In Toronto according to a Toronto Star investigation not getting what you order seems to be a common practice. Collecting 12 red snapper sushi samples from across the city the newspaper had them tested in the lab. Of the 12 samples only one was actually red snapper. One of the sushi samples was from red seabream and the others were all tilipia. The fish samples were tested and matched using the renowned Barcode of Life DNA database at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph.
The reason is the price tag. Tilapia costs about one-fifth of the cost of red snapper.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows four species to be identified as red snapper and 24 as snapper. Not one of the allowed fish however are tilapia or seabream.
As a side note, crab meat is also often artificial crab. If a person has a milk allergy crab meat in sushi needs to be avoided.
While an experienced sushi chef would easily be able to tell the difference between snapper and tilapia most consumers haven’t a clue. So how do you insure that you’re enjoying red snapper sushi? The only way to be sure that your sushi is what you want is to make it yourself.
“The authentic way is to get a whole fish and fillet it yourself,” says Bruce Bu, owner and chef at Yuzu on Adelaide St. W. He lists two tais on his menu. One is described as “red snapper from Japan,” another as “snapper from Greece.” DNA tests showed the former is red seabream.