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February 4th, 2013

Taking a Stand Against Mystery Meat

By Anna Ghosh

Food labels are a straightforward and fundamental concept but consumer advocates and concerned citizens have been fighting for honest, transparent labels about their food for centuries, and the fight rages on. Food & Water Watch and its allies are fighting hard across the country to make the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food the law. However, there’s another important label that is law, but its fate is hanging in the balance – Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL. After more than a decade of hard work, the COOL rule was included in the 2008 Farm Bill and has had overwhelming support from both consumers and U.S. farmers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the program and delay its implementation.

Today, because of COOL, consumers know more about where their food comes from, although there are still too many loopholes and limitations. COOL  applies to fresh seafood, cuts of meat (but not processed meats like sausage), fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several kinds of nuts. But even before the first COOL label was slapped on a steak or pork chop, the meatpacking industry sought to unravel COOL by challenging theses commonsense consumer labels at the World Trade Organization as an illegal barrier to international trade

At the end of 2011, the World Trade Organization ruled that although COOL labels were a legitimate goal, the United States’ COOL program is a violation of international trade law. In March of 2012, President Obama stood up for American consumers and farmers and appealed the WTO’s decision, but the U.S. lost the appeal in June. Essentially, the WTO over-ruled the U.S. Congress and the overwhelming majority of consumers and farmers.

Then, last week, Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and 27 of their colleagues from both parties, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative urging that any changes to the COOL rule must continue to give consumers information about the source of the meat in their grocery carts.

People deserve the right to know how and where their food was produced so they can make informed decisions about what they’re feeding themselves and their families – it’s that simple. We applaud Senator Tester and his colleagues for standing up for consumers’ right to know and hope the Obama Administration follows suit. Please join us in asking President Obama and Secretary Vilsack to protect country origin labeling.

For more information:

The letter signed by the bipartisan coalition of senators urging the USDA to protect COOL

Senator Tester’s press release

More background on COOL

Global Grocer: Fill your virtual grocery cart with produce from around the world and learn about its hidden dangers

Report: A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China

Report: The Poisoned Fruit of American Trade Policy


9 Comments on Taking a Stand Against Mystery Meat

  1. T. Banks Wilkinson says:

    Boycott Canadian seafood!!

  2. Robin Males says:

    I am taking a stand against mystery meat.

  3. Ellen Bryant says:

    Farmed, Pharmed, Phacktory, or Lab-boo-rat-tory origin?

  4. Mary Anne Andrews says:

    We need to know more about what we eat, not only what we’re allowed to know.

  5. Susan Andrews says:

    Do we not have the right to make decisions about what we eat? Is that not a fundamental human right? How can I make a decision if this vital information is kept a secret.
    One more reason to eat local.

  6. nicole boxer says:

    Of course deserve to know where our food comes from.

  7. Gary Ryan says:

    How about this? I’m flat out going to stop eating meat, I don’t care where it comes from!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Knowing where our food comes from is necessary to ensure a minimum level of accountability.

  9. This is precisely why pet treats imported from China are a mystery meat: consumers wishing to avoid chicken from China for example, are in a regulatory loop-hole/black-out. The package can legally say it is “Made in the U.S.” when in fact it isn’t. Example: if the chicken from China is merely an ingredient of a whole product, U.S. importers are not required to list the COO of every single ingredient in a formula. Another example: Take dehydrated chicken from China, if the product is “substantially changed” after it is imported to the US, the US importer is also not required to list the COO. COOL already were a joke: hopelessly inadequate in protecting or informing consumers. Consumers are led to believe simply avoiding pet treats “Made in China” will solve their problem – unfortunately, nothing could be farther from reality. U.S. importers further obfuscate the origin of their products by emblazoning their packaging with American flags and Western icons such as cowboys and wagons. It’s disgraceful – and it most certainly should be illegal. Meanwhile, dogs are continuing to die.

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