C-O-L on tap for seafood

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) on September 30 issued the final regulations requiring mandatory country of origin labeling for seafood. Six months from now, on April 4, 2005, this "interim final rule" will become effective.

Commodities covered include wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish. But excluded are processed food items, in which processing is defined as a step that "results in a change in the character of the covered commodity," according to USDA guidance.

"Although we are grateful that USDA has taken a number of our industry’s suggestions and simplified the final rule in significant respects, the rule still runs over 200 pages as issued, emphasizing the flaws in the underlying law — excessive paperwork and other bureaucratic measures that do not benefit consumers and only inflate the cost of healthy, popular seafood products," said Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute.

USDA estimates the recordkeeping burden at $44.6 million in first year and half that in subsequent years; that’s a fraction of the agency’s original cost for the original rule ($582 million).

Next up: Mandatory country of origin labeling for meat, produce and peanuts is scheduled for Sept. 30, 2006.

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