Group assails COOL law compliance cost

Mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for seafood is failing to deliver the benefits promised by the law, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The group said it has not increased sales of United States seafood. At the same time, the supermarket industry’s cost to comply with the law is up to 10 times higher than the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated when it issued the interim final rule.

Proponents of mandatory COOL are nonetheless urging Congress to implement the law for produce, meat, and peanuts sooner than Sept 30, 2008. The FMI opposes this move.

“The industry’s experience underscores the need to replace the law with a flexible, industry-led program that would be far less costly and provide information that would actually resonate with consumers, such as ‘Wild Alaskan Salmon, ‘Georgia Peaches,’ or Vidalia Onions,’” said Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of FMI.

The group’s comments contrasted USDA’s first-year cost estimates to implement the law for retailers and their intermediary suppliers with the industry’s actual expenses based on FMI case studies involving more than 1,000 stores:

USDA Estimate

Retailer cost per store: $1,530

Supplier cost per company: $1,890

Actual Cost

Retailer cost per store: $9,000-$16,000

Supplier cost per company: $200,000-$250,000

FMI has proposed a flexible labeling model that would communicate the same information in ways consumers would find useful without driving costs upward.

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