Country-of-Origin Labeling. What’s Cooler Than C.O.O.L.?

Labeling requirements for food labeling requirements interest me.

So here’s just a quick note about new country-of-origin labeling requirements in the U.S.: Foods to get COOL: Country-of-origin labeling

Until now, shoppers have had little clue where many everyday foods — meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, certain nuts — originate. That’s what the so-called COOL law, for country-of-origin labeling, changes.

Those who want to buy local — or who prefer, say, Chilean grapes and New Zealand lamb — can more easily exercise their purchasing power. Those worried about lax safety regulations in certain countries can avoid those imports. And the next time tomatoes are suspected of food poisoning, consumers may be able to tell investigators they bought only ones grown in a certain region, speeding the probe.

Some quick, um, food for thought:

1) Food labeling could help consumers who want, for patriotic reasons to, e.g., “buy Canadian” or “buy American.” The flip-side of that is that labeling allows consumers to exercise certain prejudices (nationalist, racist, whatever). One of the seldom-recognized beauties of the market is that, when products become commodities, it’s impossible to act out morally illegitimate personal biases against producers.
2) Food labeling could give consumers the information they need in order to buy locally in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Of course, the “buy locally” mantra has been criticized, based on the fact that a product shipped long distances via, say, efficient cargo ships, may have a smaller carbon footprint than a product grown locally but shipped via inefficient truck.
3) Looking at the details of the labeling rules & all the exceptions, I (as usual) wonder how informative these labels will really be, in the end.

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