Voluntary COOL legislation

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Minority Member Charles Stenholm (D-TX) introduced legislation to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a voluntary country-of-origin labeling program.

This program would supersede the mandatory COOL labeling that takes effect for farm- and wild-raised fish and shellfish on September 30, 2004, and for meat, produce, and peanuts two years later. The Food Promotion Act of 2004 is supported by major food industry groups including the Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Assn., National Food Processors Assn., Grocery Manufacturers of America, American Meat Institute, National Pork Producers Council, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Assn., National Fisheries Institute, Produce Marketing Assn., National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., and others.

The bill allows the agriculture secretary to recognize existing national, state, regional, and brand labeling programs. Dropped from record-keeping requirements are third-party audits, two-year paper trails, and other paperwork.

Rep. Goodlatte said he hopes hearings can be held and the legislation passed before the September 30, 2004, labeling requirement takes effect.

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