WASHINGTON - U.S. consumers overwhelmingly support stricter food
labeling laws, with 92 percent of Americans wanting to know which
country produced the food they are buying, a consumer magazine said on
Consumer Reports said recent food scares, including worries about
peanut butter and lettuce, have made Americans more interested in
knowing not only how their food was produced but where it was made.
“I was definitely shocked at how high these numbers were,” said the
study’s coauthor Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a senior scientist and policy
analyst at Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes
Consumer Reports magazine.
“It’s much like a nutrition label or an ingredient label in that it
needs to be part of the general information coming in about imported
foods,” she added.
The poll was conducted with 1,004 telephone interviews between June 7
and June 10.
Last month, USDA said it would reopen public comment to its so-called
“country-of-origin” labeling measure until August 20.
Congress enacted the meat-labeling requirement as part of a 2002 law
but has twice delayed the start date, now set for September 30, 2008.
Meatpackers and grocers as well as some farm groups say the labeling
law will create an expensive record-keeping headache to track each
piece of meat from the slaughter plant to grocery shelf. Other farm
groups side with consumer groups in saying shoppers deserve to know if
meat is imported or U.S.-grown.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards released on Tuesday a
package of safety proposals for imported foods, including making
country-of-origin labeling mandatory.
“It’s time to stop the delays and stop giving in to big agribusiness
and food importers,” said Edwards.
In recent months, the United States has uncovered safety problems with
imports of Chinese seafood, toothpaste and melamine-contaminated wheat
gluten that was added into U.S. feed for pets, pigs, chickens and fish.
“It is increased oversight and serious inspections (that) will move us
in the right direction,” said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New
The Consumer Reports study found 86 percent of those surveyed expect
the “natural” label to mean that processed foods do not contain
artificial ingredients. Still, the group said many manufacturers call
their products natural foods even though they contain artificial sugars
The results also showed that 91 percent of consumers said “organic”
fish should be produced without environmental pollution and be low in
contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. There currently are no
government guidelines in place for organic seafood.
Consumers Union, the Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch
plan to file a complaint and petition on Wednesday with the U.S.
Agriculture Department and Federal Trade Commission to prevent
manufacturers from labeling seafood as organic until a government
definition is established.