Country of Origin Labels Need Your Support
By Consumers Union on Monday, March 25th, 2013
Do you like knowing where your beef, chicken and fish comes from? We do. Had some New Zealand lamb that was especially tasty and want to try it again? Or perhaps you veer away from shrimp from Vietnam, knowing they allow a lot more drugs on their fish farms than we do.
Country of Origin Labeling, known as COOL, mandated in 2008, remains under threat however. In 2009 Mexico and Canada filed a case at the World Trade Organization claiming that US COOL requirements put their beef at a disadvantage. A World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute resolution panel decided in 2012 that COOL was permissible under WTO rules, but the way the US was implementing it was not. The current labels didn’t match the required recordkeeping. The USDA would have to either require less information on labels, or require more detail.
The good news is that USDA has just proposed a “fix” to satisfy the WTO that will give consumers more information–letting us know the specifics of where meat products are born, raised and slaughtered. But the major multinational meat producers are not pleased.
If you like the idea of knowing where your meat, poultry and fish came from, USDA needs your support now. USDA has put its new COOL rules out for public comment.
Your support for the Country of Origin Labeling proposal can be entered on the government’s website: www.regulations.gov. It’s a little bit tricky, but here’s how you do it: (1) click on regulations.gov (2) in the Search box, type Country of Origin and hit Search (3) you will see the words Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling; click on the box next to it that says Comment Now and (4) a page will open up where you need to fill in all the boxes and insert your short comment.
We hope you enjoy this experiment in public participation in governmental rulemaking. Please be sure, someone at USDA reads every comment, and they count up the pros and cons. Big Beef will be recording their con votes; let USDA know how you feel.
UPDATE: The comment period closed on April 11. Many thanks to everyone who filed their comments with the USDA in support of labeling.