A QUESTION OF LABELING

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan bill, H.R. 2332, introduced into Congress July 31, is also calling for front-panel labeling of frozen produce with its country of origin.Sponsored by Rep. Terry Everett, R-Ala., and 34 members of Congress, the bill is backed by the American Alliance for Honest Labeling here and the Alabama Farmers Federation. H.R. 2332 gives manufacturers 18 months to move country-of-origin

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan bill, H.R. 2332, introduced into Congress July 31, is also calling for front-panel labeling of frozen produce with its country of origin.

Sponsored by Rep. Terry Everett, R-Ala., and 34 members of Congress, the bill is backed by the American Alliance for Honest Labeling here and the Alabama Farmers Federation. H.R. 2332 gives manufacturers 18 months to move country-of-origin information to the front of the package.

A spokesman for Everett said the reopening of the comment period for Customs' front-panel labeling proposal will not affect the Everett legislation.

"Certainly we see this as positive," the spokesman said, "[But] we feel it's important to go ahead with our legislation."

Janet La Sorte, spokeswoman for the Alliance, said the Everett legislation "is simply another comment and represents the support out there for the Customs proposal."

While the Alliance publicly states its lobbying for front-panel labeling has nothing to do with food safety, the letter that Rep. Everett sent to his colleagues said that "many importers [have been able] to fool the American public into thinking they are eating high quality, American-grown products, when in reality the food was grown in foreign countries."

There are currently additional efforts under way to label food products with their country of origin: H.R. 1371, the Imported Meat Labeling Act, and -- as reported in SN -- H.R. 1232, the Imported Produce Labeling Act. In addition, two members of Congress, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., recently sent a letter to colleagues claiming NAFTA poses a serious threat to U.S. food safety. They called for a renegotiation of some of the treaty's current food-safety provisions and for aggressive labeling of all foodstuffs.