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Juice bar owner is fined £3,400 over cancer-claim smoothies

A JUICE bar owner has been landed with a £3,400 court bill for selling smoothies with misleading health benefits including some which he claimed could prevent cancer.

Gareth Roberts (pictured), 40, has become one of the first people in the UK to be prosecuted under EU laws prohibiting health claims not included on an authorised register.

Magistrates heard trading standards officers were alerted to the menus at Raw Juice in Wrexham, North Wales, which was opened in April 2018.

The business claimed food supplements could be added to the drinks which could help prevent cancer and treat ‘all kinds of diseases’ as well as osteoarthritis and joint pain.

But a court heard the claims on Raw Juice’s menus did not comply with an EU register, which lists what health claims could be made about food products.

Roberts pleaded not guilty to ten counts of failing to comply with the provisions of EU regulation on nutrition and health claims.

He was convicted following a trial at Wrexham magistrates’ court yesterday.

Roberts, of New Broughton, Wrexham, was fined £750, ordered to pay court costs of £2,668 and a victim surcharge of £75.

Chair of the bench Hilary Wiseman said: ‘While we have no doubt you are passionate about nutrition we also have no doubt that you didn’t follow the advice on legislation that is enforceable regarding health claims.

‘You continued to advertise your products in your window and they did not comply with the law.’

Changes ordered: Gavin Roberts claimed he could not afford to reprint his menus

The court heard there had been a long-running dispute between the juice bar and trading standards officers before Roberts chose to close the business last year.

He claimed the council had been ‘gunning for him’ and as a small business owner his hands were tied when trading standards demanded he change his menus.

But prosecuting for Wrexham Council’s trading standards, Jade Tufail, said Roberts had accepted responsibility for the production of the menus.

She said: ‘He made the claims believing they were true and the public needed to be educated, but they are not permitted by law.’

She said that Roberts rang up the councils public protection officer Kay Ledward and claimed that ‘it was a government cover up’.

Ms Tufail added: ‘He said that it didn’t want people to know they didn’t need chemotherapy to kill cancers as friends who had not had treatment but had taken smoothies didn’t have cancer any more.’

Ms Ledward visited Raw Juice’s premises after Roberts’ then partner, Leanne Roberts, emailed the council for guidance.

The council officer noted among the juice bar’s claims was that flaxseed ‘helps prevent cancer’ and another supplement ashwaganda — also known as Indian ginseng — ‘balances blood sugar levels’.

Both ingredients could be added to the bar’s drinks.

He also boasted his drinks such as ‘Skinny Jeans’, ‘The Hangover’, and ‘The Energiser’ could aid with mental wellbeing.

The claims also included that soursop tea ‘fights all sorts of diseases and infections’, green tea ‘reduces anxiety’ and that kombucha tea is ‘detoxifying’.

When the officer returned to the premises to supervise a food standards inspection she said the business had paid no heed to her advice and issued a warning letter telling Roberts to remove the ‘cancer claims’ from the menus.

On a follow-up visit Ms Ledward noted the business had ‘blacked out’ the word cancer from their menus, but she advised them to reword the menus completely.

Another visit was paid to the business on September 19, 2018 and a menu spotted on a window still referenced the cancer health claim.

Roberts told the court: ‘I had ordered 2,000 menus at a cost of £1,800 so I couldn’t afford to reprint them.’

Healthy option: The defence claimed that Roberts started Raw Juice as there was no other outlet serving such food in Wrexham PICTURES: SWNS

Euros Jones, defending, said Roberts was a health-food obsessive who had tried to provide a healthy alternative for the people of Wrexham.

He said: ‘This isn’t a conman as suggested by the council, out to make a quick buck.

‘We have an epidemic of obesity in Wales and when Mr Roberts started Raw Juice there was no other outlet serving health food in Wrexham.

‘He is a man who simply wanted to change the situation and offer a healthy option for Wrexham residents.’