the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
New rules will let millions of Americans know where more
of their food came from. The law is known as COOL -- Country of Origin
Congress first passed the law in two thousand two. Stores
have had to label seafood by country of origin since two thousand five. But
industry pressure delayed other requirements until last week.
Products that must now be labeled include fresh fruits
and vegetables, muscle meats and some kinds of nuts. But the rules are complex,
and many foods are excluded. For example, organ meats are excluded. So are
processed foods, including cooked or smoked foods.
The same food may sometimes have to be labeled and other
times not. Fresh or frozen peas, for example, have to be labeled but not canned
peas. Foods that are mixed with other foods are also excluded.
Mixed nuts, for example, do not need to be labeled. The
same is true of a salad mix that contains different things like lettuce and
carrots. Or a fruit cup that combines different fruits.
Also, the law excludes restaurants and other food service
establishments. Department of Agriculture officials say the law is really meant
for larger grocery stores.
The United States has imported more and more food in
recent years to save money and expand choices. Country-of-origin labeling has
become more common lately but has still been limited in many stores.
Food safety is one reason why some shoppers pay close
attention to where foods came from. For example, when a large number of people
recently got sick from salmonella, officials blamed peppers from Mexico. Yet
the last big food scare involved spinach grown in California.
But labeling is also a way for people to know they are
getting what they want. Some want to buy local foods or foods from a particular
The country-of-origin labeling law gives establishments
thirty days to correct any violations that are found. Stores and suppliers that
are found to be willfully violating the law could be fined one thousand dollars
per violation. Federal inspectors are not to take action to enforce the law for
six months, until April, to give time for an education campaign.
Some food safety activists say they are generally pleased
with the law. Chris Waldrop is head of the Food Policy Institute at the
Consumer Federation of America. He calls it a good step that will give people
more useful information.
that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.
I'm Jim Tedder.