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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The American Meat Institute (AMI) today applauded the introduction of a bill to make country-of-origin labeling - slated to go into effect in September 2006 - voluntary instead of mandatory, calling the approach "sensible and cost effective."

Mandatory country of origin labeling for meat, seafood, produce and peanuts was included in the 2002 Farm Bill. The law, which applies to meat sold at retail stores (not in restaurants) and to fresh meats like hamburger and steak (not processed meats), has been estimated to cost the meat industry $2.4 billion in the first year alone and the food industry a total of $3.9 billion. The law would require that meat packages contain information about where the animal from which the meat is derived was born, raised and processed. In the case of ground products, which may contain meat from various animals from various countries, information about all countries of origin must be included.

Applying accurate labels to packages will require large amounts of segregation, record-keeping and a variety of different labels, depending on the source of the animals or the meat, which can change day to day or even hour to hour. Penalties for inaccurate labels are substantial.

"The meat industry supports voluntary country of origin labeling as a sensible, cost-effective way for meat companies to provide country-of-origin information when their customers demand it," said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. "We've long believed that mandating country-of-origin labeling for all meat companies is simply un-American, especially given a lack of demonstrated consumer demand for this information. But if some companies believe that their customers do want this information and are willing to pay the additional costs associated with segregation, paperwork and labeling, then this bill will provide those companies a framework to provide country-of-origin information in a consistent fashion."

Boyle noted that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the mandatory country of origin labeling regulation was among the most costly regulations reviewed in this Administration. "When a $3.9 billion law is supported only by those who seek to block imports, it certainly deserves a second look. The bill's sponsors clearly have given it just that second look and have rightfully concluded that a less cumbersome, voluntary program is a far better option," Boyle said.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Together, AMI's members produce 95 percent of the beef, pork, lamb and veal products and 70 percent of the turkey products in the U.S. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute provides legislative, regulatory, public relations, technical, scientific and educational services to the industry. Its affiliate, the AMI Foundation, is a 501(c)(3) organization that conducts research, education and information projects for the industry.

For more information contact:
Dave Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
SVP, Public Affairs

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