Eight San Diego Sushi Restaurants Convicted Of Fraud For Lying About 'Lobster' Rolls

December 6, 2015

‘Tis the season for California Spiny Lobster catch, but an investigation by the City Attorney’s Office found lobsters don’t always make their way into the “lobster rolls” at local sushi restaurants. Eight San Diego sushi restaurant owners have been convicted of fraud after investigators found their lobster rolls were fishy. Instead of lobster, the rolls were stuffed with less expensive seafood such as crawfish or pollock. Is your favorite sushi restaurant on the list?

The “truth-in-menu” investigation was launched last year to see if San Diego consumers were the victims of seafood fraud. It resulted in criminal convictions against sushi restaurants in Carmel Mountain Ranch, El Cerrito, Hillcrest, North Park, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, Rancho Penasquitos and Tierrasanta.

Investigators with the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit of the Office of the City Attorney purchased advertised “lobster rolls” from various sushi restaurants throughout San Diego, then sent them to a laboratory where DNA testing confirmed that no lobster was in fact in any of the rolls.

Instead of lobster, the testing revealed the substitution of various types of less expensive seafood such as crawfish or pollock. Follow-up restaurant inspections by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the City’s investigator found no lobster in any of the businesses.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was disappointed with the food fraud findings.

“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,” Goldsmith said. “Our office will continue to prosecute businesses that lie to their consumers.”

The undisclosed substitution of the cheaper seafood is a criminal violation of California law that prohibits the adulteration of food and the false advertising or misbranding of food items. Along with fines, California law also requires the offending businesses to reimburse all of the investigation costs. The eight sushi restaurants paid a combined $14,000 in fines and more than $5,000 to reimburse investigative costs. Each convicted business changed its menu and other advertising to reflect the true content of the seafood rolls.

A seafood fraud report by Oceana found that Los Angeles and Orange County had the highest national seafood substitution rates at 52%. It is not always clear if the substitution happens at the restaurant level, the seafood distribution level or elsewhere. The City Attorney’s investigation found the San Diego substitution occurred at the restaurant level.

The list of individuals and businesses prosecuted and the location of the businesses is found below. 

Little Tokyo
11640 Carmel Mountain Road #122
San Diego, CA 92128

Edamami Sushi & Roll 
5950 Santo Road, #G 
San Diego, CA 92124

Wonderful Sushi
13185-3 Black Mountain Road 
San Diego, CA 92129

Ikiru Sushi
2850 Womble Road, #105 
San Diego, CA 92106

OB Sushi
4967 Newport Avenue 
San Diego, CA 92107

Riki Sushi
3930 30
th Street
San Diego, CA 92104

Wonderful Sushi
1288 University Avenue 
San Diego, CA 92103

RB Sushi 2
5973 El Cajon Blvd. 
San Diego, CA 92115