Julie's receives fine for organic fraud

A West London restaurant, popular with celebrities such as Kylie Minogue, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robbie Williams, has been fined £7,500 for claiming ordinary meat was organic.

Johnny Ekperigin, managing partner of Julie's Restaurant on Portland Road, received the fine at West London Magistrates Court on 12 December after being found guilty of three offences under the Food Safety Act 1990.

On a routine inspection, environmental health officers (EHOs) from Kensington and Chelsea council checked the delivery notes and found that, while several items on the menu were described as organic, the records showed only normal meat had been received.

The meats in question were marinated roast chicken, sausages and spice-crusted rack of lamb. In court it was shown that, during the 52 days, delivery records showed no organic meat was delivered; the restaurant saved £4,186.44 on chicken alone.

Councillor Fiona Buxton, cabinet member for public health and environmental health, said: "For many visitors to the restaurant, this has led to a betrayal of lifestyle. Consumers buy into the idea of organic food, either due to the health implications or in support of good animal husbandry. Julie's Restaurant has cheated them of these values. I hope the fine incurred on Mr Ekperigin sends out a stark warning to other restaurant owners that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in Kensington and Chelsea."

In summing up the case, district judge Mary Connelly said that if Ekperigin was brought before the court again on similar charges, he could expect a prison sentence.

Robin Maynard, director of the Soil Association, said: "Fortunately, such instances of fraudulent trading are rare in the organic market. But the Soil Association, other certifying bodies, trading standards officers and the public must remain vigilant. The genuine success of the growth in organic food and drink sales must be protected from fraudsters seeking to put profits before principles."

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