A study released yesterday by Oceana concludes that in the Chesapeake region, nearly 40 percent of crab cakes advertised as containing Maryland blue crab are mislabeled. The researchers purchased 90 crab cakes from 86 different establishments advertising locally sourced "Maryland," "Chesapeake," or "blue" crab and found that 34 of the 90 crab cakes — a whopping 38 percent — were mislabeled.
The genuine Maryland crab (this guy) that was supposed to be in the crab cakes was found to be, instead, a mish-mash of different species from Asia and Australia. The most common species used to substitute the genuine Maryland blue crab is the (somewhat confusingly named for the purposes of this study) Indo-Pacific blue swimming crab, or the flower crab.
The study found eight different species of crab, in addition to Maryland blue crab, in its sampling of crab cakes in the area. Of those eight species, three are not found on the FDA Seafood List and one, P. pseudoargentatus, doesn't even have a common English name.
What's with all the fraud? As with most things: money. Crab cakes labeled as being from the Maryland region can charge a higher price (an average of $18.33, according to the study) than those crab cakes that don't identify a particular region or origin ($16.21 average price).