OCEAN CITY — A bill introduced in the House of Delegates last week that would essentially require truth in advertising about the origin and species of food fish and shellfish offered for sale in the state, particularly Maryland blue crabs and crabmeat, could have broad implications for the scores of restaurants in the resort area along with watermen and seafood processors.
Introduced in the House by 11 delegates, the Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act is an attempt to make certain consumers in Maryland are purchasing and eating seafood while knowing what it is specifically and where it came from. While most in the seafood industry are on the up-and-up about the species of their products and where specifically they came from, some are deceptive and substitute one species for another that is cheaper, less desirable or more readily available. The bill, if approved, would be an important step in stopping seafood from being misidentified on labels, menus, signs and other point-of-sale locations.
“To protect the public health, to protect the consumer and to protect our watermen from unfair competition, Marylanders deserve to know that they are being served the seafood they ordered, and when I order a Maryland-style crab cake, I want to know whether it is actually being made with crab flown halfway around the world,” said Delegate Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. “This legislation will give Marylanders the information they deserve about the seafood they’re eating and I hope my colleagues will agree.”
While the bill applies to all seafood offered for sale in Maryland, its roots are clearly in the iconic Maryland blue crab. Most in the industry fairly represent their crab products as Maryland blue crab and many others offer similar crab products while rightfully identifying the product’s species and state or nation of origin. However, others misrepresent their products as Maryland blue crab in a sort of bait-and-switch either intentionally or unintentionally. House Bill 913 would take the guess work out of the equation for consumers and force seafood processors, restaurants and other entities offering seafood for sale in Maryland to carefully identify its species and origin.
The bill states, “a person may not knowingly misidentify the species of a food fish or shellfish on a label sign or menu.” The bill also includes more language specific to the blue crab.