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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a letter to key lawmakers, the American Meat Institute (AMI) late last week affirmed the safety of U.S. meat and poultry, and said mandatory country-of origin labeling (COL) is an anti-import law, not a food safety program.
The letter, sent to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), rebutted a May 21, 2007 letter sent to the same legislators by pro-COOL groups that include National Farmers Union, R-CALF, and the Organization for Competitive Markets.
"The claims made in that letter are irresponsible at worst, and at best misleading - with respect to the handling and inspection of imported meat products," AMI president J. Patrick Boyle wrote. "To assert that any country-of-origin labeling regime would have an impact on food safety or the integrity of a food product is absurd."
Boyle said meat products offered for entry into the United States from any foreign country undergo re-inspection at an official establishment or an official import inspection establishment before being allowed to enter the country. He noted that 100 percent of all meat and poultry products imported into the U.S. are subject to re-inspection and every box of product is recorded and accounted for by USDA.
Thirty-four countries are eligible to ship meat products to the United States, and each of those countries food safety inspection systems must be certified by USDA to be equivalent to the federal food safety inspection system in the U.S.
AMI said that USDA for many years has had mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for red meat that enters the U.S. Still, the signors to the May 21 letter asked lawmakers to implement what they called "an unnecessary, ill-conceived, WTO and NAFTA non-compliant provision included in the 2002 Farm Bill."