Vilsack to Push Food-Label Rules

(Wall Street Journal)

By DAVID KESMODEL

 

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to ask the food industry to adhere to more stringent rules for disclosing the country of origin of products sold at grocery stores.

 

The Agriculture Department reviewed rules issued last year by the Bush administration for country of origin labeling and will ask the industry to comply with several new guidelines, including asking meat producers to issue more detail about the origin of meat products, according to a consumer group briefed by Mr. Vilsack on Tuesday.

 

"This is a very positive step forward," said Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist with the Consumers Union, one of a number of consumer groups that have argued for greater detail on the origin of food sold in grocery stores.

 

Mr. Vilsack will ask meat producers to label meat packages with the country in which the animal was born, where it was raised and where it was slaughtered, according to Mr. Hansen. The Bush administration rules permitted producers to list one or more countries where the meat originated without providing details of the process.

 

The new rules also will require labeling on more foods that have been changed from their natural state, such as through roasting or boiling. Foods deemed to have been "processed" generally are exempt from country-of-origin labeling requirements. Mr. Vilsack believed the Bush administration's definition of "processed" was too broad, according to Mr. Hansen.

 

Mr. Vilsack has scheduled a conference call Wednesday morning to brief reporters on the final mandatory rules. The Agriculture Department previously said it would review the rules, which are required under the 2008 Farm Bill, before they take final effect in March.

 

An Agriculture Department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.

 

The move comes ahead of President Barack Obama's planned trip to Canada, a key meat exporter to the U.S., Thursday. The Canadian government has criticized strict labeling rules on meat in the U.S. and is likely to raise objections to Mr. Vilsack's plans. 2-18-09

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123493648679907743.html

 

 

 

 

 

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