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Consumers get information on origins of meat and produce

March 16, 2009 |  2:46 pm

Cool1Supermarket shoppers may have noticed labels in the last few months showing that their apples came from New Zealand, or the fish fillet was farm-raised. Those are part of a new labeling law to let consumers know where their food comes from.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's country-of-origin labeling program -- known as COOL -- was set out in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, and the interim law took effect in September. The final law takes effect today.

The law covers muscle cuts and ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; specifically fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng and peanuts.

Cool2Consumers will also get to know whether fish and shellfish are wild or farm-raised. Commodities are excluded if they are ingredients in processed food -- tomato sauce, for example.

"I strongly support country of origin labeling -- it's a critical step toward providing consumers with additional information about the origin of their food," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

The law provides for penalties of up to $1,000 per violation for both retailers and suppliers not complying with the law.

-- Mary MacVean

Photos: USDA