The Right to COOL

Articles
September 28, 2008

The Right to COOL

The once lively and heated discussions about Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) are hushed these days, with the law finally taking effect on September 30th after 6 years of fighting. Many groups are still touting their projections that this new regulation will cost the industry (and subsequently the consumer) $2.5 billion in just the first year of implementation; and questioning just what is the point. The point came clear this past weekend with the announcement that over 50,000 children in China have become sick from tainted infant formula. Four children have already died. Unlike many of the food safety problems that we read about, this one was caused not by a bacterium or disease – but just from greed. Dairies in China had reportedly watered down milk and then added melamine to boost the protein levels, and their profits. Melamine, you may recall made headlines in 2007 when it was discovered that the compound was added to pet foods for the same purpose, and with similar results.

The once lively and heated discussions about Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) are hushed these days, with the law finally taking effect on September 30th after 6 years of fighting. Many groups are still touting their projections that this new regulation will cost the industry (and subsequently the consumer) $2.5 billion in just the first year of implementation; and questioning just what is the point.

The point came clear this past weekend with the announcement that over 50,000 children in China have become sick from tainted infant formula. Four children have already died. Unlike many of the food safety problems that we read about, this one was caused not by a bacterium or disease – but just from greed.

Dairies in China had reportedly watered down milk and then added melamine to boost the protein levels, and their profits. Melamine, you may recall made headlines in 2007 when it was discovered that the compound was added to pet foods for the same purpose, and with similar results.

A recent Harvard study found that 56 percent of respondents consider foods from China unsafe. (The same survey found that only 4 percent thought foods from the U.S. were not safe.) A Deloitte & Touche Survey found the same percentage of people felt the same way about all imported foods.

Last week I visited a supermarket just outside of Philadelphia on the Jersey side. I counted 223 different styles, packages and brands of olive oil. Perhaps too much of a choice…but when I passed by the Lobster tank that proclaimed "Live Maine Lobsters" on a large sign I moved closer to see the much smaller size lettering that read "Product of Thailand".

There should not be any further question or discussion about our right to know where our foods come from.