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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Name:
    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Shoppers to see more foods labeled with country of origin

    [...]
    It's a law years in the making but timely, as China's milk scandal and the recent salmonella-tainted Mexican peppers prompt growing concern over the safety of imported foods.

    Still, hold the import-bashing: Numerous outbreaks in recent years have come from U.S.-produced foods, like spinach grown in California.

    Until now, shoppers have had little clue where many everyday foods — meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, certain nuts — originate. That's what the so-called COOL law, for country-of-origin labeling, changes.

    [...]
    But if your melamine containing chinese milk product is mixed with industrial organic ala Horizon, no label law applies.
    Q: What does the new law require?

    A: That retailers notify customers of the country of origin — including the U.S. — of raw beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and whole ginseng. (The aim was big agricultural commodities; ginseng was added for fear of imports masquerading as U.S.-grown.)

    Q: Where will I see the country of origin?

    A: Anywhere it fits. The rubber band around asparagus; the plastic wrap on ground beef; the little sticker that says "Gala" on an apple. If a food isn't normally sold in any packaging — such as a bin of fresh green beans or mushrooms — then the store must post a sign.

    Q: Aren't many foods already labeled?

    A: Some fresh produce already uses origin labeling as advertising. "Fresh from Florida" or "Jersey Grown" or "Vidalia Onion" tags don't have to be changed under the new rules; the shopper should realize they're all U.S. products.

    The COOL law mandating such labels first passed in 2002, but lobbying by grocery stores and large meatpackers led Congress to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing it. Seafood labeling was phased in first, in 2005 — a key change given recurring safety problems with fish and shellfish from certain countries, including China.

    Q: What's the biggest exception?

    A: The labels aren't for processed foods, meaning no label if the food is cooked, or an ingredient in a bigger dish or otherwise substantially changed. So plain raw chicken must be labeled but not breaded chicken tenders. Raw pork chops are labeled, but not ham or bacon. Fresh or frozen peas get labeled, but not canned peas. Raw shelled pecans, but not a trail mix.

    Q: What if the foods are merely mixed together?

    A: They're exempt, too. So cantaloupe slices from Guatemala get labeled. Mix in some Florida watermelon chunks, and no label. Frozen peas, labeled. Frozen peas and carrots, no label. As for bagged salads, USDA considers iceberg and Romaine to be just lettuce, so that bag gets a label. Add some radicchio? No label.
    {...}

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