Monday, August 4, 2008
Jake Putnam photo
USDA Proposes Country of Origin Labels for Food
Boise--With tomato and pepper food scares in the summer headlines, the nation’s food industry will soon start requiring country of origin labels on meat, produce and other groceries.
Idaho farmers and ranchers know that labeling is more expensive but the quality of US produced food is prized by world consumers and that means profit and will bolster consumer confidence.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 233-page draft of the rules on Friday in the Federal Register along with the estimated billion dollar price tag.
The project started six years ago and was spurred on by producers and consumer groups that shoppers should know where their food comes from, just as they do for shoes or auto parts.
"It's because of stringent government rules and regulations that our farmers produce the most, the safest and the best food on the planet. Shoppers want to know where their food comes from and we're going to tell them," said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Frank Priestley.
COOL advocates think that country labeling would have made a difference in the recent salmonella outbreak that left 1,200 people sick in 42 states. It was first thought that tomatoes were causing the illness and stores took raw tomatoes off the shelves. But the USDA investigators traced the salmonella poisoning to jalapeño and serrano peppers to Mexico.
COOL legislation requires retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin food like muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, chicken, goat and pork; ground beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat and ground pork; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities; macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng and peanuts.
USDA is accepting comments on the interim rule. Comments can be submitted through the internet at http://www.regulations.gov, by facsimile to (202) 354-4693, or by written testimony to Country of Origin Labeling Program, Room 2607-S; Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA; STOP 0254; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.; Washington, D.C. 20250-0254.