Monday, December 17, 2012

When Is Lobster Not Lobster?

When Red Lobster is selling langostinos as lobster. Not langostines, the Norwegian lobster and possibly the most commercially important crustacean in Europe, but langostino, a non-lobster crustacean.
Let's compare, shall we? Here's a picture of a lobster:
Lobster Homarus americanus credit: Wikipedia
Big ugly sea bug--but tasty. In 2005, the FDA in the US ruled that it was okay to sell this guy, the langostino, as a lobster:
A squat lobster or langostino Munidopsis serricornis photo credit: Wikipedia
That's not really the same, other than being a tasty sea bug. And it's not the langostine or scampi:
Langostine Nephrops norvegicus credit: Wikipedia
which is a smaller version of the true lobster.
Now, I'm not saying it's bad to eat the squat lobster (anyone else got the B-52s running through their head?). But the FDA has ruled that it's okay to sell it as lobster, under the name lobster, at the same price as lobster, even when it isn't lobster.

This is not unusual; the FDA lists 519 acceptable names under which to sell seafood, but over 1700 varieties of seafood are being sold, so clearly we're not always getting what we want. The New York Times reports:
During the Florida grouper scandal of 2006, the state attorney general’s economic crimes division prosecuted 17 restaurants in the Tampa area and a large food-service company for selling Cambodian ponga instead of the more expensive Florida grouper.
The investigation came after The St. Petersburg Times tested fish and found, for example, that a $23 order of grouper was actually a much cheaper piece of Asian catfish.
The Boston Globe conducted a similar investigation last year and discovered that Massachusetts consumers routinely paid for more expensive fish and got cheaper substitutes.
In some cases, as many as three-quarters of the samples tested were different fish than what the stores or restaurants said they were. Although state and federal lawmakers said they would improve oversight, a follow-up investigation published this month found that the problem was still widespread.
And not just seafood. Organic is a federally controlled term in the US, but there's still no guarantee that the "organic" chicken you just ate is anything other than factory-farmed.  heck, that pice of "Kobe beed"? There's no controls in North America over labelling any  piece of beef "Kobe" and jacking up the price.

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