FMI Argues USDA COOL Rule Increases Burdens on Food Retailers and Consumers

Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Regulatory Counsel Erik Lieberman made the following statement today on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed rule that further expands the recordkeeping burden and scope of labeling required under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program:

“Food retailers are already 97 percent compliant under COOL, and have demonstrated their commitment to following the law for years. The USDA’s revised, proposed rule on COOL adds additional paperwork burdens to a needlessly onerous regulation that is already costing retailers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, resulting in higher food prices.

“The USDA’s proposal would impose significant, additional costs, yet it does not bring us into compliance with the World Trade Organization’s ruling, and in fact, it erects new trade barriers that will set the stage for retaliatory tariffs. If tariffs are imposed by our most important trading partners, we will inevitably witness job losses and price increases.

“Rather than providing regulatory relief to lower consumer costs and reduce the barriers COOL poses to trade, the proposed rule makes it even more difficult for retailers to comply and consumers to understand. Indeed, USDA’s proposal creates a series of new and confusing labels.

“Supermarkets have been supplying the country-of-origin information to consumers for years.  This proposed rule necessitates the need for legislative changes to bring the law into compliance with our trade commitments in a way that works for consumers and the entire supply chain.

“FMI stands ready to work with Congress to reform COOL to create a system which provides consumers with information they want on the origin of products while not imposing unnecessary paperwork burdens on food retailers.”

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