Beginning this week you will no longer have to wonder where your lettuce and tomatoes were grown. That’s because starting this week, a new law goes in to effect requiring the labeling of several foods with their country of origin.
After years of wrangling over the implementation of the law and increased consumer concern over the safety of imported food, the “country of origin labeling” will take effect September 30th.
What Does the New Law Require?
The new law, called COOL, which stands for country-of-origin-labeling, requires retailers to notify the country of origin(including the U.S.) of raw beef, veal, lamb, chicken, pork, goat, wild and farm fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.
Buyers will have more control to pick and choose which countries they want to purchase from and which countries they prefer to avoid. Shoppers can choose to bypass foods whose countries have poor hygiene records or to buy from the U.S. in order to support American farmers and ranchers.
“We do see it as an important step on the road to a more comprehensive system for tracing food items” during outbreaks, says Caroline Smith DeWall of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The new law doesn’t require a specific labelling process. Basically, the label can be placed anywhere it fits. There may be a sticker on unpacked foods such as apples or tomatoes. If a food is sold in bulk, such a fresh mushrooms, the store must post a sign with the country of origin.
Some foods are currently labeled, however the COOL law which was first passed in 2002 was delayed because lobbyists for grocery chains and meat packers led Congress to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing it.
Once the law goes in to effect, retailers will have 6 months to make sure they understand the regulations correctly and come into compliance. Some retailers like upscale grocer Whole Foods, are already voluntarily disclosing where much of the food covered under the mandate comes from. In some cases, Whole Foods has used the information as a selling point both for people who want to eat locally grown food and those who want exotic foods from far-off locales.
In light of the recent food safety scares and environmental concerns about shipping food from afar, this new law will give consumers more protection on deciding what to buy based on where it came from or where it was grown.