Will consumers really be able to understand the label? What are the implications of COOL for producers?
Country of Origin Labelling is the next step to an entirely open marketplace for the US. In an ideal supermarket, consumers can understand as well as see the product that they are purchasing and they can monitor the system of production which has brought it to their aisles, but what are the real issues that follow this dream?
The long awaited Country of Origin Labeling rules came into effect in America on the 30 September. The belief is that by tracking food items from farm to fork the department of agriculture will be better equipped to monitor where the food chain safety precautions break down when things go wrong. Diseases could theoretically be tracked and stopped before they reach consumer's plates, but the implications of COOL hold further promises for the consumer.
In this age of variety and choice, consumers want to know where their food comes from. A Consumer Reports poll last year found that 92 per cent of Americans agree that imported foods should be labelled by their country of origin. Not only do they want that assurance that they are buying a safe product from a reliable producer but they also want to know what industries and communities they are supporting or boycotting with their money; be they local, deprived, ethical, or eco-friendly.
For a long time these things have been in the hands of big businesses, but now the control is sliding back to the buyer. Public relations are the political campaigns of the marketplace and without it, big businesses are powerless.
COOL will undoubtedly put pressure - the kind producers actually feel and listen to - on countries to prioritize food quality. This, in turn, is a real incentive for the entire food sector to to make sure they are putting out a reliable product, for any error will tar each and every producer, no matter how scrupulous they are. Whether this is a detrimental link for the producer or not, we are yet to find out.
To read the full article and to view the USDA's Ag Marketing Service's answers to requirements of COOL, link here.