AMI Critiques Claims by Country-of-Origin Labeling Advocates in Letter to Key Lawmakers

US - In a letter to key lawmakers, the American Meat Institute (AMI) late last week affirmed the safety of U.S. meat and poultry and made clear that mandatory country-of origin labeling (COL) is an anti-import law, not a food safety program.
calendar icon 30 May 2007
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The letter, sent to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), rebutted a May 21, 2007, letter sent to them by anti-import/pro-COL groups that include National Farmers Union, R-CALF and the Organization for Competitive Markets.

To assert that any country-of-origin labeling regime would have an impact on food safety or the integrity of a food product is absurd.

AMI President J. Patrick Boyle
“The claims made in that letter are irresponsible at worst and at best misleading – with respect to the handling and inspection of imported meat products,” AMI President J. Patrick Boyle wrote. “To assert that any country-of-origin labeling regime would have an impact on food safety or the integrity of a food product is absurd.”

Boyle pointed out that meat products offered for entry into the United States from any foreign country undergo reinspection at an official establishment or an official import inspection establishment before being allowed to enter the country. He noted that 100 percent of all meat and poultry products imported into the U.S. are subject to reinspection and every box of product is recorded and accounted for by USDA.

Thirty-four countries are eligible to ship meat products to the United States and each of those countries food safety inspection systems must be certified by USDA to be equivalent to the federal food safety inspection system in the U.S.

AMI said that USDA for many years has had mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for red meat that enters the U.S. Still, the signors to the May 21 letter asked lawmakers to implement an unnecessary, ill-conceived, WTO and NAFTA non-compliant provision included in the 2002 Farm Bill. AMI noted the hypocrisy in the position taken by groups that believe mandatory country-of-origin labeling is appropriate for some food products but not all (e.g., poultry and processed products are exempt), and only for food products sold at retail, but not for the same products sold in restaurants.

“If mandatory county-of-origin labeling were truly a food safety issue, should not all food products be covered throughout commerce?” Boyle said.

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