October 2, 2003
US Meat Producers To Comply With New Rule
U.S. food retailers, concerned about a new law requiring country-of-origin labels be placed on beef and pork products, are increasing pressure on suppliers to prepare for eventual implementation of new government regulations, according to the American Meat Institute.
Compiling the regulations for the law, which will be put in place September 2004, have not been completed, but cattle ranchers, meat packers and retailers say they believe they will have to keep detailed records of the production chain in order to track country-origin information for eventual labelling.
The American Meat Institute said that retailers have stepped up requests for their meat supplies to comply with the labelling requirements. Suppliers have also been asked to pay for fines imposed by the government on retailers. Civil penalties can be assessed to retailers as high as $10,000 per violation of the law, making companies reliant on the record-keeping diligence and honesty of their beef and pork suppliers.
There is a chance, though, that the implementation of country-of-origin labelling requirements will be postponed by at least a year.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved in July an amendment to its fiscal year 2004 farm spending bill that would prohibit USDA funding to develop and oversee the law's regulations. The Senate has not approved similar legislation, though, so the difference will have to be settled in a Senate-House conference committee this year.