Consumers throughout America must have the opportunity to identify "U.S. origin" exclusive products. This is the message expressed to newly confirmed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack by nine senators in two separate pieces of correspondence.
The concern centers around the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule that allows meat packers to place a multiple country label on products that are exclusively U.S. products as well as on products that are exclusively foreign. The senators are certain that the USDA regulation defeats the primary purpose of COOL - providing clear, accurate and truthful information to the American consumer.
The 2008 Farm Bill set clear parameters for the use of the multiple country label on products that are not exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. USDA expanded the definition to allow packers to use the multiple country label for muscle cuts exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the United States that are processed by a facility on the same day as foreign products and on ground meat so long as the facility processed some meat from the United States within the past 60 days.
These loopholes essentially allow processors to label every product, including exclusively U.S. products and entirely foreign products, under the multiple country category.
"If we are just creating a system to label all products as multiple country origin, there is no value in COOL and no benefit to the consumer," stated the senators in their letters.
Supporting this request are Sens. Conrad (N.D.), Dorgan (N.D.), Enzi (Wyo.), Feingold (Wis.), Feinstein (Calif.), Johnson (S.D.), Klobuchar (Minn.), Tester (Mont.) and Wyden (Ore.).