Natural Foods Merchandiser

Labelling Law May COOL Its Heels

A law that would have required all meats, produce and farm-raised fish to carry labels stating their country of origin, beginning in September, probably won?t take effect for at least two more years. During last-minute congressional wrangling with the House of Representatives, Senate Republicans agreed to include language in an omnibus spending bill that would gut funding for enforcement of the country of origin labeling law.

The Senate had previously voted 58-36 to reject a House proposal to block COOL, which was part of the 2002 Farm Bill. ?Republicans met in private, denying Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee access to the meetings,? said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in a news release. ?This is a very thinly disguised proposal to kill COOL. I don?t think the American people will be fooled.?

Much of the meatpacking and retail industry had opposed COOL, citing its high price tag as well as implementation concerns. Ranchers and produce growers, however, largely favored the law, seeing it as a way to boost sales of domestic product.

The House approved the spending bill Dec. 8; the Senate is expected to act later this month. If the spending bill is passed, labeling will remain voluntary until 2006.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 1/p. 10

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