Is that a Snapper on your plate or are you just eating really pricy Tilapia?

From July to September 2008, 52 restaurants in Florida, United States where cited for allegedly misrepresenting what they serve to the public.

Embarrassingly enough, one of them was the Miami Police Cafeteria who was fined $750 when an inspector from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation noticed that the cafeteria was serving the cops Basa fish claiming it was Grouper.

Another example of a cited restaurant was Thai Sushi Express, where the operator claimed they used Tilapia instead of Red Snapper because “they are the same kind of fish“.

In the Coconut Creek Grille and Tap House, the Pangasius purchased form Sysco is magically transformed into Grouper, and something similar must be going on at Wreck in Marathon where Grouper is advertised on the menu three times but no Grouper can be found on hand, in storage or on any invoice. In the Siam Lotus Room, the operator didn’t even know that Swai and Grouper are not the same fish.

The price difference between low-price fish like Basa and Tilapia and high-price fish like Grouper and Red Snapper is staggering, so there is quite a lot of money to be made for the wily restaurant owner who manages to convince its customers that the cheap, and often farmed, fish they have on their plates are expensive wild caught ocean dwellers.

According to fish connoisseur Mike Montella of Mr. Fish gourmet seafood in Pompano Beach, the difference in taste between Tilapia and Red Snapper is staggering. “It doesn’t taste nearly as good as snapper, and I’m surprised any restaurant would do that knowingly,” says Montella.

Getting a less tasty fish than you pay for is not the only problem here; popular replacement fishes like Basa and Tilapia is sometimes raised in polluted waters. When consumers don’t get a chance to know what they’re actually eating, it becomes impossible for them to make an informed decision. A lot of Basa fish are for instance raised in the heavily the polluted Mekong River in Southeast Asia.

If you wish to see a list of Florida restaurants that have been recently cited for allegedly mislabelling ingredients, is offering one here: (no longer available online)