Md. lawmaker pushes for better crab labeling

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — They say Maryland is for crabs. There’s even an image of a crab displayed on the state’s driver’s licenses. And some Marylanders, including Del. Eric Luedtke, can be pretty particular about them.

“We believe that if you go into a restaurant, you should know if the crab meat you’re ordering is from Maryland or from somewhere else,” the Montgomery County Democrat says.

crab (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)

This Maryland crab was served at Suicide Bridge Restaurant on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a lot of the crab consumed in the United States is wild-caught in U.S. waters. But the federal agency says the U.S. also imports a variety of crab products, from whole crabs to crab meat, from Canada, Asia and South America.

Luedkte has introduced a bill that would require markets and restaurants to identify the state or country of origin of their crabs.

“Maryland consumers are willing to pay a premium for Maryland crabs,” Luedtke insists, but the lawmaker says diners and shoppers have a right to know whether it’s the real thing.

Luedtke’s bill, introduced Wednesday, would prohibit restaurants and markets from knowingly misidentifying fish species and compel them to clearly label fish by their common names.

“National studies have shown that in some places, as much as 50 percent of the seafood you’re getting in restaurants isn’t what you’re ordering,” he said.

Seeking support for his bill, Luedtke has told colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly that genetic testing has found that tilefish and king mackerel were sold as grouper in a number of U.S. cities. The FDA recommends that pregnant women avoid tilefish and king mackerel because of their high mercury levels.

“The basic idea is that consumers should know what they’re getting when they order seafood,” Luedtke says.

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