Food Labels Lack Country Of Origin Info Despite 5 Year Old Law

Unlike seafood, the meat, produce and nuts you buy don’t have a country of origin label, despite a 5 year old law that says they should, according to the New York Times. Lobbyists and congresspeople have managed to hold off enforcement of the law since it was passed in 2002, but now proponents of country of origin labels (COOL) think they may have enough momentum from the Chinese Poison Train to finally make the label a reality. From the NYT:

“No. 1, there’s a basic consumer right to know,” said Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, an advocacy group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine and supports the labeling law. “People are more and more concerned about the food they eat.”

But the labeling law has formidable foes, including the meat lobby, which so far has outmaneuvered its opponents on Capitol Hill. In the years since the labeling law was enacted as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, its opponents have successfully blocked all but seafood labeling from taking effect.

Both sides make interesting arguments:

The consumer, upon seeing the U.S.D.A. label, would naturally presume that it’s a U.S. product,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal fund, United Stockgrowers of America, an organization of cattle ranchers better known as R-Calf. He said the effect for meatpackers was that “they are able to bring in a cheaper product and sell it under the reputation of the U.S. cattle industry.”

Opponents of origin labeling say the measure is simply protectionism, aided by false claims about imported products. American meatpackers may stop buying imported cattle altogether given the costs of segregating and keeping track of such products.

They also say it would be difficult and expensive to label ground meat like hamburger, since it often includes meat from different cows.

“They talk about how the quality is better in the United States,” said Mark D. Dopp, senior vice president for regulator affairs and general counsel for the American Meat Institute, a trade group. “The standards are all the same. For these people to talk about how all this inferior product is coming in, it’s just nonsense.”

Ultimately, they’re all guessing what you’ll do when you see the label. Will you pay more for American food? Do you care?

Labels Lack Food’s Origin Despite Law [NYT]
(Photo: stirwise)