Consumers, Family Farmers Call for Mandatory Country of Origin Food Labeling Law


Consumers, Family Farmers Call for Mandatory Country of Origin Food Labeling Law 

Growing concerns over unsafe food imports highlight need for consumer right to know about food products

(Sacramento, CA) In the wake of increasing incidences of tainted food
products in the U.S., particularly those coming from China, consumer
and family farm representatives urged the US Senate to enact country of
origin labeling (COOL) laws. The 2007 Farm Bill approved by the U.S.
House of Representatives last month includes mandatory country of
origin labeling for meats, fruits and vegetables.

The labeling
requirements face an uncertain outcome when the bill is heard in the US

‘Consumers have a fundamental right to know where their food comes from,’ said Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California.

‘It is time for lawmakers to put health and safety concerns ahead of the profits of international agribusiness corporations.’
Holober joined with Tom Buis, President of National Farmers Union to
assert that increased incidences of tainted food products are no
surprise since federal food safety inspections have been reduced
despite growing food imports.

U.S. agricultural imports increased from
$45.7 billion in 2003 to a projected over $70 billion in 2007. Despite
the dramatic increase, the Food and Drug Administration has allocated
only $10.6 million of its $2.1 billion 2008 budget for strengthening
food safety. Recently, FDA proposed the closure of several federal food
testing laboratories including one in Oakland.

Consumer and public
health groups have protested the FDA closure plans.
‘In the face of overwhelming facts and concerns about the safety of
food imports, farmers must have the ability to identify their products
in the grocery store,’ NFU President Tom Buis said. "I applaud members
of Congress for passing mandatory COOL in the farm bill and urge
members of the Senate to keep this important provision intact during
their farm bill debate."

Country of origin labeling would allow consumers to make an informed
choice about the food they buy, particularly when a product’s origin
may be from a country that is known for unsanitary conditions, heavy
pesticide use, or frequent recalls of tainted products.
‘Allowing consumers to make informed choices to purchase US meat and
produce wouldn’t just protect public health – it would also help the US
economy and America’s struggling family farms,’ said Holober. ‘Congress
needs to take the side of consumers and swiftly implement country of
origin labeling.’

In 2002, Congress enacted a country of origin labeling law for
red meat, fruits, vegetables, peanuts and fish. The law was originally
supposed to go into effect in September 2004 but powerful agribusiness
and grocery interests have successfully delayed its implementation.
Only seafood labeling was spared.

A recent survey found that 92% of consumers support country of origin
labeling of food. According to the Consumer Federation of America
(CFA), the cost of labeling all food products would increase the
grocery bill for a family of four by about four to nine cents per week.
In 2004 the Consumer Federation of California sponsored legislation to
require county of origin labeling for fresh beef products sold in
supermarkets. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation (AB 2389 ‘