Last week the Tampa Bay Times ran a buzzed about investigation into the false menu claims made by restaurants all around the state about where they really source their ingredients — and lawmakers took notice.
That same publication is reporting that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is now looking into cracking down on the regulations of Florida’s "Fresh from Florida" program. The program was created to help indicate what is produced locally and what is not and can be used in grocery stores and in restaurants around the state.
During Putnam’s Q&A with the Times this week, Putnam had this to say about the controversy:
Restaurants need to be held to account on the misrepresentation law that's on the books. When you walk into a farm-to-table-themed restaurant, there's an expectation that they will meet that brand promise. And you probably have an expectation that you're paying extra for that. That's built into your experience: "I'm going to pay extra for the experience of this locally grown, Fresh from Florida type of meal." The customer is being defrauded because they've paid extra for that brand promise. And in many instances, the farmer, whose name is still on that chalkboard from six months ago, is also having their brand undermined. They may be struggling to pay their bills when this restaurant is using their good name to up-charge customers.
According to the Times the Department of Agriculture and The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which actually oversees the restaurants, are working with Putnam’s office to review its "authority regarding deceptive marketing and possibly propose new state laws." Other laws like those that would make it illegal to "pass off other fish as Florida grouper" are also being evaluated. You can watch the entire Q&A with Putnam here. Stay tuned for more updates.