Thursday, September 18, 2008


September 30, 2008 is the day that we get some much needed changes in food labeling. If you're a foodie like me, that means we are finally going to get Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling! the actual law calling for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was first passed in 2002 but big agribusiness fought it in the worst way. They complained it would cost too much when there was clear evidence that it didn't raise fish prices years ago when it was instituted for seafood. COOL is already required for seafood but now it will be extended to beef, pork, chicken, lamb, fruits, veggies, and peanuts. Processed foods are exempt. There is a good article in the Chicago Tribune about COOL... New Law Requires Labels on Meat.

You are still going to need to be careful because the new law has some serious loopholes where the Bush USDA went down on the big agribusinesses. Labels are not going to be required on processed foods. The definition of processed being the addition of another ingredient. If you get frozen carrots from California they have to be labeled but frozen peas and carrots from Bulgaria don't require a label. The other big gotcha is in imported livestock. Under COOL, meat from cattle imported into the U.S. for immediate slaughter can bear a label that states that it's a product of its origin country and the United States, even though the animal was raised entirely outside the U.S. There are some other nuances that need attention but the responsible manufacturers and distributors will label everything regardless of the loopholes.

After September 30th the new rule is that you don't buy anything without a country of origin label and if your grocer tries to get away with doing so, make sure you ask him or her what they are trying to hide. The next step is to insist on country of origin on everything, processed or not. Ask the parents of 6000 plus babies in China about food labeling and quality if you don't think it is important.

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