The Globe also visited some new restaurants this year and found mislabeling problems. At Symphony Sushi — selected by Boston Magazine as one of the city’s best neighborhood restaurants in 2010 — a $15.95 crispy red snapper meal turned out to be tilapia. At Boston Children’s Hospital, the fish sandwich described by a cafeteria clerk as cod tested as less-expensive pollock. Instead of “fresh Boston cod” promised on the menu, Jerry Remy’s Seaport served Pacific cod, which is often previously frozen, cheaper, and hauled thousands of miles to New England.
Symphony Sushi did not return six calls made over several weeks, and Children’s Hospital blamed a clerical error.
It’s usually a long journey from the ocean to diners’ plates, with fish making numerous stops — including processing plants, warehouses, distributors, and restaurants. That can make it difficult to determine where deception takes place.
“I’m a bit surprised,” Chris DeVoe of the Cronin Group said of the results at Jerry Remy’s Seaport. But the company would not share invoices or provide details on how the substitution may have occurred.
Following last year’s Globe story, Minado Restaurant, a popular sushi restaurant in Natick, changed the red snapper sign at its buffet to read “tilapia,” the fish it was actually serving. But “white tuna” was written next to the word “escolar” — as if the two were interchangeable. They are not. Sea to You Sushi, after being contacted by the Globe this year, added a note on its website indicating white tuna is a “nickname” for escolar.
Blue Ginger in Wellesley was a rare example where celebrity chef Ming Tsai advertised an expensive species — sablefish — as cheaper butterfish because he liked the way the name “rolls off the tongue.”
In response to the newspaper series, Tsai modified the menu to read “Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish).” But when the Globe visited the restaurant on several occasions this year, the reference to sablefish had been removed. After Blue Ginger was told in August of the new DNA results, the restaurant restored “Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish)” to the menu.
The FDA, which oversees the labeling of fish, this year conducted its own DNA testing at wholesalers and seafood processors. Haddock and cod samples collected from 25 businesses in New England all were accurately labeled, according to an agency spokeswoman.
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health began distributing brochures to local health inspectors to make them aware of seafood substitution, although it is unclear how many are cracking down on the problem. In addition, the state agency is collaborating with Legal Sea Foods to launch a pilot program next year in several communities that would track fish through the supply chain to ensure its authenticity.
At Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain, previously frozen chunks of Pacific cod took the place of fresh New England cod, according to last year’s Globe testing. The same problem showed up at the landmark tavern this year. Owner Gerry Burke said he was not able to revise the menu — at a cost of $1,500 — until this fall after the Globe’s most recent testing.
“I did take it seriously,” Burke said, “even if everyone else didn’t.”
Jenn Abelson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson. Beth Daley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her@Globebethdaley. Erin Ailworth and David Abel of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Gail Waterhouse, Laura Finaldi, and Dan Adams contributed to this report.