Eight San Diego sushi restaurants received criminal fraud convictions after they advertised and served “lobster rolls” with no lobster in them, according to a San Diego City Attorney “truth-in-menu” investigation.
The agency’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit bought rolls advertised as having lobster in them from many restaurants throughout the city. Investigators then sent the food to a laboratory, where DNA testing confirmed the fish in the rolls were less expensive types of seafood.
Often, the restaurants would substitute crawfish or pollock and call it lobster. During follow-up inspections at the businesses, the city’s investigator and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found no lobster in any of the spots.
“The public should be able to count on truthful advertising from anyone doing business in San Diego. Honest customer service is not only required by law, it is good business,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith in a release. “Our office will continue to prosecute businesses that lie to their consumers.”
The following businesses pleaded guilty to a California law that prohibits businesses from false advertising or misbranding food:
- Little Tokyo at 11640 Carmel Mountain Road, #122
- Edamami Sushi & Roll at 5950 Santo Road, #G
- Wonderful Sushi at 13185-3 Black Mountain Road
- Ikiru Sushi at 2850 Womble Road, #105
- OB Sushi at 4967 Newport Avenue
- Riki Sushi at 3930 30th Street
- Wonderful Sushi at 1288 University Avenue
- RB Sushi 2 at 5973 El Cajon Boulevard
Each convicted business has since changed its menu and advertising to show what their rolls really contain, according to the city attorney’s office.
The eight sushi spots paid a total of $14,000 in fines and more than $5,000 to reimburse investigative costs.
NBC 7 reached out to all of the restaurants.
The owner of Wonderful Sushi in Rancho Penasquitos said in this situation, it was a misunderstanding and he never meant to deceive customers. The restaurant was using langostino, which he said has a muddled definition in America. Here it is not considered lobster, while it is other places. Nevertheless, his attorney advised him to plead guilty to the charges.
The owner of the second Wonderful Sushi in Hillcrest sent NBC 7 this statement:
"The issue of false advertising occurred prior to the current owner who took over last December. After the current owner took over, he changed the menu and the names of the two rolls that stated 'lobster' and our descriptions state that we use crawfish. Therefore since last year, we do not carry nor claim to serve lobster.
"Even though we have the same restaurant name as before, we don't want to be affiliated with false advertising our food and we want our customers to know that as well."