Congress Considers Weakened Country Of Origin Labeling
Jen Mueller , (202) 797-6553 or
Patty Lovera , (202) 797-6557
Congress May Leave Consumers in the Dark about Imports
House Agriculture Committee Considers Weakened Country Of Origin Labeling
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
In the wake of months of headlines about tainted imported foods, consumers are demanding to know where their food is from. But instead of ensuring that consumers get this vital information as soon as possible, it appears that some members of the House Agriculture Committee may do the exact opposite by proposing weakened the rules for country of origin labeling. The committee will be considering the Farm Bill today, and we urge them to reject any amendment to redefine what animals are covered by country-of-origin labeling or make labeling voluntary for fruits and vegetables.
An amendment to weaken the rules for COOL may be considered today by the committee as they consider the Farm Bill. The amendment would:
- Change the definition of livestock eligible for the USA label, by allowing an animal imported into the United States before slaughter to be considered a product of the United States. This would allow an animal born and raised in another country to be labeled as a product of the United States, which is inaccurate and misleading to consumers.
- Turn labeling for fruits and vegetables into a voluntary program. The amendment would also limit even this voluntary labeling scheme to only the 20 most frequently consumed varieties of raw fruits and vegetables.
These changes essentially gut the provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill that established COOL. The standard requiring animals to be born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States to be eligible for a USA label must be maintained for consumers to have confidence in the integrity of any labeling program. Fruits and vegetables should remain covered by the mandatory country of origin labeling rules. Consumers deserve to know the origin of produce, just like they do for meat.
Any amendment to the Farm Bill that limits the scope or accuracy of country-of-origin labeling is an insult to consumers, who have waited for far too long to know where their food comes from. If the growing scandal over the safety of imported food has shown us anything, it is that consumers are virtually on their own when it comes to protecting themselves from unsafe imported food. Without accurate, mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat and produce consumers will remain in the dark. We urge the House Agriculture Committee to reject any amendments to weaken country of origin labeling.”