November 06, 2003



US Meat-Labelling Law Rebuked By American Meat Institute & Food Trade Groups


The American Meat Institute and more than a dozen other food trade groups on Wednesday urged US' Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to work to block a law requiring country-of-origin labels on U.S. beef, pork and lamb products next year.


The Senate is expected to debate the issue as early as this week as part of its work on an annual funding bill for the U.S. Agriculture Department.


Last year, Congress approved a broad farm policy overhaul that included imposing mandatory labels on all U.S. meat products, which will be effected on September 30, 2004.


Farm and activist groups say the labels will distinguish U.S.-grown meat from competitors at the grocery store and will be especially valuable to American consumers if Canada discovers another case of mad cow disease in its cattle. Earlier this year, Canadian officials diagnosed the deadly disease in a single animal, which prompted the USDA to temporarily close the border to Canadian beef and cattle imports.


U.S. meat and food industry groups bitterly oppose the mandatory labels, stating their reasons as labelling involve too high a cost and difficult implementation.


Earlier this year, the House of Representatives narrowly voted to bar enforcement of the label law. The label law is seen as having broader support in the Senate, according to legislative aides.


In a letter to Frist, the food industry groups said the label law should be repealed. They cited a recent USDA analysis that estimated the mandatory labels would cost the industry as much as $3.9 billion in the first year.


In September, the General Accounting Office said it was highly skeptical of the USDA's previous estimate the label law would cost $1.9 billion a year. The report by the investigative arm of Congress did not include an estimate of its own.

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