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Growing taste for food-origin labels

July 2, 2007 at 8:58 AM

WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Congressional momentum is growing to require meat, produce and nuts sold in the United States to include labels showing where they came from, lawmakers said.

Country-of-origin labeling, known as COOL for short, has been stalled, largely by the U.S. meat lobby, which has blocked all but seafood labeling from taking effect, despite a 2002 law requiring it, The New York Times reported Monday.

Opponents said the law is too burdensome and expensive and is simply a way for U.S. farmers and ranchers to block cheaper foreign competitors. They also say supermarkets can voluntarily offer country-of-origin labels, as they do with hormone-free milk and organic foods.

Supporters say meatpackers simply don't want consumers to know how much hamburger meat and produce is imported. The value of imported food has doubled to $65.3 billion in the past decade, the Times said.

But with Democrats in congressional control and mounting questions about the safety of food imported from China, supporters said they believe the law will finally be enforced when Congress rewrites farm policy later this year.

"There will be mandatory COOL by 2008 at the latest," Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., head of the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, told the newspaper.

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