January 30, 2007


US senators propose moving up deadline for meat-origin labelling



Senators from several US states have introduced a bill that would move up the deadline for all meat products to carry a country-of-origin label (COOL).


The deadline would be moved up from Sep 30, 2008, to Sep 30 of this year under the legislation sponsored by Senators Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Craig Thomas, R-Wyoming.


Senator John Thune, R-South Dakota, and lawmakers from North Dakota, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico have also have signed onto the bill.


"This delay hurts South Dakota's cattle producers and treats consumers with disdain," Thune said in a release. "I will continue to work with my colleagues who support mandatory COOL to fight this delay and secure an earlier implementation date."


Supporters of labelling say it would give consumers more information and enable them to choose American beef. But meatpackers and supermarkets say the measure would be burdensome and costly, requiring reams of paperwork.


Baucus called it "a disgrace" that the labelling has been delayed.


"It's time for Congress to heed the will of the people. Producers and consumers in Montana and the rest of the country want COOL and it's time we make that happen," he said.


Thomas said many products such as clothing already have country-of-origin labels.


"It is important to provide consumers with more product information, better choices, and a better chance to support American agriculture," Thomas said. "This bill is certainly of great importance to Wyoming livestock producers and consumers who have the right to know where their food comes from.


"If it is good enough for T-shirts, it is good enough for T-bones," he said.


COOL was included in the 2002 farm bill and was set to go into effect on Sep 30, 2004, for beef, lamb, pork, fish, fruits and vegetables. Congress has repeatedly pushed back the deadline for all products in the bill except seafood.