Require Country of Origin Labels on all U.S. Foods
Consumers in the United States have repeatedly and overwhelmingly expressed their support for "Country Of Origin Labeling" (COOL) of food products. A nationwide poll sponsored by the National Farmers Union in 2004 showed that 82% of respondents supported COOL. A 2007 poll conducted for the consumer group Food & Water Watch found that 82% of respondents supported a mandatory COOL program. Also in 2007, a Consumers Union poll found that 92% of respondents believed that imported foods should be labeled with their country of origin, while the international polling firm Zogby released survey results that demonstrated that not only did 85% of respondents say that knowing where their food comes from is important, but 88% of respondents said that they want all retail foods labeled with country of origin information. In addition, the Zogby survey reported that 95% of respondents believe consumers have a right to know the country of origin of the foods they purchase. Country of origin labeling can provide consumers with additional information to make informed choices about the food they wish to purchase and consume. Many consumers may wish to purchase food from producers in their own country or may wish to purchase products from another country known for producing a particular food. Reasons for this vary from environmental and ethical principles to food quality, safety, and standards choices. Without labeling that identifies where food has been produced, consumers are unable to make those choices in an informed manner when they are at the point of purchase. Recent food safety issues related to tainted beef and to specific Chinese imports only highlight the need for country of origin labeling (imported toys and many other goods are so labeled, so why not food!). We the undersigned, then, support mandatory country of origin labeling of the main ingredient(s) in single- and multi-ingredient food products. Products should be labeled with the country of origin of the main ingredient(s) as well as the place of processing. Identification of country of origin should be listed prominently on the food label. We believe existing exemptions to COOL, such as those for butcher shops, fish markets, and uncovered processed foods, should be eliminated -- ALL foods sold in the United States should be COOL compliant. The USDA should conduct periodic surveillance of the consumer marketplace to assure that COOL is being implemented properly and consumers are afforded this information. Repeated and willful violations of the law by food providers should be met with substantial penalties. We believe that food safety is absolutely paramount -- above all other concerns about how food is grown, processed, and distributed -- and until all countries in the global economy treat the issue with the urgency and care required, country of origin labeling provides consumers with additional information to help them make safe food choices.