Sens. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Russ Feingold (D., Wis.) and Al Franken (D., Minn.)
Introduced legislation yesterday that would extend mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) to dairy products.
And, in another bit of irony, dairy imports have actually declined this year. Nevertheless, Brown, Feingold and Franken say their bill protects both U.S. dairy farmers and consumers.
COOL "provides critical information as households decide how to feed their families,” says Brown.
"With the discovery last year of widespread use of melamine in Chinese dairy products, consumers deserve to know whether the milk used to produce the dairy products they buy meets the high safety standards used in the United States,” says Feingold.
"This legislation will help American dairy farmers stand out in a crowded marketplace,” adds Franken. "They need every tool at their disposal to weather the current dairy crisis.”
But dairy industry players are cool to the idea. "Given the ongoing controversy over, and challenge with, implementing country of origin for meat products, and the learning curve involved in that regulation, we believe now is not the time to apply a similar requirement to dairy products,” says Chris Galen, spokesperson for the National Milk Producers Federation. "In particular, Canada's current dispute of the meat COOL regulation in the World Trade Organization is an indication of the challenges involved in this type of labeling.
"The present dairy COOL proposal would actually apply to a broader range of dairy products than the meat COOL regulation, complicating enforcement and labeling concerns,” he adds. "The extensive U.S. regulatory requirements that already exist, and that are applied to both domestic and imported dairy products, provide significant oversight over imports. From a marketing standpoint, many of the foreign products coming into this country, especially cheeses, are already labeled with their place of origin, and do so willingly.”