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Langostino is a Spanish word with different meanings in different areas. In the United States, it is commonly used in the restaurant trade to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn. Squat lobsters are more closely related to porcelain and hermit crabs. Crustaceans labeled as langostino are no more than 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, and weigh no more than 7 ounces (200 g). Langostinos are not langoustes (spiny lobsters) despite a similar name (in Spanish, lobster is called langosta). Also, langostinos are sometimes confused with langoustines (Norway lobster), which is a true lobster common in European cuisine.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration allows "langostino" to be used a market name for three species of squat lobster in the family Galatheidae: Cervimunida johni, Munida gregaria, and Pleuroncodes monodon. In Spain, it means some species of prawns. In Cuba and other Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, the name langostino is also used to refer to crayfish. In South America, the name langostino is used to refer to a specific shrimp: in Argentina the Pleoticus muelleri, in Chile and Peru the Pleuroncodes monodon.
In March 2006, Long John Silver's garnered controversy by offering a product they called "Buttered Lobster Bites," with advertising that they include "langostino lobster". The Federal Trade Commission ultimately launched an investigation into deceptive advertising practices by the chain, because Food and Drug Administration regulations require that anyone marketing langostino as lobster must place the qualifier "langostino" adjacent to the word "lobster," and Long John Silver's not only failed to do this, but ran a television commercial making use of an American lobster in a manner that the Commission concluded was contributing to the misperception that the product was American lobster. Upon being contacted by the Commission, Long John Silver promptly terminated the television commercial campaigns, revised its website, and committed both to prominently placing the word "langostino" adjacent to the term "lobster" in all future advertising, and to revising its existing in-store materials accordingly within eight weeks, and on June 24, 2009, the Commission wrote to the chain to inform them that they had no intention of taking further action at that time.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge made no decisions in April 2006 on the matter when a class-action lawsuit was brought against Rubio's Restaurants, Inc., for selling "lobster burrito" and "lobster taco" that were in fact made with squat lobster.
- Catherine Schmidt (2007). "Fish fraud: no matter what you call it, 'squat' isn’t lobster" (PDF). Maine Sea Grant College Program. University of Maine. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
- "Langostino vs. Lobster: What's the difference?".
- "FDA Fish List: Market Names of Fish and Shellfish". Retrieved October 30, 2007.
- "Taking Aim At 'Impostor Lobster'". CBS News. October 4, 2006. Retrieved October 30, 2007.
- Engle, Mary Kolb (June 24, 2009). "Closing Letter to Phillip Allen, Esq. Counsel to Long John Silver's" (PDF). Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 1 June 2015.