In an epic piece of journalism published yesterday, Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley put the entire Tampa Bay restaurant scene on blast for dishonesty when it comes to the notions of “local food” and “farm to table” and, in doing so, reinforced questions about just how truthful sourcing claims are at eateries across the entire country.
Reiley spent two months looking at the menus of 54 restaurants making “food provenance claims” in her area, then investigating those claims by visiting farms, speaking with distributors and even genetically testing foods.
Her conclusion: “Just about everyone tells tales,” she wrote. “Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or ‘greenwashing.’” To put a tangible number on things, seven restaurants openly agreed to change their menus or chalkboards after Reiley gave them “the opportunity to explain.” Consider those the honest ones. If you want to see the specifics of these discrepancies, Reiley’s article provides a detailed look at the untruths in all sorts of claims from items being made “in-house” to the farms meats come from to the actual type of seafood being served.
Though Reiley’s article focuses primarily on Florida, she believes it could have larger implications. “If you eat food, you are being lied to every day,” she writes in one of her broadest statements. “The food supply chain is so vast and so complicated.”
Her suggestion: if you eat out, be skeptical.