Country-of-origin law blasted

The food industry continues its efforts to get the government to change the new country-of-origin food labeling law before the 2003 voluntary marking guidelines become mandatory in 2004.

In comments filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food Marketing Institute said the record-keeping costs would far exceed the $2 billion estimated by USDA. FMI said USDA vastly underestimated the time required to set up and maintain a recordkeeping system and totally omitted any costs to segregate products by country throughout the supply chain; to design, print, and attach labels; to audit companies; to verify label accuracy; and to train employees.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration has agreed to review how the COO labeling law is implemented to minimize the adverse effect on small food retailers and wholesalers. SBA has no authority to change laws or regulations, but it can make recommendations to mitigate a law’s impact on small business.

The American Frozen Food Institute issued a white paper detailing how the COO law would have unintended consequences that could cost American jobs. The law could create disincentives to maintaining frozen produce and frozen seafood facilities in the United States and to sourcing domestic produce and seafood for further processing, according to the white paper.

A consumer survey conducted for AFFI in January 2003 found that fewer than 1% of consumers cited “country where a product is from” as a determining factor in purchasing decisions. A similar percentage gave the same response in 1996, indicating that concern over COO has not increased. AFFI called on Congress to hold hearings to identify ways to mitigate the negative consequences of the law.

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