The dispute over mandatory versus voluntary country-of-origin labeling for food products continues. Provisions for mandatory COOL were included in the 2002 Farm Bill, and the law currently is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 30, 2006. Supporters of voluntary COOL had hoped Congress would adopt a bill calling for voluntary COOL, introduced by House Ag Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Minority Member Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), for inclusion in the 2005 omnibus spending bill. Congress did not, however, add the voluntary measures to the spending bill, which was completed on Nov. 20. The industry is sharply divided on the issue, with groups such as NCBA and AMI lobbying to keep COOL voluntary, while others such as the National Farmers Union and
Following are some comments from organizations on either side of the issue, in response to news of the 2005 spending bill.
From the American Meat Institute:
We are disappointed that legislation to implement voluntary instead of mandatory country-of-origin labeling was not passed by the Congress in this session, but we commend and thank those who supported its passage.
Country-of-origin labeling is one of the most costly and cumbersome pieces of legislation ever introduced. First year implementation costs are estimated to be $3.9 billion. While proponents “package” it as a consumer right-to-know law, meat is covered under the law, but not poultry. And retail stores are covered, but not restaurants. The fact is, this law really is an anti-import law aimed at creating unfounded concerns about imported products. All meat products sold in the
Furthermore, there is no reliable evidence that consumers want country-of-origin labeling or are willing to pay more for it. In fact, when the International Food Information Council polled consumers in January 2004 about whether there was anything they’d like to see on food labels that currently isn’t there, less than 0.7 percent of the people surveyed named country-of-origin information as something they would like to see added. Three-quarters of respondents indicated that there wasn’t any additional information they’d like to see appear.
From the National Farmers
National Farmers Union congratulated congressional appropriators for resisting a repeal of mandatory country-of-origin food labeling in the omnibus spending package.