COOL update

The fight over mandatory country-of-origin labeling goes on. According to those trying to get Congress to roll back the law and make such labeling voluntary, the producers who originally backed COOL are beginning to realize the costs and liabilities involved.

A study released October 14, 2003, by the Food Marketing Institute indicated that though producers have a favorable opinion of country-of-origin labeling, 62% of the meat, vegetable, and fruit processors oppose the COOL law in its current form, and want Congress to change or repeal the law before it takes effect in September 2004.

In mid-October, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the American Frozen Food Institute, and the National Food Processors Assn. testified before a House Agriculture subcommittee in opposition to COOL, warning of the unintended consequences that are likely to result in higher prices for consumers and greater use of foreign ingredients. Opponents believe they will pick up support for repeal once final regulations are issued and implementation begins. But that is little comfort to retailers who say they will have to make huge initial investments to comply with the law, before it is likely to be changed or repealed.

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