2016 and March 2019, contrary to the Food Safety Act 1990.
Swansea Council brought the case to court after a dish described as Aragosta e Gamberoni (lobster and king prawns) contained only a small amount of lobster.
The discovery was made during a routine inspection when a request to see the dish raised concerns that the meal did not resemble lobster. When the inspector asked to see the original packaging of the raw ingredients, the lobster turned out to be something called Lobster Sensations, which described itself as: "A delicious blend of real lobster and lobster flavoured seafood made with surimi, a fully cooked fish protein".
The actual lobster content of the frozen sensation is 35%, with a similar amount of white fish, and other ingredients including potato starch and soy protein.
Lee Reynolds, prosecuting on behalf of the local authority, said the issue came to light after an inspector visited Ask on Swansea 's Wind Street in March 2019.
He said: "This was being sold as lobster throughout the national chain of restaurants. We say consumers did not get what the consumer was entitled to expect when ordering the dish. They were not receiving, we say, proper lobster."
He conceded while the description had been "misleading", there was little or no risk to safety.
Reynolds added the cost of buying frozen lobster to make the dish would have been £12.60 per 100 grams, while the cost of the lobster mix was £1.40 per 100 grams. The overall cost of ingredients for the lobster and prawn dish was £2.84, of which the mixed seafood product made up 70p.
The court heard that once the council raised the issue with the company, the dish in question was removed from menus around the country.
Oliver Campbell, representing Azzurri Restaurants, said the firm apologised for, and regretted, the "error" it had made.
He said it had been a "mistake in the description given to the dish” and "strongly denied" there had been a financial motivation behind the offending.
District judge Neale Thomas believed the way the dish had been described on the menu by the firm was a "deliberate action", and that it "falsely represented" the nature of the food.
But he said he was not convinced there was "evidence of profiteering" by the company in its actions.
Giving Azzurri Restaurants a one-third discount for its guilty plea, he fined the firm £40,000.
The district judge said Swansea Council was to be commended for uncovering the issue.