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Florida AG Sues Popular Miami Restaurants for Deceptive 'Farm-to-Table’ Claims

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a complaint in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court in May against a popular Miami-based restaurant operator for supplying non-locally sourced or sustainable ingredients despite claims to the contrary.

Miami Beach eatery Icebox Cafe and its offshoot at Miami International Airport were accused of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by making false and misleading statements and material omissions regarding the food products offered and sold to consumers.  Bondi alleges that the self-proclaimed “farm-to-table” restaurants advertise that their menu items are locally grown or sustainable, but the company actually purchases most of its ingredients from commercial distributors such as Sysco.

According to the suit, such misrepresentations were made in an effort to leverage consumers’ shifting preferences for locally grown foods and thereby increase profits.  Because industry studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay higher prices for local and sustainable foods, the complaint alleges, Icebox Cafe tried to capitalize on this trend by using such terms as “community,” “farm-to-table,” “garden” and “fresh” in their menus and marketing.

The state seeks permanent injunctive relief against the defendants, who also face civil penalties for violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. 

TAKEAWAY: Bondi announced that her Office, along with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, “are currently looking into the business practices of so-called farm-to-table restaurants across the state to ensure consumers are not being deceived.”  This is likely a sign of more food advertising enforcement actions to come, both in Florida and across the country.   

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