COOL Alternative In The Works

Jan 19, 2004

By George Anderson

The United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), National Fisheries Institute (NFI),
Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Grocers Association (N.G.A.) have agreed to a joint forum to come up with an alternative to federally mandated country of origin labeling

The groups plan to meet to develop a consensus on a voluntary labeling program to replace the existing legislation. Industry leaders argue the current program is too costly to
implement and it provides little protection for consumers.

UFFVA President Tom Stenzel said in a released statement, “There is widespread agreement that the mandatory program is too costly and unworkable in the real world. We all agree
that the goal is to give consumers useful information about where their food comes from. What is needed is an industry-driven framework for providing country of origin information
that is market-driven and does not increase the cost of food by imposing needless bureaucratic requirements. A solution must be reached now before it adds further costs to produce
grower-shippers and harms consumers through disrupting the distribution and marketing of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Tim Hammonds, chief executive officer and president of FMI said, “Food retailers have long promoted U.S. brands and their region, state or farm of origin. This initiative can
build on these efforts and accomplish the same goal as the mandatory labeling law without the baggage of excessive compliance costs.”

NCBA President and Idaho Cattle Producer Eric Davis added, “We need a program that allows consumers to support American producers. At the same time, we must not confuse this
promotional program with efforts to ensure that our beef supply is safe. The mandatory labeling law was never designed to promote food safety. We have other laws for that purpose,
and we are now working with the government to strengthen those measures and make sure that the American consumer can continue to buy the safest beef in the world.”

Moderator’s Comment: Is a replacement needed for the current COOL program?

We don’t think the American people or Congress will have any problems accepting a better, more effective alternative than the current COOL program. Whether
they will accept a voluntary program instead of a mandatory one is another question altogether.

Anderson – Moderator

To download a copy of FMI’s press release, click here.

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