Monday, May 18, 2009
From Wikipedia: Langostino is a Spanish word with different meanings in different areas. In America, it is commonly used in the restaurant trade to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn. It is more closely related to porcelain crabs and hermit crabs. Crustaceans labeled as langostino are no more than 3 inches (7.6 centimetres) long, and weigh no more than 7 ounces (198 grams). Langostinos are not langoustes (spiny lobsters) despite a similar name (in Spanish, Lobster is called Langosta.) Also, Langostinos are sometimes confused with langoustines (Norway lobster), which is a true lobster common in European cuisine.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration allows “langostino” as a market name for three species in the family Galatheidae: Cervimunida johni, Munida gregaria, and Pleuroncodes monodon. In Spain, it means some species of prawns. In Cuba and other Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, the name Langostino is also used to refer to crayfish. In South America, the name Langostino is used to refer to red shrimp, Pleoticus mulleri, common in the mid-latitude Atlantic coast, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Uruguayan coast, to Argentine province of Chubut.
In March 2006, Long John Silver’s garnered controversy by offering buttered lobster bites advertising that they include “langostino lobster”. The controversy remains due to ambiguity on whether the langostino should be classified as a lobster, a crab, or neither. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge made no decisions in April 2006 on the matter when a class-action lawsuit was brought against Rubio’s Restaurants, Inc., for selling “lobster burrito” and “lobster taco” that were in fact made with squat lobster.
And the controversy continues...
From an e-mail: It has come to our attention that Long John Silver is advertising, packaging and menuing Langostino Lobster Bites not in accordance with the acceptable market names as outlined on The Seafood List published by the FDA. We ask that you contact Long John Silver regarding this misleading promotion and advise them to cease current practices and use only the FDA approved collective term ‘langostino lobster’ or ‘langostino.’
The Long John Silver television advertisement and menu freely use the terms ‘buttered lobster bites’ and ‘real lobster’ to refer to their langostino product. The FDA has not approved these terms for the product being sold, nor are they commonly used consumer names or acceptable market names. On the contrary, the stand-alone term ‘lobster’ is allowed only for American or European lobster, according to your Seafood List.
This appears to be a deliberate attempt to mislead consumers into purchasing a product with a significantly higher value than the one that is actually being provided, resulting in economic fraud to the consumers. It is also a food safety issue with the potential for a consumer to experience an allergic reaction due to mislabeling.
We have registered a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (#22644742) and the Better Seafood Bureau. We are also alerting Senator Snowe (the ranking member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coastguard subcommittee) and Senator Collins.
We appreciate your attention to this matter.
From Sen. Snowe, October 4, 2006:
WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) today released a September 25th letter sent to the Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting a reversal of the FDA’s decision to allow the term “langostino lobster” to be used on restaurant menus. The FDA’s decision stems from a 2005 lawsuit filed against the California-based restaurant chain Rubio’s for selling a “Lobster Burrito” when in fact the burritos contained no lobster. As part of the out-of-court settlement reached between the parties, the FDA allowed the use of the term “langostino lobster” in dishes and menu items that include langostino but not lobster.
Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D.
Food and Drug Administration
Dear Dr. Eschenbach:
Under a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision made as part of an out-of-court settlement with the California-based restaurant chain Rubio’s, the FDA has begun allowing langostino, a pelagic crab similar in appearance to a large shrimp, to be marketed on menus as “langostino lobster.” Other restaurant chains, including Long John Silver’s and Red Lobster, are now using this verbiage to describe their langostino dishes. Use of this term is misleading to consumers and unfairly affiliates langostino with actual lobster to the detriment of the lobster industry in Maine. I insist that the FDA rescind this decision and ensure that all such false advertising practices cease immediately.
At first glance, this shift in terminology may seem trivial. However, given the lobster’s critical role in Maine’s economy–lobster was a $290 million industry in the state in 2005–the impact of this decision extends far beyond simple semantics. The Maine Lobster Promotion Council has estimated that by blurring the lines of species identification and shifting the sales of lobster to sales of langostino, the FDA has cost Maine fishermen more than $44 million in lobster sales. Permitting this inferior product to be improperly marketed as “lobster” not only pollutes consumers’ appetite for real lobster, but it also exposes consumers who suffer from certain allergies to potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.
The state of Maine and its lobstermen have worked hard to develop the “Maine lobster” brand and create a stable market for this sustainable fishery. With this decision, the federal government is undermining those efforts. Langostino is not lobster, nor should it be marketed as such. The FDA will be remiss in its duties if it continues to allow restaurants or other entities to perpetuate this hoax at the expense of Maine’s lobstermen and America’s seafood consumers. Thank you for devoting you attention to this urgent matter; I look forward to working with you to correct this oversight as soon as possible.
Olympia J. Snowe
Chair, Subcommittee on Fisheries and Coast Guard