A juice bar owner has been landed with a £3,493 court bill after magistrates found him guilty of selling smoothies with misleading health benefits.

Trading standards officers were alerted when menus at Gareth Roberts’ business claimed food supplements that could be added to the drinks could help prevent cancer and treat “all kinds of diseases” as well as osteoarthritis and joint pain.

The proprietor of the Raw Juice bar in Rhosddu Road, Wrexham, found himself one of the few people in the UK to face prosecution under EU law prohibiting health claims that are not included on an authorised register.

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Gareth Roberts who ran the Raw Juice Bar in Wrexham

His solicitor, Euros Jones, told Wrexham Magistrates’ Court that Roberts was a health-food obsessive who had tried to provide a healthy alternative for the people of Wrexham.

“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,” said Mr Jones.

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

But Chairman of Wrexham magistrates Hilary Wiseman told Roberts: “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.

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

The court heard of a long-running dispute between the juice bar and trading standards officers through 2018 and into 2019 before Roberts chose to close the business.

The juice bar owner claimed the council had been “gunning for him” from the off and that as a small business owner his hands were tied when trading standards demanded he change the content of his menus.

But prosecuting for Wrexham Council’s trading standards, Jade Tufail, said Roberts had accepted responsibility for the production of the menus on which the health claims were made.

An EU register listing what health claims could be made about food products was made available to him and he it was made clear claims on Raw Juice’s menus were not on that register.

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“He made the claims believing they were true and the public needed to be educated, but they are not permitted by law,” said the barrister.

She said that Roberts rang up the councils public protection officer Kay Ledward and claimed that “it was a Government cover up”

“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,” said Ms Tufail.

Ms Ledward visited Raw Juice’s premises after Roberts’ 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 “balances blood sugar levels”, both ingredients that could be added to the bar’s drinks.

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 and remove material on a social media site.

Another visit was paid to the business on September 19, 2018 and a menu spotted on a window still referenced the cancer health claim as did some of the business’ takeaway menus.

Roberts closed Raw Juice in February last year and charges against the business were dropped. But Roberts, 40, of Atlea, New Broughton pleaded not guilty to ten counts of failing to comply with the provisions of EC regulation on nutrition and health claims in that he made unauthorised health claims with nine of the charges relating to September 19, 2018.

These amounted to claims that flaxseeds and lionsmane “may prevent cancer”; that MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) “treats osteoarthritis and joint pain”, Ashwaganda “balances blood sugar levels”; Ashwaganda “improves thyroid function”; soursop tea “fights all sorts of diseases and infections”; green tea “helps with mental health - keeps your mind calm, relaxed and reduces anxiety” as well as being “one of the best herbal teas to fight all different diseases”; and that Kombucha is “detoxifying”.

A 10th charge, also denied, related to a Facebook post on January 6 last year about celery juice containing “antioxidants (that) fight off cancer”.

Roberts told the court that the post was a personal one advising his partner to take celery shots for a complexion problem and was nothing to do with his business.

He said he opened the juice bar in April 2018 after carrying out research at similar businesses in Liverpool and Manchester as well as reading published articles demonstrating the benefits of supplements like flaxseed and lionsmane.

He denied telling the officer that friends had been cured of cancer by drinking smoothies and said she had made a lot of his names like “Skinny Jeans” and “Energiser”, some of which his children helped choose for the bar’s drinks.

A mix-up may have occurred, he said, when a menu with the cancer reference not blacked out was put in the window.

“I had ordered 2,000 menus at a cost of £1,800 so I couldn’t afford to reprint them,” he said.

Magistrates accepted he was on limited means and an offer to pay a £750 fine plus court costs of £2,668 and a victim surcharge of £75 at a rate of £10 a week was accepted.