Letter to US Senate supporting Country of Origin Labeling

January 20, 2004

Dear Senator:

The 2002 farm bill included a requirement that meat, produce, fish and peanuts be identified in the grocery store by their country of origin. The provision ordered the Agriculture Department to set up a voluntary labeling program by September 2002, with a mandatory program to be established by fall 2004. The labeling provision was favored by farm groups and a coalition of consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America. Opponents, in yet another effort to kill the labeling program, now seek a two-year delay in implementing the law.

Consumer Federation of America has long supported country-of-origin labeling of meat, poultry, seafood and fresh produce, as a means of providing consumers with additional information about the source of their food. As a matter of choice, many consumers may wish to purchase produce grown and processed in the United States or meat from animals born, raised and processed here. Also, consumers may wish to either seek out or avoid meat or produce from a particular country based on reports of sanitary conditions or pesticide use in that country, or in reaction to specific incidents of disease associated with certain foods.

Without country-of-origin labeling, these consumers are unable to make an informed choice between U.S. and imported products. The recent mad cow scare and Hepatitis A outbreak related to scallions only reinforces the fact that consumers need to be able to determine where their food comes from.

Recent statements by the food industry have called for establishing a voluntary labeling system, instead of a federally mandated one. Given the fact that those backing a voluntary program have opposed the idea of country-of-origin labeling, it is hard to accept that this program would come to fruition and be made to work effectively. The industry proposal does not even guarantee that all producers would participate.

We ask that you join Consumer Federation of America and the nearly 165 agriculture and consumer groups in opposing the two-year delay in mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

Sincerely,

Chris Waldrop
Health and Safety Associate
Consumer Federation of America