Industry Crafting Voluntary COOL Program

by 5m Editor
17 February 2004, at 12:00am

US - Not wasting any time since passage of a two-year moratorium on mandatory country-of-origin labeling, food industry representatives are beginning to craft an alternative voluntary program, reported Food Chemical News.

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At the meeting, the industry representatives formed three separate work groups to come up with voluntary COOL rules for meat, produce and fish. Produce trade associations held their own meeting in advance of the industry-wide session (see following story).

Prior to passage of the COOL moratorium, six industry groups promised to develop a voluntary program to replace the current law. Coalition members included the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Fisheries Institute, Food Marketing Institute and National Grocers Association.

"It's premature to say a great deal," said FMI's John Motley. Motley indicated however, that a task force has been formed for each of the major commodities.

Motley said the industry coalition hopes to have something ready to present to Congress in coming months. "We have a good faith effort under way to come up with something to take to people," he said. "We want something that works for both producers and consumers. You can't repeal the current law until you have something to take its place."

Motley acknowledged that industry has a relatively short time frame to accomplish its task. "Even if we have to meet every day, it's important to all of us to have something in place" to show to congressional leaders, he said.

Justin LeBlanc, vice president for public policy at the National Fisheries Institute, said industry hopes to come up with a COOL program that's "voluntary yet accountable. Everyone is still working on the concept; it's a work in progress. We want to eliminate the mandatory program and develop a program that's more user-friendly."

Kara Flynn, spokeswoman for the National Pork Producers Council, said the NPPC is "committed to putting something together early this year." She said the COOL issue would be discussed at the trade association's annual meeting early next month.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) once again failed last week to introduce promised legislation to overturn the COOL moratorium. An aide said the ricin poison incident in a Senate office building early this month had created a severe backlog for Daschle.

The aide said introduction of COOL legislation is at the top of Daschle's list of things to do when he returns from a Senate recess on Feb. 23.

However, NPPC's Flynn said that, even if mandatory COOL supporters were to overturn the moratorium, the meat industry would be unable to comply by the Sept. 30 deadline in the current law. "There's no mechanism in place for a COOL tracking system," she said.

Source: National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) - 17th February 2004

5m Editor