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Fish Fraud -- KCBS2 Investigation

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So the evening news folks at cbs (channel 2 and 9) sent investigators to four prominent Los Angeles seafood restaurants and ordered the "red snapper." Then they sent their fish to a DNA lab, which found two mahi mahi, one tilapia, and one catfish actually served. The places were Gladstones, Delmonico's, Bluewater Grill, and Walt's Wharf. When confronted, each place denied mislabelling their fish and blamed some sort of inexplicable human error.

Makes you wonder.....

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  1. They must have the same distributor.

      1. We had a similar issue in Minneapolis last year. Instead of red snapper, people were advertising Walleye and giving people a distant european relative named zander. (http://www.kare11.com/news/news_artic...


        The above articleplink points towards the super useful FDA list of approved market names for fish . (http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/seaintro...)

        1. The local media did the same thing here in Phoenix and tagged four restaurants serving things other than the red snapper that was advertised. Seems to be epidemic.

          1. Recently in Tampa/ St. Pete, a newspaper checked on the grouper in 24 restaurants. 7 weren't grouper. This fraud seems quite widespread; these few posts are from all over the country.

            1. we just had a news report on this last night in portland.. selling cheaper fish as bluenose grouper.. Makes me angry.. who's to blame?


              2 Replies
              1. re: amopdx

                I think that the blame is partly on the consumer for not knowing their food. I am familiar with most popular fish species so I can't be fooled easily. A few years ago I ordered grouper at a, then very popular, restaurant in Wilmington N.C. (Paleo Sun Cafe). When I cut into the fish it almost disintegrated and was pure white. I called over the waitress and asked her what she'd served me and her answer was, grouper. I tasted the fish and told her it was albacore/tuna and not grouper. After arguing with me that it was indeed grouper I insisted she'd go to the kitchen and bring the chef to our table. She returned a few minutes later without the chef, apologized, said I was right and I was not charged for my meal. They had run out of grouper but because it was printed on the menu they continued selling it by mistake. I think it was more like, tourists, grouper $14 lb, albacore $3 lb, let have a grouper special tonite for our beloved tourists. Lame type of business but really nothing new. Unfortunately most people do not know the difference.

                1. re: fatboy44

                  And won't learn the difference eating out.

              2. We had the same story here in Atlanta, 5 restaurants 3 did not serve red snapper. hmm?

                1. I'm guilty too. I've given CH friends red tilapia in place of red snapper, cachama in place of Chilean sea bass, smoked mahas in place of Virginia smoked ham, chicken hearts in stroganoffs, bits of thin sliced smoked lung in place of ham in complex dinner salads, ... We laugh later. Of course, I make substitutions because I can't get the originals and my guests don't pay, other than in pride at times. One thing I haven't been able to do is convert sacs of very fresh local fish eggs into Black Sea sturgeon caviar.

                  I know, I know...I seem to have missed the point of the OP, but it set me to thinking.

                  1. The "bait and switch" so to speak happens everywhere. I can recall several restaurants substituting cod for haddock and flounder for sole. I think it is ridiculous and really serves no purpose other than deception.

                    1. A bit off topic but it reminds me...has anyone ever seen Chilean Sea Bass? I looked it up on Wikipedia the other day because of that Colossal Squid they caught, earlier this week, in the Antartic. They "caught" it in lines set for Chilean Sea Bass aka Patagonian Toothfish. Man that is one prehistoric lookin' MF'er. No wonder why they call it something familiar like "bass".

                      1. this isn't surprising to me, particularly since 'red snapper' is a somewhat generic term that is often used to refer to a variety of species. Which red snapper are you talking about? There is no red snapper as such caught in CA, most of what is sold in fish stores in CA as 'red snapper' would really be a variety of rockfish. Did the consumers think it was Hawaiian Red Snapper?

                        Here is what you get when you search the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site for 'Red Snapper' :


                        Note the comment under "Red Snapper, Imported":

                        'Don’t confuse red and vermilion snapper with “Pacific red snapper,” which is the market name for many West Coast rockfishes'

                        Part of the reason for species substitution is shortages of certain species. As for me, I never order red snapper in a restaurant for precisely this reason: it is impossible to know what I will really get!

                        1. greetings, many years ago I laboured for a crooked fish monger (first paycheck, I saw that they took out 30 min for lunch--too cheap for timeclock +cards--but made us all stay inside the shop and work through lunch! no one had objected before, and of course I was fired shortly afterward) . I asked him, since I've seen the same fish by different names in different areas, for more specific identification when he used pretty generic names. Basically, a lot of fishmongers like generic names like 'red snapper' because it gives them max leeway in selling to the usually uninformed (once it's skinned +boneless fillets...), and their attitude is , they're in such a tough business already.Restaurants can make the same claim, if they're not already getting their fish from someone like "Pier One Fishery". Who would know the linnean system Latin/scientific names anyway, if they were required--and that would really be the best solution, other than a photo in the fish case of the original whole fish with the common and Latin names captioned. With the overharvesting plus pollution, they're getting to be museum pieces anyway.They'll be happy to charge museum-like prices for it, with 'gourmands' willing to pay, as in the Brando movie where the diners ate in secret on plates of fabulously expensive endangered species--it was really chicken ha ha. happy hunting

                          1. Reading this thread reminds me why it's best to buy a whole fish instead of fillets. Besides being able to look at the eyes and scales, you can obviously tell what kind of fish it really is.

                            Re: over fishing, you know things can be fixed in a little as 30-40 years, if not faster. Off the Kennedy Space Center there's a restricted security area due to the space program. It so happens the restrictions have created a huge abundance of sealife. If I recall there's weak efforts to simulate this to keep fisheries going...but it never happens. Here's a link:

                            1. >Re: over fishing, you know things can be fixed in a little as 30-40 years, if not faster.
                              >Off the Kennedy Space Center there's a restricted security area due to the space
                              >program. It so happens the restrictions have created a huge abundance of sealife.
                              I dont know anything about environmental stuff, but this seems to ignore some
                              "scale factors". it seems like saying "gee since those doods on that tv show can
                              build somebody a new house in a week, the govt should be able to rebuild NOLA
                              in a week". When a more reasonable comparison might be say LA vs SF recovery
                              times from their last two eqarthquakes.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: psb

                                The gist of the article is that the Kennedy Space center has a 100k+ acre restriction zone for aircraft and boats, including sports and commercial vessels. Because fishing of any kind is non-existent, sealife has flourished. It has nothing to do with scale or fixing something in 2 weeks.

                                The no-fishing restriction has been in effect for 40+ years. 40+ years is not 2 weeks...although in the big scheme of things, 40 years isn't much either and do-able within a lifetime. The revivial of sealife (i.e., fish) due to no-fishing around the space center has been studied extensively or enough that the federal and regional governments and environmentalist have looked to implement similar restricted zones to revive fisheries.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  I realize 40yrs is not two weeks. The point is that it is easier to "offline" a single bay
                                  somewhere, particularly one under a single govt, than offlining say N species in the
                                  North Atlantic, and getting international coopoeration to that end. It's the Tragedy of
                                  the Commons, not the Tragedy of the Backyard.

                                  Yes, maybe the KSC experiment proves something scientific, but it seems that
                                  it's economic and political factors that are controlling here.

                                  1. re: psb

                                    You're right that off-lining one bay is easy for one government but the outcome is signficant. I seriously doubt countries that count on fishing as food and industry would reject the idea after seen some facts and given a reasonable plan This is why international dipolmacy and reputation are important....something the U.S. lacking at the current moment.

                              2. This was exposed in an article here in 2001: http://search.houstonpress.com/2001-1... It was a real eye-opener to me having never worked in food service. one revelation concerned a fish distributor who would eat at restaurants he supplied and wonder where they were getting the fish they served until he realized it was his fish, re-named to more expensive species.

                                A follow up article (or maybe TV story) has dealt with the substitution of pork for veal.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: oltheimmer

                                  Or Wiener Schnitzel which, to me, is veal by definition. Most places in Toronto just say "schnitzel" on their menus, which might be anything, but "Wiener schnitzel" is still commonly used. So I ask whether it is pork or veal. Most places come right out and say pork, but others claim veal when it really is pork. In truth, it sometimes tastes only of fried breading anyway.

                                  So I'm at a Hungarian restaurant with friends. Three diners want the Wiener schnitzel. The server says it is veal, fried in butter. Two of us don't eat veal (one highly allergic; one on ethical grounds) and one of us doesn't eat pork or lard. The server became visibly upset and disappeared into the kitchen. She emerged smiling a few minutes later. "I have good news", she said, "it's actually turkey cooked in Frymax" It really was turkey, but you can be damn sure that none of us ever returned.

                                2. It's not just fish! My very first job was in a restaurant where the "gorgonzola pizza" was more often than not "danish blue pizza."

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Olivia

                                    I wouldn't mind that, Danish bleu costs probably twice as much as domestic gorgonzola!