The question of whether you’re really getting the exact same food that’s listed on the menu has lingered in the restaurant industry. What guarantee is there that you will get exactly what you ordered? Are there checks and balances in place to ensure the integrity of the companies that source the food available in restaurants? There can be a lot of questions surrounding the notion that the food you are ordering is not exactly as stated on the menu. But rest assured, there are few if any loopholes within the major food distribution chains, so there is no cause for widespread panic, and I’m not trying to stop you from going to your favorite restaurant. On the contrary, most restaurants operate ethically, and the success of a restaurant rests primarily on its reputation, level of service, and quality of food. We’re about to uncover some of the biggest scams in the restaurant industry, and as a consumer, you should know that the old practice of “bait and switch” still happens. We hope this article helps you become a more educated consumer so you can make better decisions when it comes to dining out.

Mass-produced processed food or factory food has been available since 1910 and has continued to grow in popularity ever since. Some of America’s most iconic food brands were first created in laboratories and produced in factories before becoming part of our everyday kitchen. Some of the processed foods that made it to the mainstream market and have been popular since 1910 are Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Aunt Jemima Syrup, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Oreo Cookies, and Fluff Marshmallows to name a few. Technological advances lead some food factories to dedicate their efforts to canning and bottling everything from vegetables to soft drinks.

Today, the fast food industry is the largest distributor of processed foods, but it’s definitely not the first to introduce people to factory-made foods. However, the fast food industry was instrumental in perfecting factory food delivery and achieved a major change in the way we eat by conditioning us to accept factory-processed food as a substitute for real food. Americans consume epic portions of pre-made foods every day. It is estimated that the fast food industry serves 50,000,000 Americans per day. There has been such a massive infiltration of factory foods into our everyday kitchen that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s processed when you choose to eat at a fast food restaurant.

Fortunately, fast food is not our only option when choosing whether to go out or stay at home to eat. Most casual restaurants serve higher quality food compared to fast food restaurants, but still below the quality of food that can be found in a fine dining establishment. There have been many reports of not getting exactly what the menu suggests, especially when you’ve ordered seafood at a restaurant. For example, there are 61 species of tuna and only four species are of great commercial importance. Big Eye, Albacore, Yellowfin and Skipjack are the 4 main species of tuna you will find in restaurants.

Yellowfin also known as Ahi Tuna and are often mixed up with Big Eye Tuna because they are similar in texture and color. A less expensive tuna, albacore is often mislabeled as regular tuna, as it has similar characteristics and can easily be disguised on a bed of rice, surrounded by vegetables, and topped with sauce.

Shrimp, scallops, oysters, and other shellfish come in varying degrees of quality and can be easily changed without raising too many eyebrows. Varieties of shellfish species that are closely related cousins ​​often have similar color and texture and the difference is undetectable unless you have access to scientific genetic DNA testing. Most large chain restaurants rarely sell mislabeled fish; however, there are reports suggesting that the seafood you ordered could be a closely related DNA cousin of the seafood featured on the menu. In one case, one of the largest fine-dining restaurant chains in the US actually served yellowfin and listed the dish as albacore on the menu, a more expensive fish than stated on the menu.

How could I discuss food fraud without mentioning the massively deceptive scam that is occurring at all levels of food distribution and created out of the popularity of Kobe beef? What I’m going to tell you is plain and simple, if you bought Kobe beef in the past, it probably wasn’t Kobe beef at all! Until a few years ago, the FDA banned all imported meat from Japan. That means that until a few years ago there was not an ounce of Kobe beef available in the United States. Thousands of people became unsuspecting victims of a crime that spans the entire restaurant industry. From big box distributors, celebrity chefs, bar owners and restaurant managers, the Kobe beef scam is one of the biggest scams in the restaurant industry to date.

According to the Kobe Beef Council in Japan, in 2016 less than 5,900 lbs. of certified Kobe beef was exported to the US from Japan. Now 5900 lbs. sounds like a lot of meat if you were making the world’s biggest burger, but to put it in perspective, in 2016 we consumed 18,020,960,000 lbs. of beef in the US Food for Thought, 29,494,738,000 lbs. of chicken ended up on our plates in 2016. Compared to the amount of chicken and beef consumed in the US, the amount of Kobe beef available in 2016 was incredibly minimal. I’m going to assume that as rare as Kobe beef was in 2016, nothing was wasted on burgers, burgers, or any other Kobe-type product. Fake Kobe is so profitable that it spread to another Japanese variety of beef, Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is the other half of the meaty master plan to steal more money from innocent diners.

Wagyu is a Japanese word and translated into English means “Japanese cow”. There are four types of Japanese cows that can be considered Wagyu (Kuroge Washu, Akage Washu or Akaushi, Mukaku Washu, and Nihon Tankaku Washu). American farmers have imported a small number of Japanese Wagyu cows to be raised and bred in the US creating a new category of beef, “Domestic Wagyu”. Domestic Wagyu is the new ultra beef, not as expensive as Kobe. There are a handful of farmers who work hard to keep the domestic Wagyu bloodline pure, but eventually most Wagyu will be crossed to suit American palates and sold at your local butcher or grocery store. Wagyu beef quality falls somewhere between Kobe beef and USDA Prime, but how can you be sure it’s the real thing?

I went to a restaurant and ordered the Wagyu steak and it was good, but just like USDA Prime it’s also good. Was I a victim of money robbery from meat magnates? I’m not sure, but it was a fantastic meal nonetheless. Let me explain my Wagyu experience this way: If you were to open my fridge right now, you’d find USDA Prime New York strips, rib-eyes or t-bones and no Wagyu beef. To prevent this from happening to you and to stay out of harm’s way at least until this controversy dies down, order or purchase a USDA Prime steak, have it prepared by a great cook and enjoy. You won’t be disappointed!

The fact is that only a small fraction of people in the food industry are willing to lie for profit, but their careers are usually cut short and the money-scam train is immediately cut short. The worst abuse is taking place at the smaller, local restaurants that don’t have much of a reputation to protect. For the most part, the big chains and big name restaurants have to maintain a high level of food quality, service and overall reputation or we simply wouldn’t give them our business.

Greetings to you!