I am a patriot. I grew up reciting the flag salute in school and singing songs about the great red, white and blue. My family heritage includes members who served in various branches of the United States military. All of this is to say that I am pro USA. I am also a big fan of supporting local business and organizations. How does this fit in with your food?
In 2009, the USDA mandated that Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) be printed on certain food items. These products are whole and ground meats, shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, ginseng, pecans, and macadamia nuts. The purpose of this law is to give consumers, like you, information about the source of your food products. After all, the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world. There are exemptions from this law, like a seasoned meat item. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to list every country of origin for each spice ingredient used?
I was in high school when the concept of COOL started to become a serious reality. Let me tell you, I was a big supporter. I thought labeling product as USA would significantly improve the sales of our domestic products. Our neighboring trade partners, Mexico and Canada, argue that COOL puts their products at a disadvantage. However, research shows no real improvement in product sales based on COOL.
USDA currently made a change to their law. Instead of labeling product as “Product of USA”, producers are now required to label what country the animal was born in, raised in and harvested in. Similarly, fruits and vegetables must have labeling that states where they were grown and processed. The goal is to give consumers more detailed information about the products that they purchase.
Have you ever noticed COOL on your products when you are shopping? If you do see the ‘Product of’ statements, do they affect your purchases? I like eating fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Sometimes that means that I buy produce from distant countries in order to fulfill my foodie needs. For example, I like to eat an apple a day. When available, I purchase Granny Smith apples that say Product of USA.
The next time you are in the meat or produce aisle, take a look at the COOL statements. After all, the information is there for your benefit. Maybe you’ll pick the product of USA item and help a US farmer stay in business. Cheers to the red, white and blue!!