The Time Red Lobster Was Caught Selling Imitation Lobster

Over the last decade, plenty of restaurant chains have gotten in trouble for food items not actually being what they claim to be. Perhaps the best known example is Subway's "tuna," which the chain continues to insist is 100% real tuna after numerous lawsuits and even lab tests alleged otherwise.

Unfortunately, what many call "seafood fraud" is becoming more and more common as the cost of seafood increases. According to Oceana, anywhere between 25% and 70% of seafood is purposely mislabeled so companies and restaurants can swap in less expensive fare. For instance, per The Guardian, shark catfish is frequently mislabeled as cod, sole, or haddock because it has a similar appearance and texture but costs a fraction of the price.

As it turns out, not even seafood fans' beloved Red Lobster is above mislabeling its food items. In 2016, DNA testing showed the chain's "lobster" to include a variety of seafood that definitely isn't homarus Americanus.

What was Red Lobster passing off as real lobster?

Given the chain's name, you'd expect Red Lobster to sell nothing less than real, red lobster. Sadly, reality broke in 2016, when investigations into seafood fraud revealed what exactly Red Lobster had been passing off as lobster. According to Business Insider, DNA testing showed that some Red Lobster locations were serving a lobster bisque that contained no lobster, but rather an imitation lobster meat called langostino. Langostino, per SeafoodSource, is more closely related to hermit crabs than to lobster, and while it has a similar flavor, its texture is more like that of shrimp.

Following all the backlash, Red Lobster updated its website to include a statement about the chain's use of Maine lobster, rock lobster, Norway lobster, and langostino lobster (the latter is still not actually lobster, but whatever helps you sleep at night, Red Lobster). Of course, all of this goes to say that you can't always take national seafood chains at their word when they claim to be serving real lobster.