A Hong Kong court on Wednesday began hearing a case on a Chinese restaurant chain that has been accused of passing off cheaper fish as grouper.
In proceedings at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, Fulum Group, which operates a total of 83 restaurants under 17 brands in the city, is defending itself against charges that it violated the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
The restaurant operator was sued after an undercover operation by Customs and Excise Department officials determined that six branches of the firm had been offering a dish that contained different fish from what was claimed on the menu, Apple Daily reports.
The court was told that customs officials posing as customers bought a dish named grouper fillet with sweet corn sauce at the branches multiple times in July last year and in March this year.
The investigation came after it was suspected that the dish did not use grouper as claimed, but some other kind of fish.
The branches are located in Tsuen wan, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Kwai Chung, Mong Kok and North Point.
Lab tests later corroborated the suspicion as there was no grouper found in the dish but catfish instead.
All of the braches were charged with “supplies or offers to supply any goods to which a false trade description is applied”.
Under the ordinance, a violator can be subject to a fine of up to HK$100,000 and imprisonment for two years.
The name of the dish has now been changed to fillet with creamy corn sauce, and was being offered at a price of HK$88, according to an Apple Daily reporter who visited a branch in Kwai Chung on Wednesday.
A Fulum Group spokesperson refused to comment on the case on the ground that the matter has entered the judicial process.
The defense lawyer, meanwhile, said he intends to apply to the Department of Justice for using undertaking to replace prosecution.
Under Clause 30L of the ordinance, an authorized officer may, with the consent in writing of the Secretary for Justice, accept a written undertaking given by a person whom the officer believes has engaged, is engaging or is likely to engage, in conduct that constitutes the offense.
The hearing has now been rescheduled to Feb. 20 next year.
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