A provision in the 2002 Farm Bill requires grocery stores to identify certain commodities--beef, pork and lamb, fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables, and peanuts--by country of origin. This provision also requires that an initial voluntary program be followed by a mandatory program by September 30, 2004. GAO was asked to identify existing programs that might be useful to USDA in crafting the new program, to update a 1998 USDA survey of major U.S. trading partners' country-of-origin labeling practices, and to assess the reasonableness of the assumptions and methodology USDA used for estimating first year record-keeping costs.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Agriculture||To help industry comply with the country-of-origin labeling law's definitions for U.S. products and other new requirements, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct AMS to recognize and address, in the final rules, the extent to which the new law's definition of U.S. products, particularly for meat, fish, and shellfish, differ from the definitions in the Tariff Act of 1930.|
|Department of Agriculture||To help industry comply with the country-of-origin labeling law's definitions for U.S. products and other new requirements, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct AMS to collaborate with industry to identify, to the extent practicable, different options or alternative practices for, among other things, developing and maintaining record-keeping systems and labeling covered foods.|
|Department of Agriculture||Because the meat industry has not consistently adhered to the Tariff Act's requirements for maintaining country-of-origin identity after imported meat has been cut or ground, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Food Safety and Inspection Service to consult with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to develop an approach for informing meat packers and processors of their responsibilities under Tariff Act requirements, with regard to maintaining the identity of imported meat.|
|Department of Agriculture||In addition, to ensure an accurate estimate of the paperwork burden on industry for developing a record-keeping system and maintaining records on country of origin for the final rule, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct AMS to work with industry associations to compile more accurate data on hourly rates, approximate number of hours, as well as the approximate numbers of growers, livestock producers, food processors, and other sectors subject to the new law.|
|Department of Agriculture||Finally, to create a level playing field for the retail sale of meat, fish, and shellfish, the Secretary of Agriculture should consider proposing that Congress include large butcher shops and fish markets among retailers subject to the country-of-origin labeling law through a technical correction to the law.|