Amidst all the gloom and doom, including a Wall Street Journal front page report of possible food pricing collusionfor tomatoes and eggs, coming on the heels of dairy and citrus probes (while record food prices are being seen and felt), there is a ray of hope. Starting in a few weeks, September 30, 2008, supermarkets and other big food retailers will have to start labeling certain foods with their country of origin, including meats, produce, nuts and some others — affectionately referred to as COOL (Country of Origin Labeling).
Incredibly, these US Department of Agriculture ruleswere born out of the mad-cow scare of 2002 but delayed by effective food industry lobbying of our Congress (those fellas are always willing to listen to a good argument right?) No matter. For whatever good it does, you will now be told where your unprocessed food comes from (processed foods, like breaded veal cutlets, smoked salmon, or even a salad mix that contains lettuce and a dressing packet or both lettuce and carrots, are exempt).
Of course, many consumers aren’t quite sure what they should do with this info but if you’re trying to Consider the Source it’s a start. Personally, we try not to buy unprocessed food grown thousands of miles from us, regardless of country, because of the toll travel takes on the food. That said, we love information because it is a key part of our mantra – wake up and pay attention to what you’re eating. This way, at least we are a bit more ready to act should we discover that Mexican cantaloupes have salmonella or that Chinese dates are just plain filthy (you know, insects, rodents, spiders, mites, etc.).
So, although we’d like to see fewer exemptions and even more people waking up to where everything we eat comes from, we think this development is pretty COOL.