GAO urges USDA, industry to collaborate on origin labeling
The U.S. General Accounting Office recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture work closely with the industry to efficiently implement the new country origin-labeling rule.
A provision in the 2002 Farm Bill requires grocery stores to identify certain commodities — beef, pork and lamb, fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables, and peanuts — by country of origin.
The provision requires an initial voluntary program followed by a mandatory origin-labeling program by Sept. 30, 2004.
The GAO also urged USDA to work closely with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection on the origin-labeling rule’s implementation.
The GAO pointed out some possible useful programs, such as the USDA’s school meals program and the Department of Defense’s Subsistence Prime Vendor Program, which rely on contract certifications and compliance visits to verify origin.
“Florida’s experience with its labeling program may be useful in providing marking options and for using a state’s existing enforcement infrastructure to help administer the new law,” the GAO said.
Many countries require country-of-origin labeling for imported commodities. “Most countries with programs conduct routine inspections and impose fines for labeling violations,” the GAO said.