Sunday, October 5, 2008

Country of Origin Labeling requirements go into effect

Country of origin labeling rules have gone into effect. The requirements were originally passed in 2002, but Congress has repeatedly delayed the implementation. A recent press conference by the USDA explained the implementation new rules.

A USA Today article on the requirements includes a sidebar that notes that up to 90.6% of all lamb meat is imported. What's most interesting about the rules is not perhaps what foods are covered, but the items that are exempted. Smaller butcher shops and fish markets do not have to comply with the rules. Hamburger meat packaging simply has to list the countries where it "may" have originated. As the USA Today article notes, any processing or cooking of the product also allows it to be exempted:
"You cook shrimp, it's not required to be labeled. Roasting, curing, salting, adding smoke flavor, all out," says Michael Hansen of Consumers Union. "You import a piece of fish and add a little smoke flavor … boom. Processed. Out."
The Consumer Federation of America filed comments last month on the new rules estimating that 60% of meat from pigs will not be covered. The Palm Beach Post weighs in on the new labeling requirements here.

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