Untested Waters: Owners say buying ‘local’ seafood for restaurants is sometimes made difficult

Untested Waters: Owners say buying ‘local’ seafood for restaurants is sometimes made difficult

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Whether it comes in a box, bag or crate, supplying multiple restaurants with fresh seafood is quite a task. Tommy Cvitanovich with Drago’s restaurant says he’s always known most of the seafood coming into the U.S. from other countries is not inspected.

“It is up to our inspectors, the board of health, DHH or the national inspectors to come in and make sure the product that’s coming in is safe for our population. If it’s not, the product shouldn’t be coming to our country period,” said Cvitanovich.

Because of that, he’ll try to choose local over imported seafood. Cvitanovich says the crawfish, shrimp, oysters and catfish they sell is all local. But he says the “local” or “imported” label in the restaurant industry isn’t so cut and dry.

“You have some product, crabs caught in the U.S. brought down to Mexico, processed, and then come back. Even though caught in United States, that’s now an imported product,” said Cvitanovich.

Cvitanovich says whenever his customers ask where their seafood comes from, they’ll continue to answer honestly.

And some customers say that’s exactly what they’ll do, but others say they’ve been eating seafood so long, they’re skeptical there will be any real change in testing seafood anytime soon.

“We’ve always been conscious of it, but now you’ve made us super conscious of it,” said Diane McGrady.

“You're not going to change the situation unless they really put a tariff on it,” said Albert Eusea.

Cvitanovich says bottom line is if he can use Louisiana seafood, he will.

“I want people to use local and buy local,” he said.

But in a business, in some cases, that's just not possible.

“You need to know who you’re buying from. You need to be confident you’re buying from the right people, and you’re satisfied and comfortable with that,” said Cvitanovich.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association said as a policy, they encourage all restaurants to use local seafood. But for consumers, it’s best to ask.

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