WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury have agreed to suspend compliance for country-of-origin markings on packages of frozen produce containing imported product until Jan. 1, 1995.
The scheduled compliance date was May 8, 1994, but the frozen food industry had filed suit, challenging the Customs ruling on the labeling change because the agency did not seek public comment on the measure. The suit was filed jointly by the American Frozen Food Institute, Mclean, Va., Green Giant, Minneapolis, and J.R. Simplot, Boise, Idaho.
Appearing March 14 before the U.S. Court of International Trade, attorneys for the government agencies also agreed to seek public comment on both a new proposed compliance date and on proposed specifications regarding type size and style to be used in country-of-origin markings.
"Although the fight is not over, this development addresses at least part, and certainly the most immediate, of the concerns of AFFI members with the Customs rule," said Steven C. Anderson, AFFI president. "Undoubtedly, the May 8 deadline, as well as many other aspects of the rule, would have imposed extremely costly and unreasonable burdens on the frozen food industry."
AFFI expected the notice seeking public comment to be published in the Federal Register within the next few weeks. Comments from interested parties must be received within 60 days of the date of publication.
After the lawsuit was filed in February the plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against the government's enforcement of the regulation. A hearing on the injunction, as well as a final determination on the merits of the case, has been scheduled for April 21.