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31 July, 2008 - America Gets COOL

Just in case you have forgotten, September 30th is the date that America gets COOL. That’s right! COOL....as in Country of Origin Labeling mandated in both the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. It is finally here, and a few days ago, the Department of Agriculture issued an interim final rule for the mandatory Country of Origin Labeling program.

Some of the highlights of the rule; it covers muscle cuts and ground beef, including veal, lamb, goat, chicken and pork meat; perishable agricultural commodities, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; macadamia nuts, pecans, ginseng and peanuts, as required in the original legislation. Commodities covered under mandatory COOL must be labeled at retail, to indicate their country of origin. However, they are excluded from the program if they are an ingredient in a processed food item.

Food service establishments such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, bars, lounges and similar enterprises are exempt from the mandatory country of origin labeling requirements. Generally, reaction has been positive; as a matter of fact, it brought together some strange bed-fellows in support. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in it’s statement, “We are pleased to have an interim final rule in place. It incorporates provisions that make mandatory labeling more feasible for producers.” Then R-CALF, which seldom agrees with NCBA on anything said it was “pleased to see the new interim final rule; for the most part a simplified and workable rule for independent U.S. cattle producers.”

That’s all well and good, but for me it begs the question... How do we trace these foods to their very beginning without a national and workable traceability program? I think it comes back to something I’ve said before (and a lot of people disagree with me); we need a National Animal ID Program. Now I know COOL and the National Animal ID program are two separate pieces of legislation, supposedly not related, but how can we have one without the other? How could we trace a food problem to its origin if we don’t have better traceability than we have now?

I come back to the recent tomato salmonella scare. An entire segment of agriculture, tomato production, was brought to its knees and growers lost millions of dollars because we had no quick way to find the source. Adding insult to injury for tomato producers was the final determination that the source was jalapeno chiles from Mexico.

My point is until we can quickly find the source of contamination, the entire industry and all of its producers will pay the price. Until we have a real traceability program in place, I doubt that we can really be COOL!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.


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