Maryland Crab Meat is Inspected and SafeTwo recent...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 21, 1992

Maryland Crab Meat is Inspected and Safe

Two recent articles, "Something fishy in the crab meat" (Oct. 18) and "23 seafood plants shun additional monitoring" (Nov. 1) may give your readers a false impression that Maryland crab meat processors are not as conscientious as they should be in protecting the quality and purity of their product.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Maryland crab meat industry supports and applauds the successful regulatory actions taken by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to prevent the false labeling of imported crab meat as Maryland product and the interception of crab meat from unlicensed sources.

Despite the fact that the monthly inspection and sampling regimen of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is one of the strictest in the nation, the industry initiated an additional research and quality testing program through the State of Maryland Industrial Partnerships program.

This voluntary testing and research program is implemented through the University of Maryland research facility at Horn Point, which is partially funded by industry contributions from 27 participating companies, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of Agriculture. It increases the level of inspection and testing above the mandatory inspection levels already being carried out by county, state and federal inspectors.

That 23 Maryland companies chose not to participate in this voluntary program in no way reflects negatively on their commitment to producing a quality product.

The MIPS project is designed to help participating companies spot any flaws in their quality control programs over and above the normal safeguards employed by all Maryland crab meat processors to meet tough state and federal inspection standards.

Finally, the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland sponsored research two years ago to demonstrate the superior quality of steamed Maryland crab meat over boiled crab meat. This project demonstrated that Maryland provides an excellent product that deserves to be promoted by our hometown paper.

The support of the MIPS project by the majority of our processors gives Maryland processors the highest level of quality control in the country. Also, the vigorous enforcement of already tough inspection programs by our state regulatory agencies insures that users of Maryland crab meat are getting the best possible product.

We hope your readers keep this in mind when they next shop for crab meat and look for the Maryland identification number on any containers of crab meat to insure they are buying only Maryland produced high quality crab meat.

Robert L. Walker

Torrey C. Brown

Nelson Sabatini

The writers are Maryland state secretaries, respectively, of agriculture, natural resources and health.

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Your article, "23 seafood plants shun additional monitoring," Nov. did a great disservice to Maryland crab meat producers and consumers alike. The Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association is the sponsor of this program.

The 27 crab meat producing companies participating deserve to be applauded for trying to fund University of Maryland research and Health Department monitoring that the state's reduced budgets have eliminated.

The Health Department is a regulatory agency and does not conduct research. Crab meat producers recognize the need for continuing research, education and extension services. Through programs like this we are able to accomplish these goals in times of reduced state budgets.

The 23 companies that "shunned" the monitoring program should not be criticized for not participating in voluntary research. They are still assumed to be in compliance with the Maryland regulations unless other actions are noted.

The consumers have been misled that Maryland crab meat may be contaminated. Maryland already has the most stringent regulations of crab meat producing states.

The Department of Agriculture studies show what discriminating consumers already know, that Maryland crab meat has a better taste, a better value and has a longer shelf life than some other states whose regulations are not as stringent. Some states process by "boiling," while Maryland processors have to "steam."

One of Maryland processors' frustrations is that Maryland will allow this lesser quality crab meat to be sold in Maryland alongside our own crab meat. Due to industry prodding, as of May 1993, all crab meat sold in Maryland will have to specify the cooking method.

Another frustration for legitimate Maryland processors are those that operate outside the regulations. The article about Smith Island's unlicensed crab meat pickers proves that we have competition from unlicensed plants, bootlegging, if you will.

The article "Something fishy in the crab meat," Oct. 18, proves how imported crab meat, illegally repacked into Maryland containers, defrauds the consumers and gives our product a bad name.

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