US meat origin labels delayed

Related tags Pork United states congress

The US Congress has finally decided to delay country-of-origin
labels on beef until autumn 2006, despite arguments that the labels
would reassure consumers during the current mad cow disease crisis.

Under the law, which Congress passed two years ago, mandatory labels were scheduled to appear in grocery stores on 30 September 2003 on red meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables and peanuts.

A USDA spokesperson told Reuters​ that the delay "gives Congress additional time to address the impacts of the requirements. We think that would be a wise thing to do"​.

The US meat industry is delighted with the announcement of the delay. It claimed that the law would have been too costly and would be a record-keeping headache.

But consumer and farm groups have generally supported the label initiative as a means of distinguishing US products on the grocery shelf. Organisations such as the National Farmers' Union said that they would keep pressure on lawmakers to put mandatory labelling back on the agenda.

In response, trade groups speaking for cattle, hog and produce growers said they will craft a cheaper, voluntary labelling system as a replacement. An alliance that includes the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA), National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), said that they are already in the process of developing a new voluntary labelling system.

"While NPPC continues to oppose mandatory country-of-origin labelling, the two-year time out period should give all parties ample time to create a voluntary, market-driven framework,"​ said president Jon Caspers.

Not everyone in the food industry is in agreement, however. In December, a coalition of 165 US food manufacturers and associations sent a letter to President Bush arguing that any delay of the mandatory country-of-origin labelling law was not supported by the overwhelming majority of US food manufacturers.

The coalition, called Americans for Country of Origin Labelling (ACOL), has urged the President to oppose Congressional efforts to delay country-of-origin labelling.

Related topics Food safety and labeling

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