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The U.S. Department of Agriculture released rules on “country of origin labeling” (COOL) this week, and nobody is really happy with the outcome. U.S. producers and consumers have long wanted the federal government to require meat and fresh produce to carry the country of origin on a label. This requirement was in the last two farm bills. The final rules, however, are anything but clear cut. They take effect March 16.
First, the rule blurs the distinction between U.S. and foreign beef by allowing U.S. meat produced in a domestic facility that also processes imported animals to carry a multi-country label. Bloomburg reports that COOL, “is supposed to let Americans know where their steaks come from, and to help American ranchers market their products,” said Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, in an e-mailed statement. “It’s not supposed to be complicated or watered- down.”
People aren’t happy in foodie-land either. The Seattle newspaper reports that the “USDA definition exempts from labeling over 60 percent of pork, the majority of frozen vegetables, an estimated 95 percent of peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts, and multi-ingredient fresh produce items, such as fruit salads and salad mixes.” http: “Given the recent scandals about the safety of imported food, it is unacceptable that the rule was approved with an overly broad definition for which foods are ‘processed,'” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, a national consumer organization.