SPIES are being used to check if eating establishments in Chester are passing off cheap ingredients as haute cuisine.

Intelligence suggests that the practice has become rife, with customers eating the likes of beef and peanuts when they think they’re munching on lamb and almonds.

Investigators from Cheshire West and Chester Council will now be ordering and buying food unannounced at a range of restaurants and takeaway venues to check that customers are getting what they order.

Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment, said: “This is a life and death issue for members of the public who have allergies but it’s also a case of getting a fair deal for other consumers.

“You don’t expect to ask for cod, pay for cod and receive a cheaper fish. That is frankly unacceptable and any business doing this needs to be held to account to allow fair businesses in the sector to thrive.” 

The crackdown comes around a year after the owner of an Indian restaurant in Tarporley, near Chester, was fined £5,490 for passing off beef as lamb.

The Leader covered the story on its front page on November 4, 2015, with the headline ‘Moo-ton dressed as lamb’.

At the time Abdul Jilani, from Neston, apologised to his customers for the mistake, and stressed he was no longer the owner of the Red Fox Indian Cuisine, which is under new management.

Two years ago new allergy awareness rules were introduced but national and local intelligence suggests some business owners are still trying to pull the wool over customers’ eyes.

Cllr Shore added: “Council Food Officers hope to find high standards of local compliance with allergy labeling, and fair trading rules, so we can reassure the public our local businesses are committed to safety and are giving a fair deal.” 

Regulatory Services officers are advising food business to be sure they know what they are buying and supplying. The results of the local samples taken will be published next year.