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Grocery Manufacturers ask USDA to reconsider COOL regulations.

An association of U.S. food, beverage, and consumer product producers--The Grocery Manufacturers of America--has called on USDA to reconsider plans to require companies to provide meat, fish, and other products with country-of-origin labels. "We continue to oppose mandatory country-of-origin labeling," said David Stafford, director of federal affairs at GMA. "And furthermore, the proposed guidelines for voluntary country-of-origin labeling, which USDA will use as a 'blueprint' for mandatory labeling, have serious flaws."

A press release issued by GMA April 9 said that the organization had submitted detailed comments on the proposed guidelines to USDA the week of April 7 in response to a notice published in the Federal Register last October requesting comments as the agency prepares to issue mandatory country-of-origin labeling regulations that will take effect at the end of September 2004.

U.S. officials said that USDA plans to begin drafting the regulations--mandated by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002--later this month.

Stafford, of GMA, said that, while the intent of Congress was to allow U.S. producers to clearly market their products as "U.S.-grown," the "reality" of the new rules being proposed by USDA would only add to the regulatory burden for USDA and the food industry while providing U.S. consumers with little new or useful information.

The comments filed by GMA with USDA say, for example, that frozen and processed produce, along with frozen seafood imported into the United States, already have to bear a clear, indelible mark indicating that they were produced outside the United States. But GMA says that the proposed new country-of-origin rules would "unnecessarily" require U.S. producers, in addition to foreign producers, to label their products.

"Rather than creating a labeling system that could potentially force food manufacturers to source their production or their ingredients from foreign sources only in order to ensure regulatory compliance, GMA hopes the USDA will revise the proposed regulations," Stafford said. "By eliminating the proposed regulatory flaws and maintaining a voluntary labeling system, USDA could prevent consumer confusion at the supermarket and significantly reduce the potential regulatory burden placed on the U.S. food processors.

USDA has said that food service establishments, such as restaurants and cafeterias, will not be covered under the new program.
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Title Annotation:country-of-origin labels
Comment:Grocery Manufacturers ask USDA to reconsider COOL regulations.(country-of-origin labels)
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 21, 2003
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