Long-Awaited Country-of-Origin Labeling Goes Into Effect

For Immediate Release

Food and Water Watch
Contact: 

Patty Lovera or Erin Greenfield (202) 683-2500

Long-Awaited Country-of-Origin Labeling Goes Into Effect

Consumer Group Urges USDA to Increase Coverage of New Rule

WASHINGTON - Today, the interim final rule for mandatory country-of-origin labeling
(COOL) for meat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several
kinds of nuts goes into effect, providing American consumers with vital
information they need to make informed choices about where their food
is from and how it was raised. Since its inclusion in the 2002 Farm
Bill, COOL has had overwhelming support from both consumers and
producers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the
program and delay its implementation.

"We've waited six years
for COOL to take effect, and while this interim final rule is a good
place to start, it's far from perfect," stated Wenonah Hauter, Food
& Water Watch Executive Director. "Thanks to strong language in the
recently passed Farm Bill, the USDA rules contain some improvements
over the agency's previous attempts. But unfortunately, the rules also
contain a massive loophole that will allow large quantities of food to
go without labeling - which, given the recent scandals about the safety
of imported food, is unacceptable."

Consumer advocacy group Food
& Water Watch is dissatisfied with the definition for which foods
are "processed" - a broad definition that includes and therefore
exempts from labeling over 60 percent of pork, the majority of frozen
vegetables, an estimated 95 percent of peanuts, pecans, and macadamia
nuts, and multi-ingredient fresh produce items such as fruit salads and
salad mixes.

"USDA has created a loophole that allows far too
much food to go unlabeled," stated Hauter. "Apparently, USDA wants us
to believe that food processors can identify the origin of nuts when
they are raw, but forget where they are from as soon as they roast
them."

In addition to the loophole for foods that are roasted,
smoked, or cured, USDA's interim final rule also exempts from labeling
any product that contains two covered commodities, such as a bag of
frozen peas and carrots or a salad mix that contains lettuce and
carrots. 

"While we're pleased that COOL has finally taken
effect, USDA needs to go further to let consumers know where there food
is coming from," concluded Hauter. "We encourage consumers to look for
country-of-origin labels at the grocery store and if you don't see
them, tell the store manager you want to know where your food comes
from."

To view the Food & Water Watch letter to USDA, please visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/press/cool-final-interim-rule-letter-USDA

 

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