Problems with COOL

Food industry groups filed comments with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service on its interim final rules for country-of-origin labeling requirements.

Although AMS made some changes based on earlier comments, groups such as NFPA, GMA, and the American Frozen Food Institute still had criticisms.

They complained that AMS had interpreted the exemption for processed foods too narrowly and that its definition of processed food is inconsistent with other federal regulations. According to GMA, processed foods have been defined as raw agricultural commodities that have been cooked, frozen, seasoned, blended, or preserved. Congress intended that the new COOL rules only apply to foods not already required to bear COOL labeling under tariff laws, said AFFI. The exemption should include single-ingredient frozen fruits and vegetables and single-ingredient frozen seafood. Only seafood must meet the mandatory September 30, 2004, implementation deadline. A two-year delay applies to all other covered products, if Congress doesn’t restore the original deadlines.

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