Natural Foods Merchandiser

COOL rule suspended for 60 days

President Barack Obama has put a 60-day freeze on pending regulations of the Bush administration. That means that Country of Origin Labeling rules, which were to take effect March 16, will go back to the Agriculture Department for review.

The freeze was announced in a memo from Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.

COOL legislation will require certain food products sold in the United States to carry labels listing the product's country of origin. The rule applies to ground and muscle cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; perishable agricultural commodities; and macadamia nuts, pecans, ginseng and peanuts. The COOL program for fish and shellfish was implemented in October 2004.

Opponents of the current rule say it would let meat processed in a U.S. facility that processes both domestic and imported meat be labeled as "multi-country." Supporters of the multi-country designation say it reduces the cost of what had promised to be an expensive segregation process.

R-CALF USA wants beef that is born, raised and processed in the United States to have a USA label. "It is more important to implement COOL properly than it is to implement it quickly," R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said. "Since October the previous administration has allowed meatpackers to mislabel USA beef as if it was a mixed-origin product from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. This mislabeling is harmful to U.S. cattle producers and misleading to U.S. consumers. R-CALF USA is pleased that this rule is being held-up so the new administration can it can write it properly."

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