Statement of CFA's Carol Tucker Foreman on Country of Origin Labeling

January 20, 2004
Chris Waldrop, 202-797-8551

"I'm here to thank Senator Daschle for his continuing efforts to pass country-of-origin labeling legislation. Consumer Federation of America's policy resolutions have long supported country-of-origin labeling of meat, poultry, seafood and fresh produce because it would provide consumers important additional information about the source of their food.

"It is information that consumers want and should have access to. American consumers are well educated. We want to know about the products we purchase and use. We have immediate access to country-of-origin information for most consumer goods. It's on cars and electronics. We know the origin the clothes we put on our backs. Why can't we know the origin of the food we put in our mouths?

"Events of the past few months, the BSE-infected Canadian cow and Mexican scallions contaminated with Hepatitis A, further justify a desire to be able to identify the source of our food. We know that some countries simply do not have sanitation systems that provide the level of protection Americans want.

"Industry opponents argue that the cost of providing this information will be too great but the General Accounting Office has made it clear the USDA's highest cost estimates are not justifiable and the low cost estimate was quite modest.

"We should learn from history. The food industry also opposed nutrition labeling and used the same arguments you've heard against country-of-origin. It's too expensive; consumers don't really want it. They persuaded Congress to let them try a voluntary system. It didn't work but it delayed action on a meaningful program for ten years. Today nutrition labeling is used by millions of consumers. Food prices have stayed stable. In fact, now the industry strongly supports nutrition labeling.

"Country of origin labeling has been delayed far too long. Congress should act now to prevent further delay."

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Carol Tucker Foreman is the Director of the Food Policy Institute of the Consumer Federation of America.