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Globalization Complicates New Food Labels

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Globalization Complicates New Food Labels

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Globalization Complicates New Food Labels

Globalization Complicates New Food Labels

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Shoppers will soon see more food labels with the country of origin. A new law goes into effect Tuesday aimed at giving U.S. consumers more information about where their meat and produce come from. But globalization has made things more complicated. A hog may have been born in Canada but raised and slaughtered in the U.S.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And we're continuing to follow the world's stock markets as well as your local supermarket, where food labeling rules go into effect today. The rules were aimed at giving consumers more information about where their meat and produce come from. NPR's Libby Lewis reports.

LIBBY LEWIS: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new rule on food labeling requires retailers to label the country of origin of most beef, chicken, pork and lamb, fresh and frozen produce and nuts. That sounds straight forward, doesn't it? But globalization has made things more complicated. A hog may have been born in Canada but raised and slaughtered in the U.S. or a U.S. hog may wind up on a production line with pork from Mexico. In that case, the supplier has to name all those countries on the label. Some lawmakers and farmers groups say that could mean packers won't bother to single out U.S. raised and processed meat on the label because it's easier and cheaper to label it all of mixed origin. Lloyd Day who heads the USDA's marketing program says the government isn't too worried about that.

Mr. LLOYD DAY (Head, Marketing Program of USDA): There's going to be a market incentive to label U.S. meat.

LEWIS: Because consumers want it more.

Mr. DAY: Correct. I think the consumers are going to go to the grocery store. And if they see a mixed origin product, they're going to probably demand you know, to know where that meat comes from.

LEWIS: The labeling rule doesn't cover foods that are defined as processed foods. That includes a roasted chicken say, or smoked salmon. Don't expect these labels to appear overnight. The agriculture industry has a six month grace period to comply. Lloyd Day says the government will be watching to see how the industry responds to the labeling rule and how the public reacts. Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington.

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