Natural Foods Merchandiser

Voluntary COOL Rule Proposed

The National Grocers Association, which represents independent food distributors, is now spearheading a voluntary country-of-origin labeling program, in collaboration with the Food Marketing Institute and several beef, pork, seafood and fruit and vegetable producers.

When Congress passed a $373 billion omnibus spending bill in January, it effectively postponed for at least two years any implementation of mandatory COOL laws, which were part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Ranchers and produce growers, for the most part, had supported COOL legislation, particularly in the wake of mad cow disease traced back to Canadian cattle, and imported Mexican onions tainted with hepatitis sickening American consumers. Numerous meatpacking, distribution and retail groups, however, opposed a mandatory labeling program, saying it would be a costly burden riddled with red tape.

?The current law and proposed regulations will hurt all segments of the food industry,? said NGA President and Chief Executive Thomas K. Zaucha. While the industry is ?committed to providing consumers with the safest, highest-quality food products,? the groups believe that goal is best accomplished through a voluntary program, he said.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 3/p. 16

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