GAO reports on COOL

The battle over mandatory country-of-origin labeling continued as the General Accounting Office weighed in with a report that examined several aspects of the U.S.

Department of Agriculture’s initiative at the request of Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who strongly back COOL. In a September news conference, Sens. Daschle and Johnson, joined by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said GAO found that USDA’s estimate of $1.9 billion in paperwork costs for industry in the first year of the voluntary program to be “questionable and not well supported.” The senators claim the program can be implemented cost-effectively.

Associations representing retail grocers and meat packers say that the paperwork costs are only half the story. USDA’s estimate “fails to account for the much larger hard-dollar cost to reengineer a major part of our supply chain according to country rather than efficiency and consumer value,” according to the Food Marketing Institute. The GAO report also stated that some U.S. trading partners view the new requirements as a possible trade barrier.

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