Imitation Crab Draws Criticisms

Times Staff Writer

There were few compliments for imitation crab among salesmen and brokers representing the real crustacean at a recent seafood industry convention in Los Angeles.

Most of the criticism was directed toward perceived label misrepresentation, which could lead consumers to believe the imitations actually contain crab or are, in fact, 100% crab. Some of the labels in question carry names such as King Krab, Sea Legs and Copy Crab.

“The imitations shouldn’t be labeled to look like they are real crab,” said Bill Bryant, national sales manager of Seattle-based Alaska Fresh Seafoods Inc., which markets Alaskan crab. “I believe (crab imitations) are having a bad effect on the U.S. fishing industry and cutting into the market for Dungeness, king and snow crab. However, people are always looking for a cheap substitute.”


The imitations were also criticized for having little style.

Peggy Underwood, a representative of Golden Gulf Industries in Mobile, Ala., which markets deep-sea crabs, said there is no comparison between the imitations and the real thing.

“A chef would not entertain with artificial crab. If you can’t sit down to a good table, then what are your priorities?” said Underwood, hinting that “good” meant real crab.

Many crab sales representatives grudgingly admitted that the imitation crab tasted “OK,” and some even went as far as saying it was a good, economical source of protein.

Nevertheless, most of the faint praise was often hedged.

Bill Merry of W. R. Merry Co. of Los Angeles said, “Imitation (crab) is a good value for the money. But it’s also a good way to sell (cheap fish) as something other than cheap fish.”

A Calorie Contest--Wine and beer producers certainly have enough problems with continuing calls for a ban on wine and beer advertisements carried on television and radio. Now, to compound matters, their sometimes allies in the distilled spirits industry are taking a few effective shots against wine in a series of magazine advertisements.

One particularly interesting ad is for Bacardi Rum, which features a quiz asking readers to decide which has fewer calories and alcohol: one 5-ounce glass of white wine or a mixture of 4 ounces of Perrier and 1 ounce of Bacardi.


The answer is the rum and mineral water cocktail, which the ad says contains 65.5 calories versus 121 calories for the white wine. Bacardi’s next target may well be the low-calorie beers, most of which have more than 65 calories per serving.

Botulism’s Hidden Threat--The common conception of botulism is that it is primarily transmitted from undercooked or contaminated canned foods. A recent state Department of Health Services newsletter reports that the debilitating symptoms of botulism may be present in mishandled fresh foods.

A recent issue of the department’s California Morbidity reconstructs two cases of botulism that were traced to home-cooked foods. In the first incident, the culprit was a turkey loaf left overnight in a gas oven that was reheated for only 20 minutes and then served. The second contamination vehicle was homemade stew left on the stove overnight that was tasted in its cold state by an undiscerning passer-by.

The item states that “spores of C. botulinum are ubiquitous in soil and so can contaminate fresh foods. . . . Foods heated for serving should either be eaten hot, or refrigerated and later reheated throughly when served again.