Lobstah Impostah

First, animal-rights groups got the little red lobster dropped from the Maine license plate. Now, a cheap shrimplike crab is muscling out the real deal. An Associated Press wire story about the use of “imposter lobster” got plenty of play this week, showing up on the websites of The Washington Post, CNN, the Guardian UK, The Sacramento Bee, and elsewhere.

Seems the regally named Maine senator Olympia Snowe is ready to throw a few thunderbolts to protect her state’s most iconic and lucrative industry. Turns out fast-food outlets like Red Lobster, Long John Silver’s, and Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill are using a small South American crab dubbed “langostino lobster” (from the Spanish word for “prawn”) as a stand-in for the more expensive Homarus Americanus.

Snowe’s goal? To get the FDA to reverse its decision to allow the term “langostino lobster” on restaurant menus, assuming that most Americans, unfamiliar with the term “langostino,” will simply zero in on the word “lobster” and assume they’re getting the real thing. Or, as Snowe insists, “Use of this term is misleading to consumers and unfairly affiliates langostino with actual lobster to the detriment of the lobster industry in Maine.”

The FDA’s agreement came as part of an out-of-court settlement last year with Rubio’s, which got busted for using langostino, not lobster, in its highly touted but too-cheap-to-be-true lobster burrito.

But Down Easters aren’t the only ones seeing red over lobsters. Down in Boston, Globe columnist Brian McGrory is insulted by the new campaign by the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, which implies that only Maine-caught lobsters are “real” lobsters. Writes McGrory,

So what they’re saying is that the men and women who work out of Cohasset, Scituate, Rockport, Hingham, Gloucester, people who go out in cold and heat, sun and rain, on seas that are calm and rough, that they’re hauling up pretend lobsters?

McGrory goes on to conduct a blind taste test with three top Boston chefs, offering up side-by-side forkfuls from each state. Amazingly, all three chefs can tell which is the Maine product and which the Massachusetts. The verdict? Maine is saltier, Massachusetts is sweeter. But they’re both real lobster.

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