The Chicago Sun-Times reported today that red snapper sushi meals ordered from 14 local restaurants weren't actually made using the pricey fish.
The newspaper had DNA tests performed on the sushi it got from restaurants in Chicago and its suburbs. Nine of the 14 samples turned out to be tilapia, which sells for about half the price of red snapper, and others used red sea bream.
There are about 250 snapper species worldwide, but only one can legally be sold as red snapper, the newspaper reported.
John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, said substituting fish is like buying a cheap knockoff of a designer product.
"It's fraud, and it should be stopped," he said.
Restaurants owners told the Sun-Times that they're not trying to mislead customers.
Some said they ordered red snapper from suppliers and were surprised to find they had received tilapia instead.
"I never thought to look at the description," said Andrew Kim, general manager of Bluefin Sushi Bar in Chicago.
Others said they use "red snapper" on their menus instead of "red sea bream" because it's more recognizable.
Angela Hepler, owner of Sushi Wabi in Chicago, removed "red snapper" from her menu after learning it was red sea bream.
"I don't believe in overfishing and killing out a species or being sold something that I thought was something other than it really is," she said.
By: Some sushi eaters in the Chicago area might not be getting what they ordered.