Labels and international political incidents do not normally go together but a controversy is brewing regarding food labeling and imported food is causing a few late nights for the President and his new administration.
The so-called COOL rule (Country Of Origin Labeling) is causing consternation amongst Canadian food producers and politicians on the eve of President Obama’s first trip to our northern neighbor. The USDA has called for increased regulation and control over food origin and labeling including being able to determine where the source animal came from and how it was reared and slaughtered – this is strongly opposed by Canadian producers and the consternation created is going to be very high on the agenda for the President and the Canadians.
President Obama has indicated that any final decision will be made by the White House and not the USDA in a conciliatory move designed to cool some tempers in Toronto. This conflicts with the message coming out of the USDA but the new Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack has been quick to alleviate concerns with both the Canadian trading partners and the American Meat Institute.
At the moment the rules are transitional and do not become mandatory and final until March 19th of this year; the issue is going to be whether President Obama and his team can sway our food importing partners to play ball with the new labeling regime or sacrifice US consumer interests and food safety to the demands of foreign politicians and producers.
In either case, President Obama probably thought he would have far meatier issues to deal with than a spat over food labeling. However, this may also be just the kind of minor crisis that is needed to help the new administration get itself bedded down and explore its own capabilities, and explore them they shall.Tags: american meat institute, canadian producers, consumer interests, country of origin labeling, final decision, new administration, new secretary of agriculture, secretary of agriculture, tom vilsack, trading partners