Country- and state-of-origin labeling laws allow consumers to choose food that originates within their state or country, thereby supporting local or national producers. Progress on national labeling laws has been slow. A country-of-origin labeling law for many food products was finally passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, but full implementation has been delayed until September 2006.
Some customers want country of origin labeling (COOL) for food so they can support domestic farmers and producers, or because they want to minimize the “food miles” their groceries travel. Others want COOL out of concerns about pesticide and other residues on imported fruits and vegetables, or mad cow disease.
While COOL labeling for food has been slow to implement on the federal level, states have implemented their own rules.
For an explanation of why states might want to pass country- or state-of-origin labeling rules, see Ask Dr. Dave – Why are states involved in Country of Origin Labeling?
In the meantime, states have taken the initiative to put in place their own labeling laws. A 1979 Florida statute that requires country of origin labeling of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and honey was the first in the U.S. Many states require all meat retailers to clearly label imported meat with the country of origin, including Wyoming, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.
Studies show that consumers overwhelmingly favor country-of-origin labeling (such as the 1996 national study by Charlton Research Company of San Francisco, which showed that 74 percent support the labeling for fresh produce). Many growers feel this logic can be extended to state-of-origin. Indeed, country- and state-of-origin labeling may be a first step towards relocalizing our food supply.
State-of-origin labeling allows consumers to support their state’s agricultural economy. The Florida law allows “Produced in Florida” labels, as do laws in South Dakota and Minnesota among others. California has a law, similar to place-of-origin laws in European countries, that regulates the content of wines labeled with Napa Valley place names.
Some laws are primarily focused on food safety. A Maine labeling law passed in 1989 requires country of origin labeling of any produce imported from countries with pesticide standards lower than the U.S regulations.
- State-Of-Origin Labeling – Minnesota Grown This program is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the growers and processors who provide quality Minnesota Grown products. It was initiated in the 1980’s by fruit and vegetable growers. Since then, it has grown continually. The foundation of the program includes an annual grower license to use the trademarked Minnesota Grown logo.