Boston Globe reporters Jenn Abelson and Beth Daley collected a considerable amount of fish from seafood restaurants and supermarkets in and around Boston. They had them tested and, as it turns out, much of what is currently being served is mislabeled—the red snapper at a sushi restaurant was in fact tilapia (a much cheaper fish). White tuna was being sold as escolar, whose nickname is “ex-lax fish.” The Alaskan butterfish at Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger was really sablefish, which the reporters note is “traditionally a staple at Jewish delicatessens, not upscale dining establishments.”
Abelson and Daley gathered a total of 183 specimens from 134 locations and learned that 48 percent of the fish was mislabeled. Needless to say, the article has caused quite a stir, especially considering seafood’s pride of place in Boston. Some restaurants like Bertucci’s have taken swift measures in order to correct the problem. (In this case the problem was a Merluzzo, or cod, that turned out to be hake.)
The Globe further explains,
It happens for a range of reasons, from outright fraud to a chef’s ignorance to the sometimes real difficulty of discerning one fillet from another. But industry specialists say money is commonly the motivator: It’s a way to increase profits—a cheaper fish sold as something more pricey—on the assumption that customers will not detect the difference.
Later on NPR, Abelson spoke of the mixed responses from proprietors. “There were some that were genuinely surprised, and blamed the mislabeling on suppliers who had duped them. Others found that it wasn’t a big deal, that everyone in the industry does this.”
So from now on, order lobster.