Fraud in food is more common than you think. Unfortunately, the bottle of "extra virgin" olive oil in your pantry is probably a lie. And lots of lobster is just a cheap imitation. But there are three even bigger offenders that you should avoid when you go out to eat—because no one likes forking over cash for a dish that's not the real deal.
USDA Prime and Kobe Beef
The Tampa Bay Times recently pulled back the curtain on some seriously harsh truths in restaurant kitchens, telling readers "you're being fed fiction." And here's the thing about steak: Restaurants aren't regulated in the way that supermarkets are. So while you can almost always trust the label on the cuts in the meat aisle, the claims on a menu are less reliable.
The cuts to watch out for in particular are "Kobe beef," "USDA Prime," and "dry-aged" steaks. With Kobe, the supply is so short that there are only nine restaurants licensed to sell it. Inside Edition recently busted this cover-up wide open, noting that nearly all other claims of Kobe beef are a lie. Meanwhile, less than two percent of the beef produced in America is graded as USDA Prime. This means that only a small percentage of steaks have been grass-fed and are drug- and antibiotic-free, Eater reports. For the most part, beef and steak produced stateside is not very high quality; Instead, it's industrially raised and produced at mass rates.
To combat this, ask your server detailed questions: Where does your meat come from? If he or she can't answer right away, you've been warned.
Fish is one of the worst offenders of fraud. In 2013, Oceana conducted a study that found a staggering 74 percent of all sushi restaurants mislabeled the fish they served. But this applies to restaurants outside of the sushi realm, too: 38 percent of all eateries have committed misrepresentation, using cheaper substitutes for more expensive species. The fish most often faked is, apparently, red snapper.
If you really don't want to pass on the pescatarian options, then choose spots that display the fish whole or serve it whole. Otherwise, stick to the cheaper fish options since they aren't worth faking out with other stuff. But even then cod, halibut, flounder, and grouper are all often swapped out for ponga, a catfish that's mass-produced in fish farms and sometimes contain banned drugs, Eater reports.
The easiest way to spot this fraud is the way you're eating it. If your pasta dish is topped with truffles that were shaved in front of you, no worries. But don't order something because it contains "truffle oil." The concoction isn't derived from the fungus; in fact, it's manufactured with chemicals to smell and taste just like the real deal despite being far from it. And when you think about it, this makes sense: The super hyped-up trend is only so popular (truffle fries and truffle mac and cheese are literally everywhere now) because the imitation bottled stuff is so readily available.
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