Thursday, January 15, 2009

COOL Final rule

The USDA has issued its final rule on country of origin labeling, and here is some coverage in the consumer press:

Canada shelves WTO complaint over U.S. meat rules
Canada pleased with relaxation of COOL rules for meat

Final country of origin labeling law draws criticism: From Bloomberg, the lede:

Longtime supporters of U.S. regulations requiring meat and fresh produce to be labeled by country of origin say the government’s final rule on the matter doesn’t do enough to distinguish U.S. meat from competitors.

TK: No mention of produce provisions; focus on meat

Secret ingredients
From Seattle PI, a blog quoting Food and Water Watch

The USDA definition 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.

"It is inexcusable to exempt so much food from this basic labeling requirement just because one ingredient has been added or because something has been roasted or cooked," Hauter says.

TK: United Fresh Produce Association earlier issued a member communication that identified revisions included in the final COOL rule: From United:

  • USDA is barred from requiring any new record-keeping other than normal records kept during the regular course of doing business.
  • A new specific provision will allow labeling of a U.S. State, region or locality in which a product is produced to meet label standards as a product of the U.S. Therefore, a descriptor such as "Minnesota Grown" or "Pride of New York" would be sufficient labeling to comply with the law.
  • The potential liability for retail mistakes or absence of labeling at point of purchase has been significantly reduced.
  • Retailers will not be liable for misinformation provided by suppliers.
  • All proposed fines on either retailers or suppliers who are found to be "willfully violating" the Act are subject to a hearing before USDA, and are limited to $1,000 for each violation.
TK: Big Apple published the final rule on COOL in the Fresh Produce Discussion Group. Find it here.

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