Country-of-origin labeling

Proponents of country-of-origin labeling have scored a major hit. The 2002 Farm Bill, signed by President George W. Bush, mandates country-of-origin labeling for meat, produce, fish, and peanuts.

To bear the U.S. label, meat products must come only from livestock born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agricul-ture is expected to issue regulations implementing the mandate in September. Meat packers are concerned that USDA may establish a fee for certifying and auditing the labeling program.

The American Meat Insti-tute estimated the new labeling requirement will result in nearly $1 billion in added annual costs for the livestock, red meat, and supermarket industries plus an additional $60 million a year for USDA to oversee the program.

The Food Marketing Insti-tute noted the difficulties in country-of-origin labeling for supermarkets, which receive boxes of meat from cattle born and raised in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. Cattle are often born in one country and raised in another. “A labeling mandate for beef would require costly changes throughout the supply chain,” FMI said.

Both AMI and FMI warned that country-of-origin labeling is protectionist and does nothing to promote food safety.

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