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Senate freezes poultry labeling issue

California's two senators cried foul to current frozen poultry labeling regulations that are loose enough to allow chicken to be labeled as fresh even if the flesh is hardened.

But the Golden State lawmakers weren't able to convince their peers to tighten the regulations, despite compelling arguments and an unusual press-conference shtick involving the senators bowling with the "fresh," rock-solid birds. The Senate voted to nix new U.S. Department of Agriculture rules that would have prohibited labeling poultry as fresh if it had been chilled below 26° F, the point at which flesh hardens, meaning that according to the Senate, a hardened, frozen chicken is actually a fresh one. Keepers of the status quo maintain that "fresh" should be viewed in terms of the quality of the product rather than merely being the opposite of frozen. But politics played as big a role as semantics in the debate. Although the move to change labeling rules was prompted by requests from the California poultry industry, which argued it was protecting consumers from misleading labeling claims, other poultry interests, particularly those in the South, charged it was merely an attempt to keep poultry grown in the south out of California. Poultry typically is chilled to lower temperatures for long distance transportation. The issue hasn't totally been iced, however; it now goes to a House-Senate conference committee for resolution.

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