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New bill puts consumers in the driver’s seat regarding COOL

by 5m Editor
5 May 2005, at 12:00am

WASHINGTON, DC – The Meat Promotion Act , a bill that will allow U.S. consumers to determine the availability of country-of-origin labeling for meat products, was introduced in Congress today with Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, and Marion Berry among the bill’s 34 co-sponsors.

New bill puts consumers in the driver’s seat regarding COOL - WASHINGTON, DC – The Meat Promotion Act , a bill that will allow U.S. consumers to determine the availability of country-of-origin labeling for meat products, was introduced in Congress today with Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, and Marion Berry among the bill’s 34 co-sponsors.

H.R. 2068 would provide a framework for converting mandatory country-of-origin labeling, which must be implemented by Sept. 30, 2006, to a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Consumer research has not demonstrated strong demand for country-of origin-labeling, a fact that raises major questions about the wisdom of imposing huge costs and driving up meat prices for consumers. When the International Food Information Council asked 1,000 consumers what they would like to see on food labels, less than one percent mentioned country-of-origin labeling.

Upon reviewing the rules that implemented mandatory country-of-origin labeling, the federal Office of Management and Budget called it one of the most costly regulatory initiatives it had seen during the first Bush Administration. USDA estimates that first year costs for mandatory country-of-origin labeling will be $3.9 billion dollars for all affected industries, with $2.4 billion borne by the U.S. meat industry alone.

“Imposing added burdens on a financially strained industry with a lack of any demonstrable consumer demand is misguided public policy and we are pleased the members of the House are recognizing this fact,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle in a statement to the press. Boyle noted that the beef industry has been badly hurt by the loss of export markets for beef products following a single case of BSE in 2003.

Boyle pointed out that consumers are paying record high prices for beef due to tight supplies and a closed U.S.-Canadian border. The costly labeling program stands to raise beef prices even higher, as well as the prices for pork, lamb and veal, and could erode consumer demand for meat products. By contrast, poultry products, which are exempt from the law, could be the big winner because they will experience an economic advantage relative to their red meat counterparts.

“We need to keep the meat industry nimble and competitive, especially in these tough economic times,” Boyle said. “Putting consumers in the demand driver seat by making country-of-origin labeling voluntary is smart public policy.”

Source: American Meat Institute (AMI) - 4th May 2005

5m Editor