The U.S. importers were tricky. The labeled their crawfish product with Cajun sounding names like “Bernard’s Real Cajun Brand” and “Boudreaux’s Crawfish” and printed “Product of China” somewhere on the label in smaller print.[i]
Odom used every weapon in his arsenal. He had the crawfish tested for cholera. None was found.[ii] He had them tested for banned antibiotics. Banned substances were found but the logistics of testing every Chinese shipment of crawfish (and fighting every lawsuit) were unmanageable.[iii]
Finally, the International Trade Commission determined that the Chinese had dumped their product on the United States market in 1997 and a tariff was ordered. The importers tried to circumvent the ruling and relabeled the crawfish as “Product of Singapore.” Odom dispatched Roy Johnson to the island state and found there was no crawfish production in Singapore. Odom seized 14,000 pounds of the sham Singapore product. More lawsuits followed.[iv]
State Representative Dirk DeVille of Ville Platte introduced a bill requiring restaurants to indicate on their menus if they served “imported” crawfish.[v] The measure was successfully opposed by the Louisiana Restaurant Association every time it came up until Representative Fred Mills of Breaux Bridge got the “Ask (if it’s Louisiana crawfish) Before You Eat” law passed in 2008.[vi]
By then it was almost too late. Of the 102 processors that were in business before Chinese crawfish hit the market, less than a dozen of them were still operating in 2004.
Buy Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean